The Peugeot 305S

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After writing so much in recent months about those significant pre-1914 Peugeot racing cars, it was fun to be driving a modern product of that notable Company, in the form of a Peugeot 305S four-door saloon. It is a difficult car to analyse. Very undemanding to drive, with a rather nice gear change to the 4-speed box and light but very low-geared steering, this compact Peugeot gets along easily and is easy to see out of, and I liked it very much for ordinary purposes. It is only when you push it hard that engine noise rises to undesirable levels, but no worse than in many small cars, and to get it to move like this determined throttle-opening is called for, because otherwise response is poor and acceleration sluggish at higher speeds, while there is a tendency to “kangaroo” when accelerating from a crowd in the lower gears.

Although the power output from the S-version of the Peugeot 305 is considerably above that of an ordinary 305, at 89 DIN bhp at 6,000 rpm from the transverse 78 x 77 mm (1,472 cc) engine, and steps have been taken to improve the handling (bigger front anti-roll bar, low profile 165/70 SR14 tyres — Michelin XZX on the test car) the main appeal of the S-model comes from enhanced amenities. Therein central door-locking, electric front windows (not really necessary on such a compact car, with fascia switches, and the tweed-cloth-upholstery-over-foam-rubber seats so admired in the Peugeot 505 — and very comfortable indeed these seats proved to be. Tinted glass and a laminated screen are other up-ratings. There are the hoped-for touches of individuality, too, expected of a car from Automobiles Peugeot. Thus the tachometer is so small that you do not immediately notice it, two “gear-wheels” control the extent of the opening of the large horizontal vents on the screen sill, and the hand-brake between the front seats is unusually low-set, but feels as if it means business. Instrumentation is very ordinary, a Veglia speedometer with confusing markings (because kilo, and mph figures are of the same size) being supplemented by just a combined fuel/heat gauge, apart from symbolled warning lights. These dials are on a hooded panel, in front of the driver. There is a small Jaeger clock on the centre heater-controls panel, badly blanked from the driver by the thick rim of the steering-wheel and the Ih stalk control. Two stalk-levers work the minor services, the direction-indicators being actuated with the Ih one, which also sounds the horn when its knob is pressed, and the lamps. The rh stalk looks after the screen wipers, in a confusing manner.

The lower gears whine, but provide maximum speeds of 32, 54 and 79 mph if the light-alloy, overhead-camshaft, 5-bearing engine is revved to 6,500 rpm, somewhat above the recommended 6,000 rpm maximum. The car is geared to run at approximately 4,000 rpm at 70 mph and could do with a fifth speed. The ride is notably good, the body pleasantly roomy, and handling effective, with just a trace of rear-end wag or lurch when taking corners at speed. This Peugeot 305S is just about a 100 mph car. It is also usefully sparing of petrol; in a very fast 200-mile run followed by much stop-start driving at moderate speeds I got 32.4 mpg, representing a range approaching 300 miles before a refill is required. The fuel gauge is steady-reading, but there is no warning light and the o/s fuel filler-cap is crude and unlockable. Peugeot “fait confiance a Esso”. Stowages consist of a shallow lockable cubby, under-fascia shelves, a fascia well and front-door wells.

Reverting to the 305S’s refinements, one of its most acceptable features is a shrouded, handle-operated sun-roof, the single exterior mirror has an internal adjuster, while out of sight is the electronic ignition. Performance is only average, with 0-60 mph acceleration taking 12.5 seconds. The boot takes much luggage on a flat floor, its lid locks by key, independently of the central-locking, and the interior is lit even when the side lights are off — a good but rare feature. The jack-handle lowers the spare-wheel cradle. The 305S uses a twin-choke downdraught Soles 32/35 TACIC carburetter, with automatic choke which did its job well.

The Peugeot’s interior decor is not to everyone’s taste and I can hardly forgive the “Avenue de la Grande-Armee” the imitation light-alloy wheels of steel, with odd plastic trims! Suspension is independent all round (front-wheel-drive, of course) by coil springs, but the steering is manual and geared at four turns, lock-to-lock. A nice second-car for a fairly-wealthy family who respect the Peugeot name, the 305S costs a rather high £5,495. The disc/drum brakes are very effective, reminding me of how favourably impressed we were with those of a Peugeot 203 many years ago, when not all cars had brakes of near-uniformity. Having released the rear-hinged, self-supporting bonnet-lid with the n/s lever, one realises that here is no home-maintenance car. Distributor, battery and plugs are highly inaccessible, although a special plug-spanner is provided. Even cleaning the points or topping-up the battery would be a major task and a pit or hoist would be desirable for changing the oil-filter. The oil level had apparently not been checked by the previous user, as it was just about due for topping-up after 565 miles. Crude plastic levers permit the headlamp-beams to be deflected when heavy loads are carried, but only by opening the bonnet. A Peugeot engineering idiosyncrasy is the belt-driven cooling-fan involving a right-angle turn over the pulleys, with a thermostatically-actuated magnetic clutch-drive so that the fan blades feather unless temperatures become high, instead of the more usual electric fan. The transverse engine, inclined at 20 deg, looks rather sombre. The pedals are normally located, in spite of a reasonable steering lock. The washer reservoir is submerged into the o/s front wheel arch, so that its contents level can only be ascertained by removing the lid.

Details of this and the other Peugeot models can be had in this country from Peugeot House on Western Avenue, London W3 0RS. — WB.

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