Peugeot 205 CTI

Since its introduction to Britain two years ago, the Peugeot 205 GTI has taken on the mantle of a 'cult' car. Other hot hatches may out-perform if and may offer more equipment, space and practicality but the 205's sheer driver appeal has won it a special place in the affection of sporting drivers. It's a car which informs the driver what is going on it's taut and delivers a great deal of 'feel' in many important areas such as steering and brakes. Moreover Peugeot's rally successes with a car which bears a close resemblence makes 205 GTI one of those rare classless cars like the Mini Cooper.

Peugeot has not been slow to recognise that it has an extraordinary car on its hands and the price of 205 GTI has risen more than can be easily explained by either inflation or the franc against sterling. Since Peugeot can sell all it makes, its pricing has not been over-ambitious.

Last year Peugeot began marketing a performance conversion which offered 20 bhp over the GTI's standard 105, but this spoiled the engine's wide power range (it gave nothing below 3,000 rpm) and consequently, the overall balance of the car. At nearly £1,200 it was greatly over-priced. Why pay that money to spoil a nice car?

Now the GTI has a 115 bhp engine and a number of other detail modifications which make Peugeot personel refer to it as the 'Mk 2'. Apart from the engine, the ride has been softened further but this carries the penalty of much heavier steering I would settle for the harder ride and lighter steering. The car has had detail improvements to its interior, too, the most notable being the stalk controls from the 309 replacing the rather confusing push-and-twist controls originally specified.

Peugeot claims a top speed of 121 mph for GTI with the 115 bhp engine (118 mph for CTI) and conservatively. 9.1 seconds for 0-60 mph (9.6 seconds for CTI).

Of all the hot hatches on the market, Peugeot 205 is the one which has cried out for a cabriolet conversion. Quite apart from the fact that the car's driver appeal is such that it calls for the added pleasure of open air motoring the car's basic styling has more potential for a satisfactory conversion than anything else in its class.

In creating the 205 Cabriolet, Peugeot has turned to Pininfarina, its collaborator in so many projects since 1955. Bare shells are shipped to Italy for a conversion which adds around 200lb to the overall weight which in turn, makes the Cabriolet a little less quick off the line than the GTI. The extra weight comes from stiffening, the only visible evidence of which is the 'T' rollover bar.

The hood itself is a very neat affair and when down barely intrudes into the 205's tight luggage space. One person can erect it in under ninety seconds without a great deal of practice. Once in place, the hood endows the car with all the characteristics of a saloon there is good visibility and no flapping or drumming. The CTI comes, too, with electric windows and central locking.

Unlike some cabriolet versions of popular hatchbacks, scuttle shake is discernable only when the car is driven very hard indeed Wind noise is about average for a cabriolet.

My co-driver on a 206 mile run from Cardiff to Chester was a smoker and he discovered that with the hood down, the car's aerodynamics would suck out the contents of the ashtray and deposit them around the interior.

For the rest. the CTI has overwhelming virtues of the 205 and its few blemishes (e.g poor heater ventilator and cheap looking interior tr,m). Of the 6,700 Cabriolets Peugeot plans to build this year, 4,000 will stay on the home market and we will receive around 600. The company feels it will have little difficulty in selling them at 59,494 Looking around at the opposition it's an opinion with a logic that's hard to fault.  - M.L.