ITíS MORE THAN 30 YEARS since the still looks Peugeot fresh. 205 With launched, its fun driving yet it experience and youthful looks, the 205 was a smash hit. Of course, the GTi 1.9 is the 205 everybody wants, but all GTi variants are brilliant to drive. The 1.9-litre crankshaft is longer and heavier, so itís less free-revving. The short-stroke 1.6 also has a flatter torque curve, while the 1.9ís torque tends to fall away after 4000rpm.
Australia didnít receive the GTi until 1987. And when we did, it wasnít the full-fat European variant due to stricter laws on exhaust emissions and unleaded petrol. Plus, we didnít get the same spec level. Our single overhead camshaft engine, with eight valves and fuel injection, put out a measly 75kW/142Nm compared to the Euro model that had around 100kW.
Right-hand drive converted cars couldnít even have air-con and power steering together - so our hotter climate got chilled air with heavy steering. Alloys, central locking, power windows, a leather steering wheel, fog lamps and a fourspeaker cassette sound system were standard as a trade-off.
By 1991 an update brought more power and torque (now a healthier 90kW and 152Nm with a catalytic converter) to boost performance levels, while air-conditioning and power steering were finally grouped together. The little Pug fell off the sales charts in 1994 and, naturally, cars built post 1991 are the ones to go for - theyíre also supposedly better built.
More prosaic 205s offer practical everyday family transport and if you prefer two-pedal motoring the auto gearbox is reliable and came with the 1.6- and 1.9-litre engines.
BODYWORK Most 205s will probably have had panel or paint work done, or both. They tend to be rust free if they havenít had body repairs, but many have had small dings and thatís when the corrosion starts.
Original replacement panels have disappeared; some pattern parts are available, but fit and quality vary. These pattern panels arenít galvanised and often donít come with holes pre-cut for the indicators. Even when these cars were current, after a shunt they were often repaired with pattern parts to keep costs down, so shut lines can be inconsistent.
Original cars have a beige (facelifted 205) or black (early 205s) slam panel. If itís body-coloured itís been painted after it left the factory. Rust in the front guards means theyíre probably replacements; inspect the seam between the front inner and outer guards, visible from inside the front arch. There should be lots of seam sealer here - if not, water and mud have got into the joint.
Door bottoms can corrode if the drain holes get blocked, while the base of the tailgate can rust if the glass has been poorly replaced. Check the boot floor for corrosion and signs of ripples. Brake fluid leaks from the master cylinder reservoir onto the bodywork under the servo, so use a torch to inspect. OILY BITS There were four different engine families. The one weíre interested in is the XU, which came with 1580cc or 1905cc displacements and was fitted to the GTi. X-Type survivors are rare. Killed off in 1988, this engine shared its oil with the gearbox; all other 205 íboxes have their own sump.
XU blocks crack through corrosion from insufficient antifreeze. Major oil leaks are common because of a failed distributor O-ring or a failed rear main oil seal behind the flywheel. Itís a gearbox-out job, so costly.
If buying a GTi, the 1.6- and 1.9-litre engines look much the same, so check the correct one is fitted. The smaller units have a number starting XU5J, larger units begin with XU9JA. The bigger engine has a half-inch thick alloy spacer between the sump and cylinder block; no spacer means itís a 1.6-litre.
Faster and more composed than the original, the Mk2 GTI uses a revhappy 1.8-litre four (102kW/168Nm).
A homologation special, the pumped-up Renault used an atmo four (108kW/175Nm) in conjunction with chassis tweaks
Yes, itís rear-wheel drive... However, the iconic hachi roku is every bit as good with a 95kW/149Nm 1.6-litre 4A-GE inline four
DRIVETRAIN 3-door, 5-seat hatch
ENGINE 1905cc inline-4, SOHC, 8v
POWER 90kW @ 6000rpm
TORQUE 152Nm @ 4750rpm
TRANSMISSION 5-speed manual
USED RANGE $7000 to $25,000
PEUGEOT sprayed a lot of champagne in the world of motorsport in the í80s and í90s and none more so than in Group B rally with the 205 GTi T16s. The records show the Pug as the most successful Group B car, winning 16 rallies and two world titles before the category disbanded in 1986. Originally the 205 T16 used a 1775cc turbo four pot sending 260kW to all corners. Then things got pretty crazy, as the Group B arms race intensified. The iteration that claimed the most wins was the 205 T16 ĎE2í, with a six-speed gearbox, massive wings and up to 400kW. Itís a legend of the sport.
The all-alloy XU engine wonít take neglect. Valve guides wear quickly if the engine is thrashed, but it will last 200,000km if looked after. Failed head gaskets arenít rare, usually because of corrosion through a lack of anti-freeze. If things are really bad a decent used head might have to be sourced. A belt kit or new water pump are less than $100 each.
Itís the GTiís multi-point injected engine thatís most likely to suffer from poorly set up injection and ignition timing. The fuel injection needs adjusting by an expert using a wideband lambda sensor. Poor running could also be down to blocked or leaking breather hoses.
Rev counters can pack up when the sensor on the back of the flywheel gives up. Three manual gearboxes were fitted: the BH3, MA and BE; theyíre not interchangeable. The BH3 was fitted to the X-Type engine, the MA to the TU and the BE to the XU, XUD and XUDT. The MAís sun and planet gears in the diff tend to fail and punch into the transmission, destroying it. The input shaft bearing fails too, creating a sound like a tired clutch release bearing.
The BE gearbox is stronger, but if abused the synchro will be tired. In the GTi, the BE came in close-ratio form with the 1.6- and 1.9-litre cars getting different transmissions which are interchangeable. Both transmissions suffer from worn gear linkages. On the MA gearbox, a pin wears out in one of the selector rods leading to lots of transverse gearstick movement, although it can be fixed with some welding.
Clonking from the front means the wishbone bushes need replacing or the bottom ball joints. The latter canít be replaced separately; the whole wishbone must be renewed. Bushes are available for each side or the entire wishbone, complete with bushes and ball joint, can be renewed at once.
One or both anti-roll bar drop links might need to be replaced; itís an easy DIY job. The rubber also wears out in the front strut top mounts. Cheap repairs are possible, but a proper fix means replacing everything above the spring. Rear axle bearings can seize, and the axle will need replacing. Budget $1000 for this.
TRIM AND ELECTRICS Front seats wear and tilt mechanism can fail. Reproduction fabrics are available for some GTi seats. The 1.9-litre GTi has a more durable half-leather interior than the all-cloth 1.6-litre cars.
Electrical woes are common, with damp getting into terminals and connections. Wiring inside the car lasts well; itís in the engine bay that problems crop up, so check headlights, foglights and indicators. If there are problems, hone in on the earthing points. The front driving lights on the GTi break easily and the housings rust. GTi looms are often butchered, with aftermarket hi-fis and alarms poorly installed.
While it seems like a minefield of problems, the GTi remains one of the true analogue hot hatches. Second-hand prices vary massively, but pick a good one and you wonít regret it.