Peugeot has added several new cars to its range, though one, a turbo diesel version of the 505, will not be coming to the UK since it is not possible to plumb in the booster on rhd models.
The car of most immediate interest to Motor Sport readers must be the 1.9 litre version of the 205 GTi. Since the GTi was introduced in a 105 bhp version, Peugeot has gradually uprated it. First came an optional large-valve head which was not really a success for it shifted the power too far up the range, spoiling the smoothness of the engine. We tested this at the same time as the Cheetah 1.9 version and came to the conclusion that the Cheetah won hands down.
Earlier this year, all GTis benefited from an additional 10 bhp which, together with some other detail modifications, created what is in effect a Mk 2 version. One’s only reservation about this car is that the castor action on the steering, always fairly strong, had increased to the point where it was intrusive and threatening to spoil the car’s overall balance, which has always been one of its strong points.
This does not apply to the 1.9 which has detail suspension changes (a 10mm reduction in front track among them) and low profile 185/55 VR 15 tyres fitted to alloy 6J15 wheels.
The XU9JA engine is a version of the 1,905cc (83 x 88) unit which Citroën fits in its splendid BX19 GTi. This one, however, is slightly more powerful, giving 130 bhp at 6,000 rpm and maximum torque 115 lb-ft at 4,750 rpm. Even more important than these figures is the fact that 90% of maximum torque is available over 75% of the range (2,200-6,000 rpm). To cope with this extra power, the brakes have been uprated; there are discs all round, ventilated at the front.
The 205 GTi 1.9 is a beautifully balanced car, just like the 1.6. That may seem an obvious sort of statement to make, but when makers uprate models, they do not always keep the personality of the original (Peugeot didn’t manage it with the big-valved head conversion). Acceleration, particularly in third gear, is electric. The ratios have been changed to marry with the extra power, and all the values which have given the 205 GTi such a strong following remain intact.
This model will have electric windows, special trim and central locking as standard and its price, yet to be finalised, is expected to be around £9,000. One has then to wonder whether the extra is worth it. The 205 remains a small car which sells on its personality. That personality is present in the cheaper 1.6 GTi and in real, A to B motoring, terms there must be little between them.
In ultimate terms, the 1.9 is a strong contender for being the best performance hatchback available, and must present a strong challenge to the Golf 16V, but the established 1.6 need not feel over-shadowed.
Peugeot has a problem, and it’s sudden success. The 205 in its many variants has justifiably re-established the marque and the company has shown, via its rally successes, that it means business. The 309, while not outstanding in its own terms as the 205, is a good car and one eagerly awaits the SR Injection model. At the top end of the range, however, Peugeot is left with dated machinery. The 604 has been dropped and the eight year old 505 takes over as ‘flagship’. While this car is handsome it is showing its age.
In order to boost it in the interim, until a new model is prepared, 505 is now available with the ex-604 2849cc V6 engine. This has been given a new cylinder head, larger valves and a fully electronic engine management system and it gives 170 bhp and it gives more than 148 lb-ft torque between 1,700 and 6,600 rpm, with maxirnum torque of 173.6 lb-ft. It also has ventilated front discs with Teves ABS.
In the UK it will be marketed with all the luxury ‘goodies’ at a price not announced as we went for press and will be available with either five speed manual transmission or four speed automatic. Though I’ve driven only the manual version, I suspect that the auto will be the version to have for it’s essentially a motorway cruiser.
When pressed, the engine is noisy and wind noise is high above 90 mph. Top speed is claimed to be 127 mph (manual) but it’s not a car either I, or my co-driver, felt inclined to drive hard. — M. L.