505 GTi sharpens Peugeot's image



Peugeot’s comfortable image as the manufacturer of staid, reliable family cars has been running out of steam recently, the French company’s European market share slipping as Volvo’s has risen. The past 12 months has seen the fruits of serious attempts to sharpen up the appeal of the range by introducing the well-received 205 family of models, and now Peugeot raises its sights by introducing the 505 GTi to the British market.

By now BMW must be quite accustomed to references to Audi, Ford and others attacking their market, and should take that as a compliment, but the addition of Peugeot must be a little surprising to the men of Munich. Maybe the French car does not have the same sporting cachet, but it is nevertheless a surprisingly quick, and extremely well equipped family car which is modestly priced — against its rivals — at £9,595.

The addition of Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection to Peugeot’s 2.2-litre four-cylinder engine raises the power from 117 bhp to 125 bhp. With an alloy block and head, and a belt driven single overhead camshaft, the engine is mounted longitudinally and drives the rear wheels, which many people would still consider to he an advantage.

Included in the price are alloy wheels equipped with Michelin TRX tyres, a limited slip differential (unique today among family cars in standard trim?), a five-speed gearbox, lowered suspension with front and rear anti-roll bars, power assisted rack and pinion steering, disc brakes all round, and for comfort, a stereo radio / cassette with four speakers, electric aerial, electrically operated windows, tinted glass, central locking, an electrically operated sunroof, and Recaro type velour seating.

On paper that sounds amazingly good value, and the 505 GTi didn’t disappoint us in a road trial around the Cotswolds. The claimed acceleration time to 60 mph of 10 seconds felt about right, and a top speed of 112 mph seemed entirely possible. For a big four-door saloon the GTi goes impressively well, and handles nicely too, though the power steering feels too sensitive at speed; we prefer the systems which reduce the power assistance at speed, as manufactured by ZF, the company which supplies Peugeot with the optional three-speed automatic transmission for the GTi.

The fully independent, coil sprung suspension feels a little more taut than on the GL and GR versions but there is some body roll preventing the Peugeot from being a true sporting saloon. We do hear, though, that there’s a turbo version on the way. . . .