Review and road test of the Peugeot 205 (1983 - 1997)
SMALL CAR - BIG PERSONALITY
BY JONATHAN CROUCH
By anybody's reckoning, Peugeot's 205 ranks as one of the key small cars of the last 20 years. It proved that superminis could not only be practical but fun too. Around a decade and a half after it was originally launched, Peugeot was still making it and it was on sale here until 1997. So, as you might expect, there are still some good examples on the used market.
3 & 5dr Hatchback, 2dr Cabriolet (1.0, 1.1, 1.4, 1.6, 1.8 diesel, 1.8 turbo diesel [Junior, Style, XE, XL, XR, GL, GR, Sceptre, XS, XT, GR, SR, GT, CJ, CJ Junior, GTI, CTI, Style D, Junior D, D, XLD, GLD, GRD, TD, Turbo D, XRDT, STDT, GRDT])
The 205 was launched as a five-door hatchback in 1983 on the back of the marque's successful World Rally programme. Initial engines included 1.0, 1.1, 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol units and a normally aspirated 1.8-litre diesel. Three-door versions followed soon after.
The first three-door GTi, the 1.6, arrived in 1984 and redefined the affordable hot hatch market. Five years later, a 120mph 1.9-litre version was added. Both cars also came in Cabriolet form. Performance in a different guise came from the surprisingly rapid turbo diesel, which joined the normally-aspirated engine in 1991.
In terms of visual improvement, Peugeot stylists did very little after 1983 admitting frankly that the original shape needed no embellishment; customers appeared to agree. There was a restyled dashboard with new rotary heater knobs after three years or so and a minor exterior makeover (revised front and rear light treatment) in 1990 but that was about it. The last examples were sold in Britain on 97P plates.
What You Get
A little car that's miserly at the pumps but a whole lot of fun out on the open road. Not much to criticise in terms of packaging, though some of the trim is rather flimsy.
What to Look For
There are plenty of poorly maintained examples around, many older ones have creeping rust (check around the window seals). Check for deteriorating alloy wheels, clutch wear, worn rear shock absorbers and scored brake discs.
Cars that have not been properly serviced with the approved solution and make of anti-freeze may have suffered corrosion damage to the engine which will be pricey to put right. Check exhaust emissions for blue smoke which may indicate engine wear. Knocking noises are a sign of camshaft wear on higher mileage examples.
Bear in mind too that some earlier small engine models had their gearbox located in the sump, Mini-style, where it was difficult and costly to repair.
(based on a 1990 205 GTi 1.9) A clutch assembly is around £120, a full exhaust approximately £200 (without catalyst), brake pads are around £42 front and £42 rear. An alternator is around £120, pay about £120 for a starter motor, up to £130 for a radiator and £40 for a headlamp.
On the Road
All the engines on offer feel perky - even the normally-aspirated diesels. The chassis helps too; you can really throw this car around if you want to. Unlike most other superminis, the 205, rather than being a domestic appliance for the road, is a car you can really fall in love with.
The 205 still makes plenty of sense as a first car or an extra family runabout, just as it did when it was launched back in 1983. Find a good one and you'll wonder how others cope in their contemporary Fiestas and Metros.
Peugeot 205 (1983 - 1997) review by JONATHAN CROUCH