PH Service History: The 309 Effect

I'm a great believer in the 309 Effect. The what now? Well, its namesake is the Peugeot 309 GTI, a car which lived throughout its life - and, to an extent, still does - in the shadow of its the 205 GTI, which became an icon and left the 309 looking like the poor relation - rather unfairly, I hasten to add.

These days, that particular story is changing; a good 309 GTI is respected by enthusiasts and looked upon with fondness and reverence. As it should be. But there are still plenty of other cars that live in the shadow of a more favoured sibling - and while that might be unfair, their relatively unloved status means, you've guessed it, some used car bargains afoot.

I give you, for example, the Mk2 Ford Focus ST. In its 'ASBO' Orange glory, it was once famed in McDonalds car parks across the land, but the advent of the more powerful Focus RS and gleeful Fiesta ST have both left the Focus sitting at the back of the classroom. Don't forget why we loved it in the first place, though; quick, sure-footed handling backed up by a storming engine that managed hairy-chested torque while also goading you on to ever-higher revs. And threw a terrific five-pot warble into the bargain. Yet the ST is also a terrific all-rounder, capable of cosseting in the cruise and about as practical as they come. All this for considerably less than £5,000 - indeed, this one, in a very tasteful black-over-grey colour combo, has done below average miles, has an exemplary history and is yours for no more than £4,199 - which has to be a £4,000 haggle all day long.

Or if that doesn't grab your fancy, what about this Mitsubishi Legnum VR-4? OK, I'll grant you that this one can't quite match its hallowed Evo 6 stablemate for pace, nor for outright ability - but it's also a fraction of the price. And, that being the case, its 280hp output and ability to hit 60mph in 5.7 seconds make it sensational value. This one looks tidy and, on the assumption owning a grey import holds no fear for you, should make a fantastic all-rounder with the capacity to scare you senseless on the way back from the tip.

Staying with Japanese performance cars for a sec, the chances are you probably can't - or won't - afford a two-year-old Nissan GT-R NISMO, especially at around £110,000. Next to that, £28,950 for this 370Z Nismo feels like a snip. OK, the 370Z can't deliver the brain-twisting performance of the GT-R, but 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds isn't exactly to be sniffed at, and it'd be more than enough for me. Throw in meaty handling which rewards the driver who shows it who's boss, and it becomes quite a tempting thing.

But what about a 309 Effect victim that's a little more suited to daily drive duties? Well, when a Mercedes E-Class Estate will lug even larger loads just as luxuriously, why on earth would you choose a CLS Shooting Brake? Yet for most of us who don't need to cart around Chippendale sideboards on a daily basis, the CLS is roomy enough; what's more, it's terrifically pretty, a delight to drive and endlessly plutocratic - and an almost-new example is scandalously cheap these days. This 350CDI, with power and economy to spare, has done no more than 4,000 miles, yet it'll set you back just £29,000 - a full £23,000 less than the £52,000 it'd have cost you new. Yes please.

Mind you, a car doesn't have to live in the shadow of a sibling to suffer from the 309 Effect - it can live in the shadow of a rival, too. A case in point is the Jaguar S-Type R. You may scoff, but the R was in fact a stonking performance saloon, with terrific chassis balance and a delightful propensity for lurid tail-happiness. That V8 sounds exceptional, too, particularly if opened up with an aftermarket exhaust system. Yet of course, the main reason you'd have to think twice about buying one has always been the E39 BMW M5 - a car which always had the legs on the S-Type, just, and furthermore which came with a manual 'box.

Thing is a good M5 now demands somewhere in the region of £15,000 - meanwhile, a good S-Type R can be had for considerably less. Prices start, believe it or not, at the £6,000 mark; though for a fiver less than £8,000 you can have this very respectable example in Jaguar Racing Green, complete with a tonne of extras and a substantial history. It's so good, in fact, that I'm going to go away nand try to think of reasons why I shouldn't just buy one right now. And I'll leave you to come up with your own 309 Effect victims. Take it away...

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (61) Join the discussion on the forum

  • GibsonSG 01 Apr 2018

    My brother was a back street mechanic and I remember driving a lot of Mk2 Escorts of various denominations that were in for “servicing” (I’m sure their owners would have been delighted with my variation of the Italian tune up). But I much preferred my bro’s Talbot Sunbeam Ti. I think you can pick them up for a lot less than the equivalent Mk2 now. I also always fancied the Chevette HS, never did get to drive one.

  • Ian Geary 01 Apr 2018

    Good article. In my modest 20 odd years of driving, i've seen some cracking cars hit rock bottom only to shoot right up again.

    I'm only 3 things away from snapping up such a car: space; money; plausible excuse for the mrs.

  • kellydk 01 Apr 2018

    Good article and nice to see some left field choices. I always thought the S-Type R was a bit of a bargain. Not been long since you could get one for £4K.

    A couple of additional (some obvious) options:

    Porsche Boxster. A good one from £6K but available for a lot less
    Alfa Romeo Brera. Might not be the most dynamic but nice looking and less than £4K
    BMW 330i (coupe, saloon or touring spec) for as little as £1K
    Mazda 3 or 6 MPS from £4K
    TVR Chimera from £8K

  • Fetchez la vache 01 Apr 2018

    Not sure if this is an April fools joke or just that as a 205 owner I always bought that the 309 looked a bit st and had been rammed up the arse - no matter what it drove like....

    Just kidding.

  • AlexHat 02 Apr 2018

    The Alfa Romeo GT 3.2 V6 comes to mind. Same engine as the 147/156 GTA but missing the 'A' on the badge.

    Prices for GTA's have gone above £10k whilst the GT still can be found around £5-6k

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