As the Peugeot 205 celebrates its 30th Birthday, we take a look back at the history of the light-footed hatchback
9 December 2014

Peugeot is celebrating 30 years since the launch of the iconic 205 GTi with a special 205bhp version of its 208 GTi. As that car seeks to evoke the spirit of the storming original, we look back at the history of what has become one of the world's greatest hot hatchbacks.

Life for the Peugeot 205 began in 1983 when it was launched as the successor to the Peugeot 104. Created to fill the gap between that 104 supermini and the 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.


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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.

In 1992, Peugeot UK revealed a special limited edition of the 205 GTi - badged the 1FM - to celebrate BBC Radio 1’s 25th birthday. Only available in black with bespoke ‘Radio1FM’ badging and decals, grey alloy wheels and individual brass-plate numbering marking the build number, only 25 examples were made. 

When production finally ground to a halt, Peugeot had sold 5.2 million examples of the 205.

To celebrate 30 years since the car's launch, Peugeot this year unveiled a limited-edition version of the 208 GTi at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this summer.

With just 100 examples coming to the UK, the 208 GTi 30th anniversary special features a 1.6-litre THP petrol engine producing 205bhp and 221lb ft. It also features a Torsen differential taken from the RCZ R, as well as lowered suspension, larger 18-inch alloys and a widened front and rear track.

Aaron Smith

Deciding the world's greatest hot hatchback - picture special

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9 December 2014
Picture 40 appears to show the dashboard of an electric 205? I never knew they did one? I had a 205 XS in 1987 (E46FLK), and they were indeed fabulous cars. I worked in London but had to visit a site in Stratford-on-Avon every week, and it was a real joy driving out there across country in the pre-M40 days.

5 January 2014
I had a run in a 1.9 back in the day, I was looking to replace a 5 GT turbo and decided on a 309 1.9 gti in the end. A better car in the real world. Would have loved a 16v 309 gti but they never arrived in uk showrooms. So replaced the 309 with a 405 Mi 16. Seems a very long time ago now....

9 December 2014
Still the best in my opinion. 1.9 is fast even in modern terms. Automotive world simply didnt progress much in any area apart from safety which is not paramount for the likes of us, and even that is questionable and has a lot to do with image rather than safety.

5 January 2014 suffered from too little suspension travel and too heavy steering. The 309 GTi I had after that was better in the real world, by far. Back in the late '80s, a group of us would compare our GTis and GTEs with the 8v Golf GTI, a TR4A, a TR6, both tweaked, and a Stag with tweaked suspension, and on busy single lane 60mph highways the Golf and the Stag were better. The Stag was a revelation with its V8 mid-range.

Compared to the Pugs, the Golf was a better quality car but lacked feel. At least it was made of metal. The Stag though was pure beef, and I grew to love Triumphs after that but sadly never owned one.

9 December 2014
Back then a choice of two - 205 or Uno. No competition. Now? Lots, but none of them pretty. Pretty is a thing of the past. Anyone know why?

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