Road impressions: Peugeot 309 SRi

My pleasure

After visiting Peugeot at Ryton, I drove away in a jolly representative of the small cars from that factory, a 309 SR Injection. We have written a good deal about various Peugeot models in recent issues of Motor Sport, so we can perhaps be brief about this top performance model of the 309 range. It must be said at once, however, that it is fun to drive, has an electrifying performance for its size (being powered by the same transverse fuel-injection engine that has made the 205 GTi such an outstanding little car), seats which remain comfortable all day, and a distinct economy in terms of petrol consumed; it is altogether a most convenient concept.

It might be termed a “booted hatchback”, having the convenience of five doors, including the lift-up tailgate, and a split rear seat for greater luggage space. The gearchange is slick, and steering and braking are in keeping with its 0-60 mph acceleration in under 9 sec and 115 mph top speed.

The instruments are easily read and the unexpected oil pressure and oil temperature gauges welcome, if uncalibrated. The fuel gauge did not fall from a “full” reading for many miles, and is not entirely consistent at the lower end of its scale — but that is a minor niggle, as a low-level warning light obviated running dry. 

Many of the 309’s convenient items of equipment are those found in many cars of the 1980s; but rear seat belts, map-reading lamp, fuel-filler flap opened by a lever between the seats, load-adjustable halogen headlamps, two external mirrors and a laminated windscreen might be quoted as bonuses. The main thing, however, is that this little Peugeot is such a pleasure to drive quickly, yet very smooth and flexible in fifth gear. Violent application of power can make the front wheels spin under getaway, the 1580cc all-alloy ohc engine poking out an impressive 115 PS/DIN bhp at 6250 rpm. Casual use of the accelerator does promote some kangaroo action, but anyone using a 309 SRi seriously will not permit such bad habits.

The test car had Goodyear NCT HR65 175/65 HR14 tyres (part of the 66% British supplied components which go into these Ryton Peugeots) central door-locking and electric control of the front windows. Fuel consumption was 30.27 mpg, rising to 38 or more on unhurried journeys — but this is hardly the way most of us would conduct this cheeky and obliging little car. With all-round independent suspension and rack-and-pinion steering, it is priced at £8795.

I used it for 1200 miles, including a day’s drive of 210 miles to look at some Somerset seaside resorts, since the Severn Bridge (toll again 50p per car) and the M5 bring them within a reasonable distance of Wales. We choose about the wettest April Fool’s Day ever, for a drive through industrialised Avonmouth, dignified Clevedon and tripperish Weston-Super-Mare.

At Worle we enquired about Woodspring Priory, where Owen John, whose diaries we have been studying, spent Christmas 1926, having driven there in the latest Lanchester 21. Ashbourne sub-post-office not only directed us to this and the “inland lighthouse” OJ refers to, actually an observatory, but found us a picture of the ancient Priory (still there, still farmed) for which they refused payment.

As we drove back to hillier and more remote Wales, I reflected that the Peugeot 309 had taken us to Somerset faster, and probably with less effort, and more comfort than OJ’s big Lanchester over 60 years earlier, fine car though that was. WB