Tell me I'm wrong: Peugeot 205 GTI
Harris dares to question hot-hatch lore by suggesting everyone's wrong about the 205 GTI
And so it was written...
As a young, impressionable scrote I digested pretty much every published word on these cars rather than gain a formal education - and I took it as read that the 1.9 was not the one to have. A few years later I drove both and it seriously rocked my faith in the people I'd previously considered sage voices on anything car-related. The 1.6 was a blast. The 1.9 was nuts.
The same, just a bit more so
Understanding the general consensus on handling was a bit baffling too. According to my predecessors, a 1.6 was a little honey, whereas the 1.9 only existed to shorten your time on this planet. From where I was sitting, both had an unhealthy appetite to wag their rear axles on a trailing throttle, the 1.9's was only a little worse because it was stiffer and the 195/55 tyres were deflected a little more easily.
The downsides of the larger displacement car seemed to be poor behaviour around town. You had to dip the clutch to stop it bunny-hopping, but then the 1.6 was hardly easy under the same circumstances. And I did prefer the smaller 185 section, 14-inch wheel/tyre combo on gnarly B-roads. It gave the car more compliance, but on most roads the 1.9 was a hoot.
A hairy experience
Anyhow, I've said it now. I don't doubt that there will be hundreds of people who think I've gone mad, but I have driven healthy examples of both cars and always find myself falling for the 1.9's extra torque. Don't get me wrong, the 1.6 was always an exceptional machine, and it didn't suffer quite the same retribution from the insurance industry, but the 1.9 was, and I think still is, the definitive car of its type.
So, all you children of the 80s, please tell me why I'm wrong about the 1.9 GTI being better than the 1.6 GTI.
But when I tried a 1.9 in 1998 it made much more sense. The quickest car I'd driven up to that point was a GTV6 and. The 1.9, to me, put GTV6 performance into a tiny package. It's pick and mid range were addictive, the top end a blast and I loved it. Handled well too.
Maybe there was something wrong with the 1.6 I tried steering-wise. But putting that to one side it would still be the
1.9 all day long for me.
Maybe journalists are the ONLY people who think the 1.6 is better. So, maybe this story isn't about Peugeots at all, maybe it's about journos and their desire to appear smarter / better informed than mere mortals–even if they're subsequently proved wrong?
The 309 had the 1.9 engine and alloys from the 205 (so the best bits from that car! ) plus the 4 fogs/driving lamps at the front. Ugly in an Apache ugly kind of way, to my eyes...
Of the many I've driven the more rev happy 1.6s are far more rewarding and peppy drive.
The gearing in the 1.9s is too long IMO hence a 1.9 with a 1.6 'box is a far better propostion.
A 205 with an Mi16 engine in it is the perfect option.
The argument was always the 1.6 was a better revver, but there is no need in the 1.9 due to the fat torque spread (mine makes over the book figure since a rebuild too). The 1.6 might have felt quicker as it was screaming its head off, but it wasn't.
The other argument is the 1.6 motor is lighter so less nose heavy. But I don't buy that either. Smaller, lighter wheels may make a difference and I have been tempted to try some of the 14's on my 1.9 but there is always another more urgent job needs doing first! (fuel pump knackered atm, starter motor went before xmas).
My 1.9 even idles without hunting! Now that is a rarity