We have already had a good deal to say of two outstanding small GTI saloons, the revised Volkswagen Golf Mk 2 and the more recently introduced Peugeot 205 GTI. But how do they rate on the road?
The fact is they are not strictly comparable. By which I mean that the VW Golf is larger than the Peugeot 205, therefore more spacious. This is borne out by the price-factor, for the Golf GTI Mk 2 costs £7,667, compared to £6,296 for the Peugeot 205GTI. I regard the Golf GTI as still the top car of this increasing cult in very quick, sporting modest-sized closed cars, the equivalent of, or should I say replacement for, the one-time sports cars. In its latest form the VW Golf remains supreme. Its braking has been improved, its top-gear acceleration is fine indeed, the gear-change is a little less smooth than I had expected, but everything else is to Golf-expected standards, and with some care fuel consumptions in the region of nearly 40 mpg were obtained, in spite of the very good and usable, almost breathtaking, performance from this delectable 1,781 cc fuel-injection VW. With its levels of road-grip (the car I tried was Pirelli-shod), noise, refinement generally and economy, 30 mpg coming up even under heavy-footed driving, this 112 bhp, 2,063 lb kerb-weight Golf contrives to entrance the keen driver, as it covers the ground effortlessly, with acceleration taking only 8.6s from rest to 60 mph, or, equally impressive, 30 to 50 mph, for instance, in 8.8s in fifth gear, while its top pace is some 114 mph.
Peugeot are to be warmly congratulated in following this With their performance-modified, fuel-injection version of their popular 205, which is £1,572 less costly than the Golf 2, yet matches it in 0-60 mph pick-up and which when fully wound-up, is actually two mph faster, at 116 mph.
It it is smaller by four inches on wheelbase, 11.1″ overall, and it feels less solidly built, not quite so refined in action as the Golf, yet this three door Peugeot Hatchback is a fun-car all right, responsive, safe, very quick about the place, and conveniently contrived.
Although the Peugeot 205GTI represents a saving over the longer-established and now further refined VW Golf, it must not be regarded as just a more powerful edition of the ordinary 205. This fast little GTI has been properly up-rated mechanically to cope with its 105 bhp (developed at 6,250 rpm from the 83 x 73 mm, 1,580 cc transverse engine, whereas the bigger 112 bhp VW Power-unit peaks at a modest 5,500 rpm), as has already been explained in the Mar issue of Motor Sport. Here one can point to the difference in torque, the Golf developing 114 lb ft at a modest 3.100 rpm, the smaller Peugeot engine giving just over 99 lb ft at 4,000 rpm.
On the road, while I regard the VW Golf 2 as a very civilised way of going remarkably fast in a refined car of moderate size, the Peugeot 205 GTI is not that much less refined and it is a grand “fun-car” into the bargain. It was taken over in something of a flurry, this red Michelin MXV-shod example, and it proved able to cruise easily at almost any speed up to 90 mph before thought of speed-limits curbed it. It had a rather “sudden” if light clutch action, making FWD take-off on hills a task for some care, a very quick, smooth non-baulking change to the five-speed gearbox, reverse going in easily after the safety-ring had been lifted, the movement into fifth from top a somewhat long throw, however; the gear lever is spring-loaded centrally. Whatever the “racing-boys” may say about the tail-happiness of the Peugeot 205. I can assure you that in ordinary fast driving this cheeky little GTI grips more than adequately.
It is one of those cars in which you can just about lean an elbow comfortably on the roof if you are of average height, it has a chunky wheel at each Corner (185 x 60R14 tyres, on alloy wheels), the window area is generous, as are the doors, giving easy access to the back seat aided by front seats that lift forward, then return to the same position.
The tailgate is lockable, rises easily, and the back seat is split for accommodating bigger loads. The more sporting front seats are comfortable, with big headrests, but the knob controlling the rake of the driver’s squav was very stiff. The rack-and pinion steering, geared 3.8 turns, lock-to-lock, has a good “feel” and the action is light with quick-caster return, the smallish wheel possessing a grippy plastic rim. Through it. the neat instruments on a black panel are all easily seen, and it is nice to have a full set: oil temperature as well as pressure, heat gauge and accurate fuel gauge, with small speedometer and tachometer dials, having the warning lights between them. The fuel-gauge warning light came on alter some 280 miles from an almost full tank. There are conventional two-stalk steering-column controls, the four heater/ventilator levers are sensibly labelled and control effective supplies, and the stowages, including a lockable cubby, are more than adequate.
Changing over from an MG Montego EFi the Peugeot GTI felt for a time liken “rorty racer” but, in fact, the engine, wind, and road noise-levels are low for a small car of such high performance and the engine is very smooth, right up to the ignition cut-off point at 6,250 rpm. Bosch LE2 jetronic fuel-injection ensures an instant start but just momentarily, as the throttle was opened, there was the faintest hesitation . If you drive the car on the limit the rear-end becomes over-light, leading maybe to a spin-off, but as I have explained, on the road there should be no cause for anxiety. The ride from the front MacPherson strut, and trailing-arm, torsion-bar irs is lively on all but the smoothest surfaces.
The body interior is the usual black plastic, the spaciousness commendable, and there are ventilatory rear side-windows, and a jolly little swivelling roof map-light in addition to the normal roof-lamp. Two internally adjustable door mirrors are provided, and if you want to pay £340 extra you can have central-locking and front window electrickery. The disc/drum brakes are a bit strong on the servo assistance, so come on suddenly until one is prepared for this, but they can then be rated very powerful, smooth, and progressive, although there is no vacuum “fail-safe” for the servo. There is rear wipe/wash, Siem spot-lamps mounted low-set in the air-dam, and the self-propping rear-hinged bonnet is opened with a n/s release. Fuel consumption, on fast runs to Bath, Prescott, etc, came out at 37.4 mpg.
If one stops thinking of this game little Peugeot GTI alongside the ever-excellent VW Golf GTI and accepts it as a “fun-car” of comparable performance able, for example. to accelerate from 40 to 60 mph in nine seconds in 5th-gear. 2.4s faster if, as you should be, you are in top-cog, or gallop from a standstill to 70 mph in less than 12s, it is seen to represent the best kind of sporting Hatchback so many people want. — W.B.