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FWD Champions: The Peugeot 205 GTI

April 1, 2013 by Matt

Peugeot 205 GTI White

The alloy wheels, the wedgy, aggressive stance… Growing up a budding car enthusiast in southern France and blind to little else besides high-end exotics, the Peugeot 205 GTI made an impression. It stood out.

It helped that I wasn’t so inured to the sight of visually hopped-up economy cars; in the mid-late ’80s a budget hatchback with sporting pretensions was something new. And in the case of the 205 GTI, the appeal extended beneath its skin. As with its VW equivalent, the specs weren’t anything to get excited about: 1.6 and 1.9 liter engine options producing a maximum of only 126 hp pulling a chassis whose underpinnings were decidedly bargain-basement. A little carefully-applied suspension tuning and some detail changes here and there, though, made the 205 GTI feel positively alive behind the wheel, never mind the fact that power was delivered to the front wheels.

Peugeot 205 GTI Red

It just looked light, lithe, playful, spritely—and the chassis delivered in massive fashion with telepathic steering response and an eagerness to rotate that beggared belief for a FWD car. The simple, unadorned lines have aged remarkably well too; it still looks almost as fresh as it did 30 years ago. It’s a case study for car designers in how carefully proportioning (as opposed to mere decoration) can dramatically extend a car’s stylistic shelf life.

Peugeot 205 GTI Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

Sadly, the 205 GTI was never imported to the US. The car’s massive success overseas prompted talks of bringing it stateside, but in the end it came to naught. However, with the recent loosening of import restrictions for cars at least 25 years old, the very real possibility exists that a 205 GTI could be brought over and registered. The car was made from 1984 to 1994, so at least the first few years of production are theoretically available to us here in the US, and given its popularity in Europe, decent examples could probably be had relatively cheaply. Worth checking out!

Image credits: driversgeneration.com, mad4wheels.com, sub5zero.com

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series highlighting FWD cars we think highly of, in spite of our RWD bias. Read the other installments here:

Filed under: FWD Champions, Peugeot

8 Comments

  1. Peter says:

    Always wanted a 205 GTI. I had a 405 Mi16 for awhile, that was a great little car. Motor was eager, quirky interior, great steering and good chassis.

  2. I’d love to own one someday — maybe one of my top five desired FWD cars.

  3. John D says:

    What year is the car in the picture? The interior looks remarkable, well…not ugly…for an 80’s car. Much better than many of it’s peers. Especially the Porsche 944.

    • Matt says:

      Good question; I’m not sure. The 205 GTI was made until ’94, so it could be a late-production model. It does look pretty sharp.

  4. John D says:

    Also seems to be more than a passing resemblance to my brother’s ’86 VW Golf GTI. They both seems to have similar proportions and strengths as well. Nice.

    • Matt says:

      ’86 VW GTI would’ve been a Mk2, by which time it was already slightly bigger and cushier than the original… Still a great car, though. :)

  5. Luca says:

    The interior is from a second series car, maybe a 1988 one.
    I’ve owned a 1.9 GTi (in Italy) and is a dreamy ride.

Leave a Reply to Luca