1988 PEUGEOT 205GTI 1.9

 

at a glance

          ENGINE:  1.9L four-cylinder petrol
          TRANSMISSION:  5-speed manual
          MILEAGE: 105,342 km (65,312 miles)
          EXTERIOR: Rouge Vallelunga
          INTERIOR: Charcoal leather with 2-tone Charcoal and Silver cloth seats and Red carpeting
          PRICE: $14,500

 

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?

A fantastic, two-owner 205GTI that has spent its entire life on the island of Mallorca and accumulated just 65,000 miles in the process.  No rust, no signs of accident damage, and a wonderfully correct and largely original example of what is widely considered the best hot hatch of its era.

The Rouge Vallelunga paintwork is relatively recent and to a very good standard, body panels are straight and rust free with proper gaps and all latches working correctly.  The original Speedline wheels, one of my favorite designs from the 1980's, are perfectly straight and free from major damage, with only light rash evident here and there.  All exterior trim and lights are correct and as-delivered.

Inside, the door panels, headliner, dashboard and console are entirely free from cracks or damage, and all the original upholstery is intact with no split seams or other damage.  There is some minor sagging to the seat cloth (entirely normal for a hatchback of this generation) and typical creasing of the leather bolsters, but no abnormal wear and the entire interior presents very well indeed.  The original bright red carpeting is all in place and shows only normal wear for the mileage.

It's a lovely and correct looking 205GTI, and looks like what it is - a well kept, low-mileage, and largely original example that has had very few owners from new.

 

WHAT'S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

Crikey, it's a hoot.

If you've never driven a 205GTI, it's one of life's simple pleasures that shouldn't be missed.  Astonishingly diminutive outside, the interior has remarkable space and plenty or room, even for a big guy like me, and the ergonomics are spot-on.  Fire up the 1.9L and it barks to life through a snarly sport exhaust that gets the blood moving.  Glance around you and everything is where you'd expect it (with the possible exception of the power window switches), easily within reach, and with a retro-sporting style to the design that takes you immediately back to the somewhat more extroverted days of the late 1980's.

Snick the gear lever into first, let out the clutch, and you're off.

I have always felt that French cars were closer in spirit to Italian cars than anything else, and the 205GTI doesn't do anything to dispel that notion.  There is a frenetic, wild-eyed urgency to the this car that isn't matched by any of its competitors.  Exceedingly light, and powered by an engine that revs as willingly as anything I can remember from the 1980's, the car feels bloody quick at pretty much any speed.  It must have a fig leaf for a flywheel, because the zinginess and rev-happy nature of the motor is incredible, and with pedals perfectly placed for heel-and-toe, blipping the throttle on downshifts brings instantaneous response from the motor, which makes matching revs as easy as it is exciting.  "Raawr!  RAAAWR!"  Underway it really goes, this thing.  Although plenty quick, it feels even quicker, and the visibility and ease of control make you feel comfortable pushing right off the bat.  The unassisted steering is perfectly weighted with outstanding feedback, the gear change is light but mechanical feeling, and the brakes are sure and potent with plenty of modulation available through the pedal.  There is nothing rubbery or disconnected about the little Peugeot.  It's all energy and nerves, like it's constantly whispering in your ear: "Come ON.  Let's GO!!"  Nothing else from the period feels as eager.  Not an A2 Golf GTI, not even a Lancia Delta HF Turbo.  It's quite easy to see why the 205's Group B cousins were such successful rally cars in the hands of Timo Salonen, Juha Kankkunen and the like.

This example doesn't do anything it shouldn't.  The engine sounds wonderful, has been freshly serviced, and doesn't leak.  All the controls are correct with no play or noises, and everything works.  Every gauges, every light, everything.  With fresh oil it is ready to be used daily and happily terrorize whatever neighborhood it finds itself in next.

 

WALKAROUND VIDEO