As the 80s boy racer dreamboat the Peugeot 205 GTI turns 30 Mark Simpson remembers stroking its stick-shift
In the world of car porn there is no other conjugation that raises the punter’s pulse more than that one – evoking as it does fuel injection, tight handling, firm suspension, snug interiors and accommodating rears.
And amongst hot hatches, the Peugeot 205 GTI is the ultimate car porn star. This year the French stunner, launched back in 1984, when the miners were on strike and Frankie Goes To Hollywood were in the charts, turned an ancient and decrepit 30, but is still widely regarded as the hottest hatchback ever.
It’s certainly my favourite car ever. I owned one in the early 90s, round about the time they stopped production in 1994, and I still dream moistly about it in a way I don’t about, say, my old Golf Mk 1 GTI, even though I suspect the Golf was a rather better made car.
I had a 1.9, 205, introduced a couple of years after the 1.6. It simply had to be a 1.9. Not because it had a few more HP than the 1.6 (126 compared to 105), or because it did 0-60 in 8 seconds (instead of 8.7), or because it had disc brakes all round instead of just at the front. And certainly not because it had more torque. But because of that ‘9’ on the badge. Who wants an average 6 when you can have a whopping 9? Especially when you’re still in your twenties, as I was at the time.
Apart from the badge, there were other key visual signifiers of your ownership of more cubic centimetres: the alloy wheels were fatter, and you had sexy half leather seats, vs cloth. I became practised at spotting these giveaways from a distance, before I could get a good look at the badge on the side. I’m sure I wasn’t the only Peugeot 205 size queen, constantly dismissing 1.6ers as unworthy of my interest.
In fact, being so lightweight – or what safety engineers now would call ‘horrifyingly flimsy’ – either 205 GTI was a joy to drive, even though neither had power steering (drivers back then were expected to have shoulders when it came to parking). It would take bends with an alacrity and eagerness that was positively arousing. Admittedly the pedals were rather too close together, particularly if you had size ‘9’ feet – but you just had to be careful to operate them delicately with pointy toes.
It was a great car for belting around a city like London before ‘traffic calming’ measures were introduced, speed humps installed every few feet, and rat-runs closed off, turning London’s roads into railways for cars. In addition to being great for engaging the ‘safety power’ and nipping around ‘obstructions’, the 205 GTI would leave most cars standing at the lights, watching your sexy arse disappear into the distance.
It was remarkably practical too. Despite the fact that from the outside it looked like the proverbial rocket-powered roller-skate, a road-legal single-seater with the driver crouched over the sports steering wheel, head almost sticking out of the sliding sun roof, inside it was surprisingly spacious. People with legs could even sit in the back. If you owned a Peugeot GTI you could actually have friends, or a family.
If, that is, you had any time for anything that didn’t involve zooming around with a big stupid grin on your face.
But if I’m honest none of these were the real reasons I possessed one. It was the 205 GTi’s scorching looks that bowled me over. It was a very, very sexy piece of 1980s styling – quite possibly the definitive one. A kind of supermini American Gigolo with black and red bumper car trim. The wheels were exactly where they should be, in the corners, and it had a very sexual shapeliness to it. I even loved the two-tone plasticky interiors that everyone mocks now. (Though admittedly most of the plastic bits did break off.)
I had a red one, but I wanted a white one, and black one, and a blue one, and slate grey one as well. I thought they were all good enough to eat.
The Peugeot 205 GTI: the tastiest hot hatch ever.
Originally appeared on LeasePlan
Yes, I know he’s not driving a Peugeot 205 GTI – but he so should have been