The Peugeot 205 GTI Buying Guide – ‘80s hot hatch perfection

Peugeot 205

A true benchmark in its day, the feisty Peugeot 205 GTI remains a fantastic little sports car that can still be had at (mostly) reasonable prices.

The 1980s was a great time to be shopping for a hot hatch, cheap, quick and perfect for the daily grind, there were some impressive offerings from VW, Ford, MG, Vauxhall and Lancia all vying for attention. Rising above them all was the inimitable Peugeot 205 GTI, offering superb dynamics and punchy performance thanks to a revvy 1.6-litre motor and a featherweight bodyshell.

The Peugeot 205 arrived in 1983 with the more powerful GTI variant coming the following year, coinciding with the introduction of the three-door bodystyle to the range. The 1.6-litre mill may have only been good for 104bhp but with just 850kg to push along, performance was more than a little spritely. A 126bhp (120bhp on later cars equipped with catalytic converters) 1.9-litre version was introduced in 1986 while the following year the 1.6-litre engine got a revised cylinder head which saw power go up by 11bhp. Some prefer the smaller motor for its eagerness to rev while others like the torquier 1.9-litre engine, the slightly longer gearing also makes it less buzzy on longer trips.

Aside from minor updates the GTI carried on mostly unchanged until 1994, years of low values and enthusiastic ownership have seen many consigned to the scrapyard but those that remain are now rising in value, especially the very rare low-mileage unabused examples.

Peugeot 205 GTI Engine and Gearbox

Both the 1.6 and 1.9-litre engines are robust but infrequent oil changes can lead to a number of issues. Using the correct oil grade and oil filter is essential. Worn valve stem seals are not uncommon and if your car smokes on initial startup, then they may need attention. The cambelt and water pump should last around four-years so check whether these items are in imminent need of replacement.

The gearbox is strong but worn synchros are not uncommon. A loose feeling shifter can usually be traced back to worn gear linkages or bearings. A mid-life gearbox modification was carried out, earlier cars had reverse gear on the left while later models had it on the right. The biggest difference between GTI models was the shorter gearing on 1.6-litre cars.

Peugeot 205 GTI Suspension and Brakes

Knocks and creaks from the suspension can be due to worn bushes, suspension mount bearings and leaking shocks. The rear beam axle has been known to rust and it can also start sagging. 

Upgraded brakes are not uncommon and larger calipers and discs from other Peugeots can fit with modification. The 1.9-litre models had discs at the rear from the factory. 

Lowering kits were also popular in period but a well sorted car on the standard setup is arguably the better drive on undulating back roads..

Peugeot 205 GTI Bodywork and interior

A lightweight bodyshell may pay dividends when it comes to performance, but it also makes the GTI rather susceptible to accident damage as the panels are very thin. 

Rust is not as prevalent as you might expect, but it is also something to watch out for. Commonly affected areas include the sills, boot floor, window surrounds and wheel arches.

The 205 GTI interior is mostly hard wearing, but the leather or fabric on door cards and seats will likely be showing wear and tear by now.

1.9-litre models had half leather trim while 1.6-litre models had cloth seats. If trim is missing it is not always easy to source so factor this into your offer.

Dashboard plastics and switches should all be in good condition, non-original gear knobs and head units are common.

Model History Of The Peugeot 205 GTI

1983:   Peugeot 205 introduced-initially in five-door bodystyle only

1984:   Peugeot 205 GTI launched in three-door bodystyle. 104bhp 1.6-litre engine and five-speed manual standard fitment.

1986:   126bhp 1.9-litre variant introduced (120bhp on cat-equipped cars). Changes include longer gearing, rar disc brakes and partial leather seats.

1987:   1.6-litre engine receives a power bump to 115bhp.

1994:   Final 205 GTI rolls off the production line

A handful of special edition models were produced (mostly between 1989-1994), the main differences being unique exterior colours and extra equipment levels.

Which Peugeot 205 GTI To Buy

The Peugeot 205 GTI market has been on a steady upward trajectory for a number of years, a few have sold for ridiculous prices but a decent car in good condition is still well within reach for most enthusiasts.

Multiple owners, accident damage and modifications are unfortunately rather common, but there are still a decent number of clean and well maintained cars out there; just take your time and drive a few before committing. 

High mileage isn’t a problem if the car comes with a comprehensive service history and this is the more cost-effective way into a 205 GTI. Restored and low mileage cars often sell at two to three times the value of a merely ‘good’ car, and since the point here is to drive the thing, there is little reason to pay above the odds for a garage queen.

The choice between the 1.6 and 1.9-litre variants comes down to personal preference, both offer a fun and zesty driving experience. The extra power of the larger engine is mitigated somewhat by less of a willingness to rev (although not by much).

Air conditioning was optional, although at the cost of power steering due to packaging issues. Sunroofs were also available but the GTI remains a sparsely equipped car, as it should be.

There is much to love about this effervescent little hot hatch, its immediate responses and tiny footprint make it extremely enjoyable to hustle down a challenging stretch of road. Unlike today’s bloated and overpowered hot hatches, the 205 GTI produces fun at accessible speeds.

Peugeot 205 GTI Specifications

1.6-litre inline-4

Power:              104-115bhp

Top speed:       125mph

0-60mph:          8.6-8.9sec

Economy:         35mpg est.


1.9-litre inline-4

Power:              120-126bhp

Top speed:       128mph

0-60mph:          7.8sec

Economy:         28.1mpg est.

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Text John Tallodi  Photos Newspress

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