Two Lions go from strength to strength

Peugeot prestige is high, since the 205GTi set new standards of fun and performance among the smaller hot-hatches and British production got into its stride at Ryton. This was apparent from driving the roomy four-door 405GL, although the rather woolly performance from its 1.6-litre engine had to be weighed against the thrifty 32.1 mpg.

The non-power-steering was rather too low-geared, torque-steer was evident when opening up too enthusiastically on a slippery road, and I missed such luxuries, or necessities, as sun-roof, central-locking and electric mirror adjustment. But the Peugeot was an easy, pleasant car to drive, its seats comfortable, though the lightweight construction was apparent in this £8470 car, which is a worthy example of the present Peugeot range. Any mild disappointments were quickly obliterated by sampling the 309GTi. Here is precise power-steering, with understeer and torque-pull hardly noticeable, a large aperture sun-roof, central locking for the wide doors of this two-door hatchback, but the same unliked lever-set external mirrors.

The reputation of the Peugeot GTi models is well established and this is a more roomy car than the jolly 205 of that type, with virtually the same 130 bhp 1.9-litre injection engine, encompassing an academic top pace of 120 mph, although the extra weight brings the 0-60 mph time down to a still-notable 8.5 seconds. The gearchange is slick, but can be baulky unless the light clutch is fully depressed.

A low drag factor, impressive aerofoils, full instrumentation including the seldom-fitted oil-heat gauge, remote fuel-filler cap opening, all-round servo disc-braking and a four-speaker radio/stereo are some of the worthwhile items of this fast, flexible Peugeot, which has a somewhat lively but well-damped ride. It endorses the make's great reputation for fun motoring in practical form, for£10,545. It has smart alloy wheels, shod with low-profile Michelin MXV tyres.

To remind myself "how the other half lives" I followed Sentinel steamers and veteran cars with it, and the petrol consumption came out at 29.1 mpg. WB