Battle of the super-minis

A new high-performance small saloon, the Peugeot 205 GTi, and the revised VW Golf GTi reached the British market last month, priced at £6,295 and £7,867 respectively. Volkswagen virtually created the market back in 1979 when the GTi was announced, and since then they have sold 16,890 of them on the British market. During the past five years it has been regarded as the "cult car", and VAG will be hoping that Golf 2 GTi will continue to have the same sales appeal.

As the Golf GTi has become more expensive (its immediate predecessor was priced at £7,156) there appears to be room for a new cult car, and the Peugeot could be the one. The 205 model has been widely acclaimed, and is taking sales from the Renault 5 in many markets where, in past years, the 5 was itself a model with special appeal. Small wonder, then, that Peugeot should look to customers who are "dynamic, ambitious, and may not have previously considered buying a Peugeot." The French company estimates the British market for this type of car at 100,000 annually, or 5.5 per cent of all registrations, and is clearly hoping for a significant share of it.

The cheapest of the small saloons in this high performance bracket is the MG Metro Turbo at £6,025, the Lancia Delta 1600 GT at £6,250 (the Delta Turbo should be an interesting newcomer when available in the UK), the Peugeot 205 GTI, the Ford Escort XR31 at £6,777 and the Vauxhall Astra GT/E at £6,999, so by this yardstick the new Golf is way out on a limb and will have to be outstandingly good to continue to sell in high numbers.

On paper there is not a lot to choose between these super minis: the Peugeot 205 GTi, with a 1,580 cc engine, develops 105 bhp and has a claimed top speed of 118 mph, reaching 60 mph from rest in an estimated 9.2 seconds. The Golf GTi has a claimed top speed of 119 mph and should reached 60 mph in 8.7 seconds, that half-a-second advantage costing rather a lot in monetary terms! The Peugeot, which is a size smaller than the Golf in terms of carrying area, is powered by the L-Jetronic injected engine used in the 305 GT model, and has a 5-speed gearbox. The addition of an air dam, which incorporates halogen driving lights, lowers the drag coefficient to 0.34, and the 205 GTi has alloy wheels as standard equipment. The only extra that's listed is central locking and electrically operated windows, priced together at £340.