Home » Cars You Should Know »Finnish Line »Project Cars » Currently Reading:

Our Cars – 1990 Peugeot 205 XS adds lightness and sporting simplicity


The Sapporo has now been gone for a couple months, and I have settled to the reality of a one-car household. I do believe it’s miserable, as there’s no variation. There are objects that simply won’t fit into the BMW’s shallow boot, and the rear seat does not fold. The ski hatch opening is the size of an iPad, and whatever I squeeze in through the rear doors needs to be put in carefully. Of course, complaining about space when I have been considering sports cars like the Porsche 924 is faintly ridiculous, but the fact that the BMW isn’t a multi-purpose vehicle rings true. The Sapporo, at the very least, duly split and folded its rear seats, enabling the transport of almost anything I needed.

Add the fact the E34 518i is a solid, restrained vehicle with little intrusion of the surrounding elements, and supplementing it with a light, darty, totally hoonable hatchback is more than justified. That is exactly what I have gone and done.

Meet the latest inclusion to my motoring life: a 1990 Peugeot 205 XS.

Now, most of you will probably look at the 205 and say “But it’s not a GTI”. You’re right, it isn’t. It’s the thing just below the GTI, if you think of the stripped-out Rallye as a separate entity from the regular range. The XS bears the same interior as the GTI, minus red carpet, and comes factory-fitted with a rev-happy 1360cc twin-choke carburetor engine and a five-speed gearbox. It also has the same front air dam as the GTI, so the appearance is somewhat of a budget version without the fender flares and Speedline wheels.

It’s still an absolute gem to drive, all light, eager, rorty, snorty, revvy, and above all else, direct, with the unassisted steering. If the BMW is an old, wise, large family dog, the 205 XS is an idiot terrier. 85 horsepower at 6400rpm in a 810kg vehicle with a three-spoke steering wheel and bucket seats. Yes.

This very example was advertised for sale right here in my town, as it had been bought for a daughter as a commuter car earlier this year. As the employment winded down on her part, the Peugeot was promptly put up for sale. Looking at the history, it has had two very long term owners after first registered in 1991, and two shorter ones.

The amazing thing is that except for a couple very minor blemishes on the inside of the rear window surround and a tarnished seam in the passenger door bottom, it appears rust free all around, even in the underbody. Keep in mind its age, and the 230 000 kilometres with which it’s burdened. The camcover gasket appears to leak a bit, but that’s the only oil I see around the engine bay.

The interior isn’t pristine, as the driver’s bucket seat has some bolster wear and the car smells like years of tobacco. All that will be taken care of, just like the paintwork will be buffed back to the shine it once had. Right now, it hasn’t got a drop of polish on it, and it really needs a claybaring. There are a couple of small dents and some larger clouts in it, but they sort of suit a French car, and all in all it doesn’t appear to be a crash victim. The original Philips stereo is still present, but only one speaker really works. At least I get to play my old cassettes in the car.

Don’t get me wrong, I won’t pour funds into this one. It has valid inspection until June 2014, and comes with two good sets of tires. So far, I haven’t tracked down anybody who could tell me when the cambelt has been changed, but I’ll do my best to find that out – or then it’s time to attempt doing that myself. This is a budget vehicle, bought very affordably. I didn’t mention the price, did I? Tree fiddy.

Honestly, that little for this much car – over at there’s a certain 205 1.6 GTI that has the asking price of 15,000 dollars.

So far, I’ve washed it, put a little bit of super unleaded in it, discarded the terrible set of wheeltrims it came with, and that’s about it. It really needs a new pair of correct bumper lights, in the vein of the GTI, and there’s a pipe leading from the exhaust manifold to the MAF that’s gone adrift. Apparently the pipe is only useful in cold winter weather, and I might store this thing for the winter months unless I buy something that needs storing more. I’d also really appreciate a set of black plastic centre caps to fit the steel wheels; despite suggestions, I don’t think I’ll be splurging money on a set of GTI Speedline wheels.

The best thing is to keep it as simple as possible, as it’s really about simple motoring. But it’s not a beater; it’s just a little car bought very cheaply. Even a small idiot dog has its day.

[Images: Antti Kautonen]

  • Vavon

    I had one of those too! An absolute riot to drive. Here is mine which I had in 2009.

    <img src=";

  • racer139

    But it really nees those speedline wheels, but as you say no splurging and those thing probably arent cheep. But but but it does really need them.
    Also.. these a decently cheap in the uk, anywhere from €2500 to 6500 depending on shape and options. why anyone would pay $15 000 for one already imported to the u.s is beyond me. get one a little banged up but mechanically sound and bring it over yourself.

  • Martynas

    <img src="; width="500">

  • Maymar

    Idiot terrier? As someone who used to have an idiot terrier, sold! A bouncing, snarly excitable thing would be an absolute hoot to own. Sounds like your four-wheeled idiot terrier is pretty house-trained too, which is solid. Looks like it was a great buy! That said, what's up with the bumper overriders? Looks like Peugeot built a North American-spec car, and had to ship it off somewhere else when North America was sadly uninterested.

    • Perc

      The overriders have the headlight sprayers in them.

  • Jay_Ramey

    That is awesome sir, congrats. 350 is less than the phones of most people I know, and that is a TON of car for the price. Dont let the "but is it a GTI?" trolls get to you, all the cars in the 205 range are plenty capable.

    By the way, you mean the one on BaT is overpriced???

    • Vavon

      For Europeans yes, probably not for Americans…

    • MJMCG

      Probably the best car Peugot ever made. or at least it will scrap the 504 for that title and probably win. All 205's were great. even the 1L ones were better than their competitors. The XRAD Van versions were legendary here for being faster than every car on the road,

  • Van_Sarockin

    Great price for a good car. The world has forgotten the wonders of a well done, light little car, with just a bit more motor than it really needs. So simple. So nice. You can have that much fun in a V-12 Mercedes, but you'll also be sweating over your lease, the insurance, the speeding fine, and everything else. Tell you what, I'll trade you, straight up.

  • Preludacris

    Man, that thing really appeals to me. It's got me wondering what sort of equivalent you could get in North America. Would a Suzuki Swift GTI be comparable?

    • Vavon

      Yes, but the Swift GTI is more compareble to a 205 GTI. Here is 1 page of a test that will totally tickle your fancy…
      The rest of the test can be found here: …

      <img src="; width=650>

      • <img src=";

        This photo, from a comparison with the Citroën AX GT, kind of shows what the XS is all about.

      • Preludacris

        Can't believe I forgot about the Civic. Very common here (though not the Si of course) – to the point where you forget they might be fun to drive.

    • sporty88au

      Based on Vavon's description, it might be fair to visualize something between the second-generation Swift GTI and the same-era Geo Metro – did North America get any versions of the Metro or Swift (or any of it's myriad other names) with the single-cam 1.3L four, and a five-speed manual? I know in Australia we got a 3-door Holden Barina (basically the same car) in a similar specification as a one-year-only model – I test-drove one when they were new.

      • Preludacris

        I'm out of my depth here — I'm not really sure what options were available within that lineup. The Metro was cheap 3-cyl transportation. Maybe the Pontiac version in Canada (Firefly) had a 4-cyl single cam. That's strictly speculation. There was a turbo version, this I know.

        • Vavon

          In Europe the second-fastest Suzuki Swift was the1.3 GS with 70hp. I thought it was the equivelant of a 205 XS.
          I was surprised to find out today that the Swift GS has only got the performance of a 205 1.1 with 60hp.

          <img src="; width="650/">

  • Misha

    Key to XS's excellent drivability was a short-ratio gearbox, that i shared with GT model. I still remember (and possibly still have it!) a period comparison test of in-gear acceleration ( 60km/h – 90km/h in fourth gear, 80-120 in fifth), from Auto Plus ( french version of Auto Bild), which showed amazing ability of this little car, comparing to MUCH more expensive vehicles. For the record, it was quicker than BMW 325i, only beaten by supercars and, interestingly, Saab 9000 2.3 Turbo 🙂

    • Good bit of info 🙂

    • ˏ♂ˊ mzs zsm msz esq

      The 205XS, Peugeot's BMW fighter!

  • Dean Bigglesworth

    Fun cars, grampa had a 309 with some kinf of fuel injected 1.6.

    I might be getting old though, because I'd be too worried about someone crashing into me to daily drive one of these.. The fact that I wasn't even ten years old when I saw two dead women and one hysterically screaming woman crushed inside an 80's Polo's backseat that had a head-on collision at highway speeds with an Audi 100 might have something to do with it. The Audi driver was fine, the driver and front passenger of the Polo were lying on the shoulder, uncovered and very much dead.

    • I still have the E34 for when I need to do long-distance runs. This is a tool for commuting and grocery runs and the kind of roads where I don't really worry about seeing other people.

      • Vavon

        I have the November 2008 issue of Classic & Sports car. In it is an article called: The hot hatch king at 25.
        We drive the wildest Pug 205s. The 4 cars are 205 XS 1.4, 205 Rallye 1.3, 205 GTI 1.6 and the 205 GTI 1.9.

        This was their conclusion: Yet if there has to be a victory here, it belongs to the humble little XS.
        It lacks the power of the GTIs and the tailor-made feel of the Rallye, but we gathered these cars together
        to celebrate the fun the 205 brought to the world. While it was technically less capable and a little less
        fast than the GTIs, I can't remember one moment when I was at its wheel whishing to be in one of the others.

        <img src=" & Sportscar 2008-11.jpg" width="650/">

        • That's pretty well put. For the price, even new, it does offer a lot of bang for a buck.

          Where do you suggest I should look for the centre cups for the steel wheels?

          • Vavon

            If I'm not mistaken, you can still get them new from the Peugeot dealer.

            Otherwise there are the usual suspects: Ebay or the scrapyard.

            Or if you want i can get these for you and send them to you… …

            • That would be brilliant, since they couldn't even get me the foglights/bumper main beams as OEM. Contact me at [email protected] if you want postage details.

  • mister finland

    Ÿou should have opted for the Touring.