12 December 2011

UNSUNG HEROES: Peugeot 309 GTi

It was in the shadow of the 205 GTi when new. Today, it's very much the same with other fast Pugs. But that's no reason to overlook the 309 GTi.

WHEN the 309 was being developed by the PSA, it wasn't originally intended to be a Peugeot. The 309 was planned to be Talbot's replacement for the old Horizon hatchback. Until the last minute, the hasty change was made that the car was to be sold as a Peugeot. The PSA felt that Talbot wouldn't fit into their future plans along with Peugeot and Citroen. Subsequently, the Talbot name was shelved off, and it became the Peugeot 309.

Why did Peugeot call it the 309 and not the 306? The boxy 305 saloon was still a strong seller when the 309 came on sale in 1985. However, the 309 in all honesty, was a bit of an oddball in Peugeot's line up as it wasn't penned by Pininfarina. It didn't really look like a Peugeot, and didn't fit well with their elegant line up of cars such as the 205 and the 405. But as mentioned before, the 309 wasn't intended to be a Peugeot from the outset.

Despite this, the new 309 was the first British-built Peugeot. As it was assembled in the now-defunct Ryton factory. Which was what Peugeot inherited from buying out Chrysler Europe (formerly The Rootes Group) in 1978.

That went down well with British buyers, and the 309 became a popular seller in Blighty as well as France. Future generation Peugeots (405, 306, 406 and the 206) were built there until 2007. When the PSA controversially made the decision to close down the Ryton factory.

With the runaway success of the 205 GTi. Peugeot decided to give the 309 the GTi treatment and were confident that the 309 would emulate the success of its smaller sister. The 309 GTi was to rival the bigger Hot Hatches like the: Volkswagen Golf GTi, Ford Escort XR3i, MG Maestro and the Vauxhall Astra GTE.

Much was borrowed from the 205 GTi under the skin to create a hot, performance 309 model. The 309 does sit on the 205's stretched platform. The five-door models also shared the same doors as its smaller sister. It got the 1.9 litre engine slotted under the bonnet mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. It got the GTi steering wheel, red strips and pair of trainers (alloy wheels) from its smaller sister. The 309 GTi was born.

Like the 205 GTi, the 309 GTi had glowing reviews on being a quick and agile car that was fun to drive. As the 309 wasn't conceived to be a Peugeot in the first place. It was very much a Peugeot in its own right, with a highly-rated chassis set up with excellent ride and handling.

The Peugeot 309 GTi was arguably one of the better Hot Hatches around at that time. It was more polished than the likes of the Ford Escort XR3i and the Vauxhall Astra GTE. More nimble and agile than the iconic VW Golf GTi. In short, it was as good as the 205 GTi.

The 309 GTi however, didn't enjoy the success like the 205 did that Peugeot had hoped for. The 205 GTi was a great Hot Hatch that's also an exceptionally pretty car.  It was however, a more practical car than the 205 and the 309 GTi was available with three or five-door bodystyles. Peugeot also made a rare Goodwood limited edition model based on the GTi.

The 309 however had the sparkle of the 205, but not the style. When you compare it to the elegant Pininfarina styled motors in the rest of Peugeot's line up, the 309 stuck out like a sore thumb. It's a shame it didn't have the kerbside appeal that a Ford Escort XR3i, Volkswagen Golf GTi and a Vauxhall Astra GTE did. Despite this, the Peugeot was just as good, if not, better than its contemporaries.

Today, the 205 GTi is very much a classic and the appreciation for them are growing. The 309 GTi still lives in the shadows of its rivals, and even other quick Peugeots like the 306 GTi-6, 405 Mi16 and 106 Rallye besides the legendary 205 GTi.

The 309 though, has gained a cult following amongst Peugeot enthusiasts. The 309 was replaced in 1993 with the more stylish 306. When Peugeot went back to its chronological order of numbering the models of their cars.


  1. I purchase one of this more than 10 years ago and the guy is still working at its highest performance. I had repaired the cooling system twice and the fuel filler neck. I bought the lesser at http://autingo.co.uk

    1. I have one too, but sometimes it's hard to find car parts thanks for the website.


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