PetrolBlog has followed the progress of FailCar’s Peugeot 205 GTi with great interest. But now, two months in, he’s penned a review. Very good it is too.
I have been driving the Peugeot 205 GTi now as a daily driver for the past two months, (over 2,000 miles), so I figured it was time for a Real Word Review on what it’s like to live with every day.
First thing you’ll want to know is does it try and kill me every time I lift off mid bend? Err, no. I really don’t understand where this whole terrifying lift off comes from on the 205 GTi. Yes you can get some hilarious rear slippage going if provoked hard but I find it’s no better/worse than any other hot FWD of that period with a torsion beam set-up. I suspect it’s one of these things that just gets said and repeated until you hear people saying it that have never actually driven one.
So anyway ranty misconceptions over as expected it’s absolutely fantastic to drive. The driving position is superb. The seats hold you comfortably in place with the gear stick standing prominently up between them. No stupid armrests or consoles getting it the way.
I was once shown by a Lotus test driver that one of the key ergonomic measurements that is important in a ‘proper’ car is the measurement between your left hand on the steering wheel and the top of the gear stick. They got this spot on in the 205 as you are hooning down a country lane or darting between traffic your hand can just quickly flick from wheel to knob at such speed that your hand would be a mere blur to a passenger.
The ratios on the 1.6 gearbox fully encourage you to be a hooligan, in fact I think many stick this gearbox into the 1.9 because of this. It’s not the shortest of travel gearbox, but it is damn near perfect and I have yet to mis-change with it.
Not all the ergonomics are great though. The clock is hidden down by my knee so I can’t see it and the standard Clarion radio, (pre-dates the invention of bass), is stuffed right down at the bottom of the dash. “No sorry officer I did not see that group of horses I was trying to tune into women’s hour.”
I suppose while I’m moaning about the interior let’s just get it over with and mention the rattles. It has a few, but it’s nothing horrendous, most of it seems so be emanating from the ventilation fan rattling around. It seems to have the same amount of power as one of those handheld travel fans. But with only one AA battery. With 1/4 charge.
But anyway you don’t notice any of that when you get to a nice bit of road. As soon as you hit the nice magic spot on the 1.6 engine, around 4k, it really flies. Induction noise and exhaust note are spot on. It makes the sort of noise that modern hot hatches have to be engineered so they can ‘fake’ such aural delights.
The throttle response on the 205 is properly sharp. None of this sport button cack, it’s just instantaneous and eager to get a move on. In fact it’s so entertaining I find it best to drive in my socks where you feel absolutely everything through the pedals and can get the ultra-sensitive throttle placement just right. The feeling of connection with the car is incredible, nothing feels dumbed down or lazy.
My biggest surprise after driving the 205 for couple of weeks was actually a tip run in my girlfriend’s MK1 Focus. A car that I love for its steering and chassis all of a sudden felt bloated and disconnected and not just because I had an old exercise bike in the back. I think the best way to explain it would be like driving underwater. As if, (comparatively), all your senses had been numbed.
Having said that though it can sometimes be frustrating in the 205 feeling EVERYTHING. If you get to a particularly badly surfaced bit of B-road you can feel a bit like a tin of Dulux in a B&Q paint mixer. But every time I get to that point of thinking “oh for f**k sake” I get to a section where I can push it on, make progress and all is forgiven. Having spoken to @MajorGav about this it appears he suffers much the same emotion with the AX GT.
Attitude from other drivers is always something I find very interesting as it can completely change the way other drivers react. In the MX-5 people always try to, (unsuccessfully), bully me out of the way. In the S2000 people always want to race me. In the 205 people just get out of the way and also let me out at junctions. I think there are two parties involved here. One group of motorists that love the 205, (usually male in mid 30s), and another group, (stupid, ill-informed), that think it’s a ‘take no prisoners’ old banger. Either way it’s great road presence and allows for much quicker progress.
MPG? Well to be honest I don’t know. I drive it everywhere as if my passenger is in labour and we must get to the hospital urgently. Even if I don’t have a passenger. Let’s just assume that if I’m nice to it that it would get roughly mid 30s. But I won’t and it can’t.
I still can’t get round how many cubby holes are in such a small car. It has some pretty big door bins, a huge glove compartment a cubby hole in the top of the dashboard, one above my right knee and also one in the console in front of the gear stick.
I still have not figured out how big this one is. I think it may actually be a black hole. It contains my sunglasses, iPod, cassette adapter, USB adapter, sat-nav and another pair of glasses and a dog. OK I lied about the latter.
I suppose all this space is where you would now have airbags etc. That moves me on neatly to safety.
Safety? Don’t be silly. Well actually is does have a good degree of passive safety in that you know if you don’t respect it you will just die. I was expecting that the 205 would be one of those cars that feel like you are doing 100 when you are doing 50. It’s not. At lower speeds it feels faster but once you get to 50+ it all feels much the same and you can find yourself doing 90+ without even realising it.
Once up to speed on a smooth road there is no vibration, tugging or rattles, on the motorway it actually feels quite eerie that this car that felt like everything was alive has now (aside from low bass note from the exhaust) tuned into a quite serene place. Really was not expecting that.
I always find it astounding the number of people that will just off the cuff mention the 205 GTi in a modern comparative car review, (even if they have never bloody driven one…), especially if a new Peugeot is involved. “They haven’t made anything like this since the 205 GTi”.
Usually they go on by summing up, “thanks to modern safety regs they won’t ever make one like it again”. Or will they? Modern materials are allowing manufactures to make cars safer, yet lighter. The horsepower and 0-60 wars have surely reached their peak, (even thick people now think that it’s mostly irrelevant in hot hatch driving enjoyment), and the price of petrol is astronomical. With a new generation of designers/engineers that grew up in these classic hot hatch heydays, I think manufacturers will be looking to the past to determine the future of hot hatches.
In the meantime, I got love for you if you were born in the 80s…