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Thursday 24th May 2012

Tell me I'm wrong: Peugeot 205 GTI

Harris dares to question hot-hatch lore by suggesting everyone's wrong about the 205 GTI



The three fundamental, over-arching opinions of the 1980s were quite straightforward: capitalism was good, the 205 GTI was sweeter with the smaller 1.6-litre motor, as was the Golf GTI with just eight valves. So long as you grasped these three tenets of life under Maggie T, all would be fine. I am not qualified to comment on the first point, and shall leave the last one for another time, but after years of enforced silence I feel compelled to speak out on the veracity of point two. It's tommy-rot: the 1.9 is better.

According to myth and legend the 1.6 is sweeter
According to myth and legend the 1.6 is sweeter
I love reading old car magazines - I still do it most days and generally replace them on the shelf with a warm glow. But my predecessors did get some stuff badly wrong. Fair enough, we've all made a wrong call and lived to regret it but in the case of the 205 GTI something strange happened. A weird, pervasive, blanket opinion spread itself over the industry, compelling people to believe that the 115hp 1.6-litre car was better than the 130hp 1.9-litre car in mostly subjective terms. I wonder how many times the comparative 'sweeter' was used in test verdicts?

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.

Lifting at this point probably not advised
Lifting at this point probably not advised
And the 1.9 had much more effortless performance because it benefited from 119lb ft of torque compared to the 1.6's 99lb ft. Never has a measly 20lb ft made such a profound difference to a car. You could drop the 1.9 in fourth at 40 mph and it still pulled hard. Okay, the smaller motor was a little smoother and it was keener to rev to beyond 5,000rpm, but I just couldn't understand why journos wouldn't want the extra oomph - it tipped the little Peugeot's pace from being amusing to leaving Porsche 944 owners tearing holes in their Pringle jumpers.

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.

Nice, but nicer with the 1.9 says Harris
Nice, but nicer with the 1.9 says Harris
Added to this was a nicer looking interior with part-leather seats (more on those in a minute), 15-inch wheels and rear disc brakes. It was just a better package.

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.

Not just the handling that was hairy
Not just the handling that was hairy
Oh, on the subject of those 1.9 seats - the ones that stretched the definition of the word 'leather' to new levels. A chap from Peugeot who used to work on the dealer side in the late 80s told me some 1.9 customers made warranty claims on those front seats. Turns out the curing process was so poor that one batch had started sprouting hair.

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.

 

 

Chris Harris
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Author Discussion

Motorrad

Original Poster:

4,618 posts

67 months

[news] 
Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
Does anyone think the 1.6 is better?

I've owned both the 1.9 was superior in every respect.

hwajones

180 posts

61 months

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Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
I had an XS as my first car, unfortunatley i never had the chance to drive either GTi despite my dad having a peugeot garage through the 80's/90's

A 1.9 is on the list though!

GHB

K50 DEL

5,757 posts

108 months

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Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
Same here, owned 1600s rallied 1900s
Definately the 1900 any day for me.

THP150

91 posts

31 months

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Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
I had both and think the 1.9 had the edge.

les3002

328 posts

77 months

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Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
I've also had a few of both, in my opinion you're spot on, I preferred the 1.9.
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Andy ap

1,087 posts

52 months

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Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
Never driven either, as much as i want too. but i can see the logic in a smaller smoother engine being preffered especially if it softens up the chassis on the u.k. roads. My old Lupo gti's ride was far better than my now cupra's but the 106 i had before the lupo beats them both for day to day ride quality

Edited by Andy ap on Thursday 24th May 12:52

Dave Hedgehog

6,294 posts

84 months

[news] 
Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
give me an escort RS Turbo every time

never liked the pug, back then or now...

Hub

2,574 posts

78 months

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Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
I'd have the 1.9 for those alloys alone!

FWDRacer

3,125 posts

104 months

[news] 
Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
Motorrad said:
Does anyone think the 1.6 is better?

I've owned both the 1.9 was superior in every respect.
Indeed. It was generally 5-10mph faster when it backed into a hedgerow.

bashful

144 posts

110 months

[news] 
Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
Muriel Gray said the 1.9 was 'too fast for it's own good.' And when else has she ever been wrong about a car? Hmm?

sandersc74

20 posts

48 months

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Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
Well i've never met anyone who would prefer a 1.6 over a 1.9. Why would you want a slower GTi model? The 1.9 sits as an all time classic alongside the Golf GTi. Picture of my 205 2.1 Gti-6 :-) .....

gabbo

77 posts

23 months

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Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
Hub said:
I'd have the 1.9 for those alloys alone!
+1

angusc43

2,559 posts

88 months

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Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
Having been brought on Alfas I found the 1.6 vaguely disappointing after all the hype. It was more modern and better built that the Suds I was used to but it was barely faster and for some reason I didn't like the steering on the example I drove fairly extensively (very nervous and twitchy).

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.

tim milne

99 posts

113 months

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Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
A simple scan of the classifieds will show you that 1.6's are cheaper than 1.9's...sometimes by a fair margin.

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?

dougzino

28 posts

24 months

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Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
I've never driven either variant but used to own a Clio Williams 3. How does one of those compare to the Pugs in your opinion?

Daveyraveygravey

262 posts

64 months

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Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
gabbo said:
+1
+2 here! Mind you, the real debate was whether the 309GTi was better than the 205. But this is counter to Chris's argument...the same journos Chris thought were wrong about the 1.6 205 said the 309 was the better car, sweeter handling (ie a lot less likely to exit a bend backwards)

The 309 had the 1.9 engine and alloys from the 205 (so the best bits from that car! wink) plus the 4 fogs/driving lamps at the front. Ugly in an Apache ugly kind of way, to my eyes...


NHK244V

2,007 posts

52 months

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Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
News to me ? never heard the 1.6 was better?
slow news day ?

screwloose

535 posts

85 months

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Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
In todays 'real world' terms there is literally nothing in it in terms of performance between the two models. You'll find a decent 1.6 will easily keep up with the 1.9.
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.

cliffie

170 posts

98 months

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Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
Had both, gimme the 1.9 every day please. (But I would prefer to have my Renault 5 GTT back please).

kilauea

71 posts

57 months

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Thursday 24th May 2012 quote quote all
1.9 is the better car. Pick up in any gear is just as sharp but with added "oomph!".
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 smile
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