Peugeot has never really captured the magic of that car since it ended production in 1994, but with news that the brand still considers the GTI badge an important part of its heritage, hopes have been raised for a modern take on the formula. While hot hatch fans wait with baited breath, we're looking back at the history of the storming original.
Life for the Peugeot 205 began in 1983, when it was launched as the successor to the 104 supermini. Created to fill the gap between the 104 and the larger 305, the 205 was penned in-house by Gerard Welter with interior touches done by Paul Bracq. In its debut year, the Peugeot 205 finished runner-up in the European Car of the Year but was rightfully awarded the 1983 Car of the Year by What Car?.
The French manufacturer quickly realised the model’s sporting potential and a year later, in April 1984, released the Peugeot 205 GTi. Powered by a 105bhp 1.6-litre engine and tipping the scales at less than 900kg, it could shoot from 0-62mph in 8.7sec and had a top speed of 116mph.
The faster GTi 1.9 was launched at the end of 1986, boasting 130bhp. It was capable of completing the 0-62mph sprint in 7.8sec and boasted a top speed of 127mph. During 1986 the 1.6-litre version was also upgraded, with peak power now quoted at 115bhp.
To this day, opinion is still divided among motoring journalists as to which variant provides the better GTi experience, with some preferring the peaky power delivery of the 1.6-litre derivative and others favouring the increased torque of the 1.9. However, the Peugeot 205 GTi in either form is still comfortably regarded as one of the greatest hot hatchbacks of all time.
In 1984 Peugeot Talbot Sport - led at the time by current FIA President Jean Todt - unleashed the 205 T16 on the World Rally Championship. There were also 200 road-going examples built for homologation purposes.
Despite adopting four-wheel drive and a transverse mid-engined layout, the production T16s shared little in common with the WRC cars, and initially had less than half the power at around 200bhp. However, the 205 T16 Evo 2 changed that, coming with 450bhp and a reputed 0-60mph time of 3.3sec.
In 1985, Peugeot exploited the skill of Pininfarina to design the 205 cabriolet and a ‘CTi’ version was released partnering the same sportier styling as the GTi, but without its roof, and the 1.6-litre and later, 1.9-litre powerplants.
Other potent Peugeot 205s which gained brownie points among petrolheads included the underrated 205 XS built from 1986 to 1992 and the rare ultra-lightweight 205 Rallye. With almost all luxury items and soundproofing stripped and only the bare essential electrics left, the Rallye’s kerb weight was down to 795kg, with a 1.4-litre 75bhp engine propelling the car to 60mph in 11.3sec.