Peugeot 205
(1988 - 1994)

  • Timeless design and aesthetics.
  • Raw and visceral driving experience.
  • Actually quite practical.
  • A true performance car and hot hatch icon.
  • Almost zero safety features.
  • Not a great reputation when it comes to reliability.
  • Parts are becoming rare and expensive.
  • Based on a 30 year old budget hatch back and feels it.
Overview

There are two probable scenarios if you’re shopping for a Peugeot 205 GTI. One is that you already across its iconic status as a much-loved hot hatch originator and you’re an enthusiast buyer. The other is that, because of the first point, you’re probably willing to cop some of hardship in owning a tired old classic or willing to pay what it takes to buy a peachy example.

Tyre-kickers probably know what the fuss is about. For those who are otherwise curious, here’s the score.

The British Mini redefined small motoring as far back as the 1960s. And come the 1970s, with an oil crisis gripping Europe, both Germany’s Volkswagen and France’s Peugeot lobbed smart, modern, small and compelling front-drive hatchback models in Golf and 205, respectively. And taking a leaf from Mini Cooper, each came in a hottie version, both called GTI, albeit with Peugeot using a lower-case ‘i’.

France produced all manner of 205s between 1983 and 1998, in hatch, convertible and panel van guises. Including the legendary mid-engined Group B rally homologation special, the 205 Turbo 16. But the 205 wouldn’t arrive in Australia until 1987, exclusively in GTi guise. A more pedestrian Si hatch variant joined the hot hatch locally in 1991, essentially creating a slim two-version Aussie line-up.

A feisty engine, uprated suspension, sport accoutrement atop fetching European styling, the original 1.6-litre GTi was a revelation, both leaner and keener than its key rival from Volkswagen. But that was Euro version that lobbed in 1984. By 1986, a larger 1.9 arrived with both engines offered overseas, though only the 1.9 was sold locally.

Sadly, the Aussie 1.9 was neutered thanks to local emission laws around 1986’s onset of unleaded petrol. Our versions made just 75kW (and 142Nm) at a time when Euro got 96kW and 85kW from its newly (1987-) revised big-valve 1.6. Bugger. Five-speed manual was par for the 205 course.

The initial run of local GTis had all the looks of the Euro counterparts and maintained its wonderous handling in translation. However, spec was trimmed down a bit to fit a price point – $29,500 as of its October 1987 launch – and the diluted shove was deemed to be something of a disappointment.

In the conversion to right-hook, it was decided that Aussie spec could fit air-con or power steering but not both, and many early examples lack the latter. Power windows, central locking, a cassette player and 14-inch wheels: these were the mod cons for lightweight and sporty hatchback fun back in the late ’80s.

The 205 GTI became measurably better in 205’s mid-life update in 1991. Outputs ‘jumped’ to 90kW and 152Nm. And from hereon in, both air-con and power-steering was standard. This year also marked the arrival of the cheapy Si to go up against the likes of Corolla, Laser and Pulsar.

The 205 Si’s charm was its three-door format. But at more than $23k for the manual and over $25k for the auto, it wasn’t cheap. Further, it’s two-valve 1.6 petrol four wasn’t nearly as contemporary in tech as some Asian rivals. It did fit much of the standard features offered in the pricey GTi its Japanese rivals couldn’t match for similar outlay, though the French build quality wasn’t much to rave about.

The pick of the 205 litter is easily the later GTi stuff, from when the update lobbed in 1991 to when the axe came down in 1994. It would be a long while, until 2013’s 208 GTi, before Peugeot would hit its stride again anywhere near the front of the hot hatch pack.

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What goes wrong
  • It’s important to note that being a 30 year old car, and one that was a fundamentally budget conscious small hatch back (even in GTI trim), even well maintained examples can exhibit a vast array of issues and problems, some of which can be catastrophic.
  • Exterior wise, it’s critical to check for rust. Peugeot were quite hit and miss with galvanising the 205 so rust can happen.
  • Check the rear arch to sill, the boot floor edges, under any of the rubber seals, underneath where the edges of the fuel tank and brake lines meet and over the tunnel seam where it gets hot.
  • Plus, the body is very lightweight and can flex but this can unfortunately in some rare cases lead to the body cracking, it’s generally in the caulking used to seal panel joins.
  • Thanks to some electrical gremlins the headlights can fail and even when they work, they only really give a vague preview of light rather than actually lighting up the road ahead.
  • Also thanks to those Electrical gremlins or the motor wearing out prematurely, the electric windows can either get stuck or just not work as intended.
  • There are reports that the door handles are known to seize and therefore making it impossible to open the car from the outside.
  • Do not under any circumstances buy one with an aftermarket sunroof fitted. The factory sunroof does seal well but only when rubber is looked after, but if not, it can leak like a sieve.
  • Inside, the gear selector links have a fun habit of popping off when slightly worn.
  • The air conditioning never really worked. It would be more efficient to have someone describe cold air to you than what the factory air conditioning is capable of.
  • Seat frames have been known to break their welds.
  • The hard plastics are now becoming brittle by now so check for cracks and looseness.
  • Check all the upholstery, as the front seats’ outer bolsters can collapse (a common failing) although they can be re-made by a competent trim shop.
  • Remember, so many of these things can be fixed but finding the right parts is becoming more and more of a challenge and therefore, can become very expensive.
  • Mechanically, unfortunately, much can go wrong with the 205. Remember, this is 30 year old car and as the build quality from new wasn’t exactly class leading (to put it politely), everything will wear out and break eventually.
  • Check anything made from rubber like coolant hoses, brake hoses, belts and bushes. These do not age well.
  • Check if the engine is leaking oil (it will be) and how much oil it is leaking.
  • How much smoke is it blowing at start up and under acceleration?
  • Check the electronics, do they work at all? Does it start at all and does it stay running. The 205 is renowned for a wide variety of electronic issues and gremlins.
Model range, pricing & features

SI

  • Price when new: $23,155 - $25,495
  • Price used: $3,500 - $35,000

The SI was the entry level version of the 205 for the Australian and Japanese market, and for the time in comparison to the other hot hatches available on the market – was well equipped. The SI featured a 1.6 4-cylinder engine, available either with a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic.

Adds:

Steel wheels
Wrap around bumpers and side protection mouldings
Two speed intermittent wipers
Wiper washer function
Tachometer
Warning lights for brake wear, oil temperature, and oil pressure low fuel level and coolant temperature
Front fog lamps
4x three-point seatbelts and a centre rear passenger lap seatbelt
Adjustable front head restraints
Central locking
Manually adjustable mirrors
Electric front windows
Front rally style sports seats
Velour upholstery
Air conditioning
Heated rear window
4-speaker coded anti-theft sound system
AM/FM radio
Cassette (tape) player
Front and rear passenger grab handles
Front door storage compartments
Lockable and illuminated glovebox
Illuminated boot area
Directional map reading light
Separate reading light
Split folding rear seats

GTi

  • Price when new: $29,500 - $33,730
  • Price used: $6,500 - $38,000

The GTi was the largest selling model in the 205 range and added alloy wheels, disc brakes and power steering. The main differences over the SI and GTi was the GTi’s 1.8 litre 4-cylinder petrol engine.

Adds:

15-inch alloy wheels
Ventilated disc brakes (front)
Disc brakes (rear)
Power steering
GTi badging on the sterring wheel
Red stitching along the gear shifter
Red trimmed flooring

GTi Classic

  • Price when new: $37,500
  • Price used: $8,500 - $42,000

In 1994, the GTi Classic was released in the Australian market and was limited to 30 units. The GTi Classic benefited from leather trim and a sunroof fitted in addition to the features of the GTi.

Adds:

“Classic” badging on the side
Leather trim
Sunroof

Should you buy it?

There is simply no logical reason why you buy a Peugeot 205.

They lack almost any sort of safety equipment, they have a horrendous reputation for reliability, they’re becoming expensive to repair and parts at times can be nearly impossible to find. The levels of tech are a joke. Compared to even modern base spec hatchbacks they’re slow, they are not all that practical, the constant rattling and squeaking will drive you insane and it feels like that rattling is genuinely shaking the car to pieces.

But, let’s be honest, if you’re seriously in the market for a 205, especially a GTI, logic isn’t exactly high on the list of priorities is it.

Sure it has its negatives but the this things immense levels of charm, personality and charisma and the sheer enjoyment that comes with driving it more than make up for the long list of reason not to buy one.

For us, the 205 GTI encapsulates everything we love in cars. It’s raw and visceral and at any speed feels totally unique and special.

Of course you shouldn’t logically buy one but if you find the right example, preferably a post 1991 model, and you have the desire and means to keep it running at its best, just buy it, it is truly a special thing.

But remember buying a 205 is more like entering into a relationship with a high maintenance partner, yes it’ll be loads of fun but there will be days where you’ll be wondering what the hell you’ve gone and done.

Warranty & servicing

Warranty:

2 years/40,000kms

Servicing:

12 months/10,000kms

Tech specs

Body Style:

3-door hatchback

Engines:

1.6 litre 4-cylinder petrol – XU5 M3Z (SI)
1.8 litre 4-cylinder petrol – XU5 JA (GTi, GTi Classic)

Power:

65kW – 1.6 litre 4-cylinder petrol
88kW – 1.8 litre 4-cylinder petrol

Torque:

132Nm – 1.6 litre 4-cylinder petrol
153Nm – 1.8 litre 4-cylinder petrol

Transmission & drivetrain:

5-speed manual, front-wheel drive (FWD) – SI, GTi, GTi Classic
4-speed automatic, front-wheel drive (FWD) – SI

Fuel Consumption:

7.0 – 7.7L/100km

Length:

3705mm

Width:

1589mm

Height:

1355mm

Kerb Weight:

875 – 931kg

Disclaimer

Information correct as of April 15, 2022.

The advice provided on this website is general advice only. It has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on this advice, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs.

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