Regarded as one of the greatest hot hatches of all time, the Peugeot 205 GTI has become a real collector’s item. Back in 2017 a 205 GTI with just over 9,000km (5,500 miles) on the clock sold for a hefty £38,480. Not bad for a tiny car and prices are only going to rise further for these vehicles.
If you don’t want to shell out a cool £38,000 for a 205 GTI, there are still plenty of cheaper ones available. While these probably won’t be in near perfect condition like the car that was sold in 2017, they will still be excellent cars to own and drive.
This 205 GTI buyer’s guide (and 205 CTI buyer’s guide) will give you all the information you need to know about purchasing Peugeot’s famous hot hatch from the eighties. Additionally, we have included information on how to get the best deal and where to find one for sale.
How to Use This Peugeot 205 GTI Buying Guide
This 205 GTI buyer’s guide is broken up into a few different sections that cover various topics. To start with we will be covering the history and the specifications of the 205 GTI. We will then be diving into the buyer’s guide section of the article and to finish off we will be looking at more general car purchasing advice (how to get the best deal, mileage vs condition, etc.).
Make sure to use the table of contents below to skip to the section you want read.
The History of the Peugeot 205 GTI
It all starts in 1983 when the standard 205 was launched. The car was an instant success and it would go on to turn the French car company’s fortunes around, selling well over 5 million units during its 15-year production run.
Peugeot created the 205 to fill the gap between the 104 Supermini and the 305, and it would later go on to replace the 104 altogether. While it is often believed that the 205’s styling was the work of Pininfarina, Gérard Welter claimed that it was actually an in-house design and Pininfarina only styled the cabriolet.
The Peugeot 205 would go on to become What Car’s Car of the Year for 1984 and would narrowly be beaten by the Fiat Uno for the European Car of the Year award. Peugeot quickly recognised the 205’s sporting potential and one year after launching the standard car, they released the 205 GTI.
The GTI was the brainchild of Gérard Welter, who would go on to lead the Peugeot design team for a decade and also owned his own Le Mans racing team. Welter joined the company at age 18 and his first high-profile project was the 205 GTI.
Initially, Peugeot offered one GTI model powered by a 1.6-litre XU5J engine with 105 horsepower. The peppy little engine combined with a low bodyweight meant that the 205 GTI could go from 0-62mph (100km/h) in as little as 8.7 seconds, not bad for a supermini from the eighties.
In 1986, Peugeot decided that the GTI needed a bit more performance and updated the 1.6-litre engine. The new XU5JA engine now produced 115 ponies thanks to larger valves and hotter cams. While the updated 1.6-litre GTI featured more power, the 0-62mph time was roughly the same at 8.7 seconds (although Motor tested it at 8.2 seconds). The top speed improved to over 120mph (193km/h) with the update.
Along with the update to the 1.6-litre model, Peugeot also launched a 1.9-litre version of the GTI. Internally, the 1.9-litre XU9JA engine is very similar to the 1.6-litre unit, but with a longer stroke, a new oil cooler and some slight differences in the fuel injection system. The 1.9-litre 205 GTI produced an impressive 130 horsepower and could go from 0-62mph in 7.8 seconds and on to a top speed of 127mph (204km/h).
When compared, the 1.6-litre engine is known to be more revvy and eager while the 1.9-litre feels lazier and torquier.
Outside of the engine bay the main differences between the 1.6-litre and the 1.9-litre is the all-round disc brakes on the larger engine model (the 1.6-litre featured drum brakes on the rear), half-leather seats on 1.9-litre vs cloth on the 1.6-litre, and 15-inch alloys on the 1.9-litre vs 14-inch on the 1.6.
Peugeot also gave the 1.9-litre 205 GTI a slightly stiffer suspension setup to reduce pitch and roll, which also made the ride slightly harsher. Additionally, oversteer was tamed to be more progressive, giving the driver more time to react and correct when things got sideways. While the 1.9-litre GTI was more controllable in oversteer situations, its extra torque meant that it was more prone to wheelspin if the driver was a bit more enthusiastic with the throttle.
According to Peugeot 205 GTI enthusiasts and purists, the 1.6-litre GTI has a better balance between power and handling ability, but it is still widely debated which car provides the best overall driving experience.
Along with the hardtop versions of the 205 GTI, Peugeot also launched soft-top variants. The 205 CTI was introduced in 1986 and was offered with both the 1.6 and the 1.9-litre engine options.
Compared to standard 205 models, the GTI/CTI featured plastic wheel arches and trim, larger wheel arches, and slightly redesigned front and rear bumpers. Peugeot also redesigned the suspension with stiffer springs, different wishbones and a drop-link anti-roll bar. The new suspension design and lightweight body meant that the 205 GTI was (and still is) one of the most enjoyable cars to drive enthusiastically.
Phase 1.5 205 GTI (1987 – 1990)
Peugeot updated the 205 GTI range in 1987. What is known as the Phase 1.5 205 GTI featured a more modern dashboard, a three-spoke steering wheel, higher quality plastics and a different pattern on the seats.
Another minor update was made in 1989. Buyers could now opt for power steering and there was a new BE3 manual transmission and larger two-piece exhaust.
Phase 2 205 GTI (1990 – 1994)
A number of minor cosmetic and mechanical changes were made to the 205 GTI for the 1990 model year. The Phase 2 205 GTI got a new black dashboard and trim, clear indicator lenses and smoked rear lamp units. A Bendix ABS brake system was added as an option and the CTI received an electric hood. The Phase 2 also featured a slightly different door hinge design that uses bolts instead of pins.
Production ended for the 1.6-litre GTI in September 1992 and in October of the same year Peugeot added a catalytic converter to the 1.9-litre GTI, which dropped power to 122 hp.
Special Peugeot 205 GTI Editions
1989-1990 205 GTI
Peugeot released a number of special edition 205 GTI models over the course of the vehicle’s life. From 1989 to 1990, the French car company made 1200 GTIs in Miami Blue and Sorrento Green, new colours at the time. Peugeot produced an equal mix of 300 green 1.6-litre GTIs, 300 blue 1.6-litre ones, 300 green 1.9-litre and 300 blue 1.9-litre cars.
The cars were also fitted with a sliding sunroof, power steering and a full grey leather interior, along with grey carpets and door cards. Peugeot would later add the Miami blue and Sorrento green paint colours to the list of available colours for standard cars.
Peugeot 205 GTI Griffe Edition
Peugeot produced a special edition GTI for France, Germany and the Netherlands. The Griffe was sold in a bright green colour and came with all the optional extras at the time except for air-conditioning. It featured a complete black leather interior, sunroof, power steering and ABS brakes. All up, 1652 Griffe 205 GTI models were produced and they came with dark grey alloy wheels.
Peugeot 205 GTI 1FM
To coincide with the 25th birthday of BBC Radio 1, Peugeot released the 1FM for the UK market. Only 25 1FM models were produced and each car was individually numbered with a small brass plate. All cars were sold in black with ‘Radio 1FM 25th’ body decals and featured grey Speedline alloy wheels and all optional extras as standard. Peugeot also fitted a special stereo system that was created by Clarion.
Peugeot 205 Gentry Edition
While the limited edition Gentry 205 is not really a GTI model as it used a detuned 105 horsepower 1.9-litre engine and an automatic gearbox, it did come with the same body trim as the GTI. The Gentry is often mistaken for a 205 GTI due to its looks.
Peugeot produced 300 Gentry models in Sorrento Green and Aztec Gold (sometimes referred to as Mayfair Beige). Along with the detuned engine and auto transmission, the cars came with a full-leather interior, real wood trim, ABS brakes, heated mirrors and power assisted steering.
The Peugeot 205 GTI and the United States
As the 205 GTI was so successful in Europe, Peugeot was seriously considering adding it to its United States lineup. However, nothing ever came of these rumours and Peugeot eventually pulled out of the market in 1991. Some 205 GTI models eventually made their way to the United States through private importers.
The End of the 205 GTI
Sales of the Peugeot 205 GTI in the United Kingdom dropped immensely during the early nineties. The cars were hit by enormous insurance premiums as they were often targeted by thieves and joyriders.
Additionally, emission regulations that were becoming stricter and stricter meant that the 1.6-litre was discontinued in 1992. The 1.9-litre GTI carried on until 1994, thanks to re-engineering the engine to enable it to work properly with a catalytic converter (although power dropped to 122 horsepower).
The Peugeot 205 GTI enjoyed a long ten-year production run and an incredible sales total of over 330,000 units (not including the CTI). It would go on to become known as one of the greatest hot hatches of all time and one of the most iconic cars of the 1980s.
Peugeot 205 GTI Specifications
|205 GTI 1.6 (105hp)||205 GTI 1.6 (115hp)||205 GTI 1.9|
Year of production
|Front-engined, Front-wheel drive||Front-engined, Front-wheel drive|
Front-engined, Front-wheel drive
|Inline-4, sohc, 2v/cyl.||Inline-4, sohc, 2v/cyl.|
Inline-4, sohc, 2v/cyl.
|1580 cc||1580 cc|
|105 hp||115 hp|
130 hp (122 hp from 1992)
|Gearbox||5-speed manual||5-speed manual|
|Front: strut; Rear: trailing arm+torsion bar||Front: strut; Rear: trailing arm+torsion bar|
Front: strut; Rear: trailing arm+torsion bar
|848 kg||886 kg|
|120 mph (193km/h)||122 mph (196km/h)|
127 mph (204km/h)
0-62 mph (100km/h)
|8.7 seconds||8.7 seconds (8.2 Motor)|
0-100 mph (160km/h)
|29.5 seconds||26.6 seconds|
Peugeot 205 GTI Buyer’s Guide
Now that we have covered the history and specifications of the Peugeot 205 GTI, let’s look at buying one. This section will cover everything you need to know about buying a Peugeot 205 GTI and how to find the best one for sale.
At the end of this article we have included more general car buying advice and where to find one for sale.
Buying a Peugeot 205 GTI
Contrary to popular beliefs, the Peugeot 205 GTI is not a poorly made car. Yes, the interior trim can be a bit flimsy and you could punch a hole through the paper thin body panels, but overall the car is designed and built well. The problems start when they are not maintained properly.
A well maintained Peugeot 205 GTI will provide many more years of motoring enjoyment, but a poorly maintained one can quickly drain your wallet and turn your dream into a nightmare. As with any vehicle, you need to be extremely thorough when inspecting any 205 GTI. Let’s take a look at some things you need to watch out for when buying a Peugeot 205 GTI.
Check the VIN
It is always a good idea to check the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) of a car to make sure you know what you are dealing with. Some owners will tell you the 205 GTI they are selling is one year, when in actual fact it is another.
Additionally, if you check the VIN and/or number plate on a VIN decoder website such as vincheckup.com, vin-info.com, carjam.co.nz or Carfax.com, you may be able to find out additional information on the vehicle. From this information you may be able to discern if the vehicle has been in an accident or had major work done to it (engine swap, transmission swap, etc.)
While you are likely to come across a number of 205 GTIs that are well past their prime, there are still plenty of good examples out there. However, remember that the 205 GTI is starting to become a serious classic and low mileage, well maintained models will go for a premium.
We recommend that you always try to inspect a vehicle yourself or get a reliable third party to do so for you. If you do not get a vehicle physically inspected, you are opening yourself up to a higher level of risk.
Additionally, remember to try and view any 205 GTI in the morning when the engine is cold. Warm engines can hide a number of problems, so don’t let the owner/seller pre-heat the vehicle before you arrive. You should also avoid inspecting a vehicle when they are wet as water can hide a number of problems with the paint or bodywork.
As with all vehicles, preventive maintenance and regular servicing goes a long way on 205 GTIs. It is not uncommon to find 205 GTIs with 200k (321,000km) miles on them and many have travelled even further than that.
To start your inspection, open the bonnet (remember to check the VIN). Take a good look at the engine bay, looking for any signs of trouble. Check that all of the fluid levels are at the correct height and have not been under or overfilled.
It is important to change the engine oil and the oil filter at the designated service intervals. The engine oil and oil filter should be changed every 6,000 miles (9,000km) or every six months – whichever comes first. More enthusiastic owners are known to change the engine oil even more frequently, which is perfectly fine.
The reason for the six-month oil change is because aging oil that sits at the bottom of the crankcase will break down and dilute in the presence of contaminates such as gas and dirt. This can lead to premature engine wear.
Problems such as camshaft wear can occur if the oil/oil filter is not changed at the required intervals. If you come across a 205 GTI that has not had regular oil changes/servicing you should proceed with caution, as it indicates that the owner has not cared for the vehicle properly.
Any good, well branded 10w-40 semi synthetic will work well in a Peugeot 205 GTI. If you want something better, then 5w-40 (better cold start protection) or 10w-40 synthetic should do the trick. We recommend something like Castrol’s MAGNATEC 10w-40 engine oil.
As for oil filters, it is recommended that you use a genuine Peugeot oil filter, although there are a number of other aftermarket options that should be okay. If you are looking at aftermarket filters make sure they have a non-return valve as it ensures correct oil pressure on start-up.
While inspecting the engine oil level, remember to check for any contaminates or metallic particles in the oil. If you do see any, thank the seller/owner for their time and move onto the next 205 GTI. Black oil is fine; it just means it is probably time for an oil change. If the oil smells like fuel or coolant, it could indicate bad pistons rings or a failing head gasket.
Timing Belt and Service
One of the most important things to check on a 205 GTI is whether the timing belt has been changed. It is incredibly important that this work be carried out otherwise you may end up with an incredibly expensive repair bill.
It is recommended that the timing belt be changed every 48,000 miles (80,000km) or every four years, whichever comes first. While changing the timing belt, you will also want to change the water pump, alternator belt and renew the coolant (recommended every 48,000 miles/80,000km or every four years).
If the car is subjected to more intensive use (a lot of stop-star driving, short journeys, enthusiastic driving), you may want to look at changing the timing belt sooner (36-40,000 miles). If the timing belt is not changed, you run the risk of severely damaging the engine if the belt breaks.
Replacing the timing belt and water pump yourself is not that expensive and will give you peace of mind. If you get somebody else to do it for you, expect to pay quite a bit for the labour. All the information you need to know about doing the work is in the Haynes Peugeot 205 Service and Repair Manual.
Ask the owner if this work has been carried out and when. Back up any claims by the owner by looking at the service history and any stickers on parts that have been replaced.
If this work has not been carried out, you should either move onto another 205 GTI or try to get a large discount and get it done immediately.
If possible, try to get a look at the spark plugs. The appearance of spark plugs can tell you a lot about an engine and how it is running. Take a look at this guide for more information on spark plug analysis. We have listed the recommended spark plugs for each engine below:
If it’s 1.9 engine then:
- Non Cat – NGK BCP7ES (or resistor type plug – BCPR7ES)
- Cat – NKG BCP6ES
If it’s 1.6 engine:
- Non Cat – NGK BCP6E
- Cat – NGK BCPR6E
Inspect the Exhaust System
While inspecting any 205 GTI, make sure you take a good look at the exhaust system. Try to look at as much of the system as you can and keep an eye out for any leaks, corrosion or repairs. Black sooty stains on the exhaust indicate a leak (a small amount is usually fine). The exhaust system is fairly pricey, so make sure it is in good working order before purchasing the vehicle.
Take a good look at the exhaust manifold – do you seen any cracks or leaks? The manifolds on early cars tend to crack but the later ones are reinforced and are less prone to cracking.
If you are thinking about buying a 205 GTI with a dodgy exhaust, ask the owner for a good discount. You can still find original exhausts for the 205 GTI and there are a number of other aftermarket options as well.
205 GTI Oil Leaks
While taking a look at the engine and exhaust system, check for any oil leaks. Old cars can leak around the cylinder head and sump, which isn’t too much of a problem. The leak can look quite bad but is often just a build-up of oil overtime.
If the vehicle hasn’t moved in a while, make sure you check for oil puddles under the car – there should not be any – if there is then the car leaks too much. You may also find oil leaks around the distributor, which is simple to fix.
Additionally, remember to check for oil leaks again after you have test driven a GTI. If you notice an oil drip between the engine and gearbox while the engine is running, it is a sign that the rear main oil seal has failed (not cheap to replace).
Remember to check for any coolant leaks. Using the wrong coolant in a 205 GTI can crack the thin aluminium engine block, resulting in an expensive rebuild. The Peugeot 205 GTI needs of 50:50 mix of coolant and water.
On 1.9-litre models, the rear left-hand-cylinder head locating bolt has an extra spacer to help clear the water pump. If it is missing, it could lead to a cracked pump housing and block.
Peugeot 205 GTI Engine Rebuilds
Many 205 GTIs you encounter will have a rebuilt engine, and you need to be careful of them. Recently rebuilt engines may have been slapped together to get a quick sale. The owner/seller of the GTI may be trying to offload the problem onto an unsuspecting buyer, so be careful. You may even encounter a seller that claims their 205 GTI has a rebuilt engine, when in actual fact, only minor work has been done.
If you are inspecting a 205 GTI with a rebuilt engine, it is incredibly important to look at any receipts for work or parts. Check with the owner to see when and where the work was carried out. If the rebuild has been carried out by a trusted Peugeot 205 GTI specialist, you shouldn’t find too many problems.
While GTIs with recently-rebuilt engines may be tempting, it is usually safer to go with a car that has more miles on one. For example, something with around 5 – 10,000 miles on a rebuild is preferable to a car with 500 miles on a rebuild.
You may come across a Peugeot 205 GTI with a swapped engine. These engine swaps may include anything from a 1.9-litre engine going into a 1.6-litre car to something much more serious. Many owners have put the much more powerful 1.9-litre 160hp MI16 engine from Peugeot 405 into their 205 GTIs.
While engine swapped cars may be tempting, you need to be really careful. If the car features a standard 205 GTI engine (1.9-litre in a 1.6-litre, etc.) or a MI16 engine, you are probably fine, but things like V6 engine swaps would definitely make us walk away. Inspect any engine swapped 205 GTI thoroughly and find out who did the work. Any sign of shoddy workmanship should make you walk away.
The problem with engine swapped cars is that most people/garages have absolutely no idea what they are doing when it comes to engine conversions. We would trust a car that has had an engine swap done by a specialist a lot more than some enthusiastic owner in their garage.
Other Things to Check
While inspecting the engine, take a good look at all the wiring, brackets and clips around the engine bay. If the wiring is not stock and the brackets/clips in the engine bay have been replaced, it may indicate an engine swap or other major repair work.
There are three mounts that connect the engine to the body; one under the battery tray, one at the back of the engine connecting it to the subframe, and one to the left of the engine mounting it to the left inner wing. These mounts can corrode and break, so check to make sure they are in good condition.
Starting up a Peugeot 205 GTI
Rather than starting the vehicle yourself, ask the owner to do it for you. There are a number of reasons for this with the first being that you can see if any smoke comes out the back. The second reason is that if the owner revs the nuts off the car, you know to walk away.
As with any vehicle, 205 GTIs need time to warm up before they are revved hard. Oil needs time to circulate through the engine otherwise it can lead to premature wear.
The engine should start instantly with these cars as the injector system is quite good. If it doesn’t start straight away there must be a problem somewhere. It could be anything from bad injectors to a poor battery. If it is a problem with the injectors, you will almost certainly have to take it to a dealer/specialist to get it fixed.
Distributor wear, particularly on the 1.9-litre model can lead to lumpy idling or even stalling, and cold weather starting problems. Not a major problem, but another bargaining point.
Check the exhaust when the car starts – do you see any vapour coming out? This is usually caused by condensation in the exhaust system and is perfectly fine if it disappears. If you notice excessive amounts of vapour or smoke coming out the back, then there is a problem and the car probably isn’t worth your time. We have outlined what different smoke colours mean below:
White smoke – Can be caused by water that has made its way into the cylinders and could be a sign that the head gasket has blown.
Blue smoke – Is usually caused by piston wear, worn piston rings or worn valve stem seals. To check for blue smoke, get a friend to follow you as you drive the car or get the owner/seller to take the car through the rev range. Blue smoke on start-up and the overrun is quite common on 205 GTIs that have high miles or those that have been thrashed. Blue smoke may indicate worn valve guides, which can often need replacing as early as 80,000 miles (130,000km).
Black smoke – Usually occurs when the engine is running too rich (burning too much fuel). The first things you should check is the air-filter and other intake components. Black/dark grey smoke may also mean that the turbos or the turbo seals are on their way out.
If it is warm weather, you shouldn’t really see any exhaust gases. In cold weather you may see some white smoke/vapour like we outlined above.
Once you have taken a look at what is coming out the back of the car, walk back to the front and listen for any strange noises. Do you hear any unusual banging, rattling or tapping? Knocking or droning could be a sign that the big end bearings are shot.
Watch out for blown head gaskets on these cars, especially on the 1.9-litre 205 GTI. The signs of a blown head gasket are as follows:
- Coolant leaking externally from below the exhaust manifold
- White smoke from the exhaust pipe (especially if you see lots of it)
- Bubbles in the radiator or coolant overflow tank
- An engine that overheats
- Oil that is white and milky
- Fouled spark plugs
- Low cooling system integrity
Listen out for any chugging or misfiring, especially when the car is cold. Chugging/misfiring can be caused by low compression and/or injector problems. If you hear any metallic whining sounds it could be the oil pump or power steering pump (on models with power steering).
Squeals coming from the timing/cambelt area can indicate a worn bearing in either the alternator, power steering pump or even a worn timing belt. Ticking sounds
Peugeot 205 GTI Idle Speed and Stalls
Getting the right idle speed on these cars is quite a task, so you will probably find a number of 205 GTIs with it out. This isn’t a major problem and can usually be fixed quite easily. The idle speed when cold should be around 1,400rpm and 950rpm when warm, but expect it to jump around a lot on most GTIs. Make sure you turn on all the electrics, lights, fans, etc. when inspecting a 205 GTI, as this will drop the idle speed a bit.
Idling and stalling problems can be caused by an air leak, sludge blockage in the sealed breather tubing or poor electrical connections or a bad throttle body. If you are unlucky you will be looking at a new airflow meter. Distributor wear on 1.9-litre models can also cause bad idle.
When you start driving the vehicle, let it warm up before giving it some revs. Once the GTI is up to temperature, give it some throttle and check for any hesitation or bucking. If it does, it could be a sign of a number of issues.
Power delivery should be smooth when a 205 GTI is warmed up properly, but expect it to be slightly rough when cold. Additionally, you may find that the car stalls at traffic lights if it has a low idle speed, but should start first time.
The car should easily hit 6,000rpm in the first four gears (fifth will take a bit of time) and should really come alive at around 4,000rpm – remember to keep an eye out for any smoke!
When you lift off the accelerator, you may find that the car shunts. This is perfectly normal and is caused by the fuel cutting out. Some owners have modified the ECU to stop this behaviour, so keep an eye out for that.
Checking the Gauges
While inspecting and test driving a 205 GTI, make sure you keep an eye on the gauges (oil pressure, temperature, etc.).
The oil pressure gauge (top left) should rise to about 3/4 when cold, and then slowly drop to 1/2 when fully warm. If this doesn’t happen, it could be a sign that the wrong oil has been used or that the engine is worn.
The oil temperature gauge is located on the top right and should rise to around 1/3 after a decent drive. If the temperature gauge is acting a bit sporadic, there is probably something wrong with the vehicle and you should be cautious about driving it any further.
Should You Do a Compression Test on a Peugeot 205 GTI?
Yes, if it is possible to do so. While it is not necessary to do a compression test before buying a 205 GTI, it can help you determine whether or not the car is in good working order. If the owner does not want you to do it or you don’t know how, get a mechanic to do it for you (a 10 to 15-minute job with the right tools.
Compression readings for both the 1.6-litre and the 1.9-litre 205 GTI should be in the region of 170-200psi. The main thing to watch out for is that all the compression readings are fairly high and they are within about 5-10% of each other.
Peugeot fitted two gearboxes, the BE1 and the BE3, to the 205 GTI during its 10-year production. You can identify each unit by locating reverse gear: the BE1 is up to the left with a pull-up collar, while the BE3 did not have the collar and reverse was down to the right, opposite fifth gear. The BE3 transmission was fitted to 205 GTIs from August 1989.
Both the BE1 and BE3 transmissions fitted to the 205 GTI are tough and robust. They tend to be a bit tight when cold (it can be difficult to find the gears), but they will loosen up when warm. Synchros can wear (especially on 2nd gear) and they are expensive to fix. Worn synchros can also be a sign that the car has been thrashed.
While driving a 205 GTI, make sure you shift through the gears at both low and high rpms, making sure you listen out for any strange noises such as grinding or whining.
Gear linkages can wear and become loose with age, which will cause loose shifting. New linkages and a quick-shift will sort out this problem and are easy to fit. If the lower engine mounts are worn, they can cause the engine to rock resulting in driveshaft wear.
Make sure you check the engagement of the clutch and that it does not slip. To check for clutch engagement on a 205 GTI, put the car in gear on a flat surface and gradually let the clutch out. It should not engage straight away or engage near the end of the pedals travel (around 7-10cm 2.5 to 4 inches should be good).
Once you have checked for clutch engagement, check to see if it is slipping. To do this, change into a gear that is too high for the speed you are going and plant your foot on the throttle pedal. If the revs jump but you don’t accelerate then the clutch is probably slipping. Here are some reasons for clutch slippage:
- It is worn out
- It is covered in oil from the crank seal failing
- The clutch cable is too tight meaning it is not releasing properly.
The next thing to check is to see if the clutch is dragging. Put the car on a level surface with the clutch pressed to the floor (you need to be stationary). Rev the car hard (this is why we recommend doing this after a test drive as the car will be warm) and see if it moves. If the vehicle does move, the clutch isn’t fully disengaging when you shift and parts will wear prematurely.
Additionally, if you notice the clutch feeling stiff, then a new clutch cable is probably needed.
Body and Exterior
Thankfully, the 205 GTI doesn’t suffer from rust like many other cars from the 1980s do. Peugeot was good at galvanising their cars so you shouldn’t find too many rusted examples out there. If rust does form on a 205 GTI, it can usually be found around the wheel arches or in the bottom corners of the door frames.
Additionally, check for any rust in and around the seam between the sill and lower rear wing, and a general corrosion check on all other parts of the vehicle as well (windows, sunroof, suspension turrets, boot floor, underbody, engine bay, etc.). We also recommend you check around the petrol tank and inspect the join between the front bulkhead and floorpan.
Signs That a 205 GTI Has Suffered from Rust in the Past
Check to see if you can find any areas where the car may have been resprayed or any inconsistencies in the paint. Take a look at the cars service history/paperwork and ask the owner about any rust repairs – they may be honest or they may try to hide something from you. You can also use a magnet on steel sections of the vehicle or a coating gauge thickness tool to find areas that may have been repaired.
Things That Can Rust More Likely to Occur
205s that are (or are currently are) in countries that salt their roads or those that have lived close to the sea will be more likely to suffer rust issues. In addition to this, be wary of 205 GTIs that have been stored outside their entire life as they will be more likely to rust. Signs that a 205 GTI has been stored outside include:
- Hard rubber window seals
- Excess water in the engine bay or cabin
- Faded paint
- Heavily discoloured badges
- Cracking on the plastic parts
- Obvious rust or corrosion
Crash Damage and Other Major Repair Work on 205 GTIs
Accident damage is probably going to be your biggest concern with these cars. Crash damage can turn a dream purchase into a nightmare, so be careful. Many owners and sellers will lie about the severity of an incident or say that their car hasn’t been in an accident at all. If they do mention that the car has been in an accident, assume the worst and hope for the best. Here are some things you should watch out for:
- Go along the outside of the vehicle, checking for any misaligned panels or large panel gaps. Make sure the bonnet fits correctly and the gap on each side is even. The panel fit is pretty good on 205 GTIs so bodged repairs should be fairly easy to spot.
- Take a look at the doors – do they open and close properly? Do they drop when you open them? If the doors drop or they don’t open/close properly the vehicle has problems.
- Inspect the paintwork closely – are there any inconsistencies such as waving or rippling? Is the paint the same colour on all the panels? Any problems here may be a sign that the car has had major or minor repair work done.
- If the bonnet/hood looks like it is popped when it is not, it usually indicates that the vehicle has been in an accident. This problem can usually be fixed, but is a sign of a careless owner.
- Check the underside of the vehicle for any accident damage. Make sure everything is straight and check for any parts that may have been replaced. Bent metal or broken parts is usually a sign of accident damage.
- Check that the tailgate/boot opens properly and the panel gap is even.
- Rust in strange locations also indicates accident damage, so watch out for that.
While accident damage is a major problem, do not automatically exclude a car from consideration because of it. Find out how severe the damage was/is and see if it has been repaired correctly. Minor to medium damage that has been repaired well will usually be fine. If the 205 GTI you are looking at has severe accident damage, we recommend that you move onto another one. Remember to use any accident damage/repair work as a bargaining point.
Other Bodywork Problems
The paintwork on many 205 GTIs is getting a bit tired (scratches, chips, etc.), especially on cars that have been stored outside a long time or have travelled many miles. Additionally, the thin body panels on these cars can dent pretty easy, so watch out for that. My dad had a 205 GTI that got a dent in the door when his friend closed it!
While checking the car over, make sure you keep an eye out for any leaks, especially around the doors, glass and sunroof (if the vehicle has one). If you are looking at a CTi model, make sure the roof doesn’t leak and is in good condition. The soft roof on CTi models will need to be replaced periodically, especially if they spend lots of time outside.
Brakes and Suspension
Suspension and Steering
The GTI, as with all 205s, were kitted out with independent rear-suspension, comprising of transverse torsion bars, trailing arms and short, angled dampers. Peugeot manufactured its shock absorbers in house with stiffer ones fitted to GTI/CTi models.
Get down and take a good look at the suspension components – Does everything look good? Or are there worn parts and corroded components? Have aftermarket components been installed or is it stock?
While looking under a 205 GTI, check to make sure that the rubber gaiters on the drive shafts (front wheels) are in good condition and have not split. If they have split, you may hear a knocking sound when you go round corners because the joints are worn – not a massive problem but you should use it as a bargaining point.
The rear suspension can sag with age and too much negative camber is a sign that it will need to be rebuilt. If the 205 GTI you are looking at has been lowered, the rear end’s correct height can be restored by rotating the torsion bar.
Move back to the front of the car and push down on the suspension. The front suspension should be very hard and you should have to use quite a bit of force to get it to move. When it does move, make sure there are no strange squeaks or knocks.
If you hear a knocking sound that sounds like a worn CV joint but doesn’t change as you steer, it could be a sign that the differential bearings are on their way out. This problem needs to be fixed quickly, because they can jam and split the gearbox casing if they fail.
Knocks coming from the front suspension are common on 205 GTIs that have been driven enthusiastically. The source of these knocks is usually worn bottom ball joints and wishbone bushes. The steering rack can also suffer overtime, as the steering is heavy at slow parking speeds.
Creaks and cracks from the rear trailing arm bearings are a sign of an incoming wallet wounding experience, so make sure they are in good working order. If you can get the car up on a jack, give each wheel a good wiggle to check for any play.
When you are driving a Peugeot 205 GTI, make sure that the car drives straight without you correcting the wheel. If the car does not drive straight, it could an alignment issue or the vehicle may have been in an accident. Note: roads that are slanted to one side to help with drainage may pull the vehicle to one side, giving the impression that the wheel alignment is out. If you suspect that the wheel alignment is not correct, ask the owner when the alignment was last done (check the service history/receipts as well).
If you find that the ride is overly bouncy or rough it is probably a sign that the struts/suspension is worn out. Suspension components will eventually wear out overtime, so expect to find this problem on higher mileage examples.
The next thing to do is to drive in a figure 8. Listen out for any strange knocking or creaking sounds and make sure the steering still feels good. Knocking sounds could be a sign of CV joint problems or a number of other issues.
While inspecting the suspension components and the bodywork, take a look at the brakes. Are the discs pitted, scored or do they have grooves in them? Do the pads still have life left in them? Is there any corrosion?
You should also check that the brake lines are in good condition and do not have any leaks. If possible, get somebody to press the brake pedal while you check for any leaks. Don’t worry if the brake lines have been changed for copper type ones as this is quite a common modification (and they are better).
Remember to check that the handbrake works (1.9-litre ones often fail) and check to see if the main brake cylinder is dry. It may show a small leak, but there shouldn’t be too much fluid loss.
When test driving a 205 GTI, make sure you abuse the brakes heavily (when it is safe to do so) and see if the vehicle pulls to one side. If it does pull, it may be a sign that a caliper is seized/sticking or it may be caused by a number of other issues. If you notice that the car shimmies under braking and the wheel vibrates, new discs are probably needed.
Wheels and Tyres
A number of Peugeot 205 GTIs you come across may be sporting aftermarket wheels. Even if you don’t mind the aftermarket ones, we recommend you ask the owner to see if they have the originals. If they don’t, try to use it as a bargaining point to get a better price.
Remember to have a good look at the tyres – do they have any tread on them? Have they worn evenly? Are they from a good brand? Uneven tyre wear is usually a sign that the wheel alignment is out.
If the tyres only have a little bit of tread on them, you will have to replace them soon, so try to use that to get a discount. You should be cautious of 205 GTIs that are wearing cheap rubber, as this shows that the owner probably doesn’t care much for the car.
Interior and Electronics
You shouldn’t find too many problems on the inside, but expect the usual wear and tear, especially on higher mileage models. Eighties’ plastic and sunlight don’t go well together, so don’t be surprised to find a dashboard that looks well past its prime or other plastic pieces that look worn. The interior on these cars tends to be a bit rattley/creaky, due to the use of cheapish plastics.
The seat material can wear on 205 GTIs, especially on early 1.6-litre cars. Check to make sure the seats are in good condition as getting them re-trimmed can be quite expensive. Additionally, check to see if the seats are secure as they can easily become loose
Interior trim pieces and materials can be quite hard to find and expensive to buy, so make sure that the interior is up to a standard you are happy with.
Remember to check the steering wheel, gear shifter, carpets and pedals for wear as they can indicate how far a car has travelled. If they are heavily worn but the car has low mileage, it could be a sign that the vehicle’s odometer has been wound back.
Check that all the buttons, switches and knobs work as intended – windows, locks, air conditioning (if the car has it), etc. When you start up the vehicle do the lights on the dash appear? If any warning lights stay on, check to see what they are. If no lights appear on the dash when the car starts you may have problems. Peugeot can be very expensive when it comes to switches and other electronics, so take your time.
Always inspect any aftermarket devices or parts closely and make sure they have been installed correctly. Is the wiring and workmanship of a high standard? Or has the device been chucked in and not installed properly? Aftermarket components/devices that have not been installed correctly can cause some real headaches and show that the owner does not care for the vehicle.
If any parts such as the gear shifter, steering wheel, seats and more have been replaced with aftermarket ones, ask the owner if they have the originals.
Buying a Modified Peugeot 205 GTI/CTi
While we have already covered a bit about modified 205 GTIs in this article, we thought we would go into a bit more detail about them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a modified 205 GTI, just make sure everything is installed properly and legal (if you want to drive it on the road). Some modifications can also ruin the characteristics of the 205 GTI, so be careful.
Here are some things that may be modified on 205 GTIs you look at:
- Exhaust system
- Intake system (air filter, etc.)
- Copper type brake/fuel lines
- Engine swaps (MI16, etc.)
- Larger brake discs/calipers
If the 205 GTI you are looking at has seen considerable track use, you need to be extra careful. Track cars can be an absolute nightmare and we personally wouldn’t buy one (unless we were looking for one specifically). In addition to this, you should also be careful of 205 GTIs that have been modified by multiple owners.
1.6-litre 205 GTI vs 1.9-litre 205 GTI
To this day, opinion is still divided among enthusiasts and motoring journalists alike as to which 205 GTI is better. Some drivers seem to like the peakier power delivery of the 1.6-litre GTI, while others prefer the increased torque of the 1.9-litre model.
If you are looking for more speed, the 1.9-litre is obviously going to be the one you want to go for. Additionally, 1.9-litre 205 GTIs are more in demand and sell for more, so they may be better if you are looking for a classic.
For those simply looking for a fun car to drive on the weekends (or even everyday), you can’t go wrong with either model.
Summary of Buying a Peugeot 205 GTI
Finding a good condition Peugeot 205 GTI is becoming more and more difficult, but you can still find them out there. Many 205 GTIs have been maintained poorly, crashed or fitted with bad modifications, but if you take your time you should be able to find your perfect car.
A perfect condition 205 GTI with low mileage will set you back some serious coin, so we suggest you look for a car that has done a few more miles (unless you are looking for the perfect classic). If you look after a 205 GTI and maintain it well, it should provide many more years of motoring pleasure.
In the next section we have included more general car buying information (service history, how to get the best deal, etc.). Additionally, at the end of this article we have included information of where to buy a Peugeot 205 GTI.
General Car Buying Advice for the Peugeot 205 GTI
How to Get Yourself the Best Deal On a 205 GTI
This information applies to both dealers and private sealers. Knowledge is power and it can save you a lot of money when purchasing a vehicle.
- Do your research. Before you start your hunt for a GTI make sure you know what model and condition you are happy with. Are you okay with a highly modified 205 GTI or do you want something that is completely stock? Do you want a low mileage example or are you happy with a car that has travelled far?
- Shop around. Don’t limit yourself to just one dealer, seller or location. Check out various different dealers and sellers to find the best car and get the right price. Limiting yourself to just one area will make it more difficult to find your ideal 205 GTI.
- Test drive multiple cars. Don’t just take one 205 GTI out and then buy it. Test drive as many GTIs as you can get your hands on. This will give you a good idea of what makes a good and what makes a bad 205 GTI.
- Adjust your attitude. Don’t rush into purchasing a 205 GTI, take your time. If you are desperate to buy a car you are more likely to get ripped off. Take your time looking through all the different vehicles available and then go inspect the ones you think look promising.
- Use any issues with the car to your advantage. Take a mental note of any issues you find with the vehicle. When it comes to discussing the price, use these problems to try and drive down the price. For example, if the car needs new tyres or brake pads make a point of it and try to get the seller to reduce the price.
- Don’t trust the owner. While some owners/sellers are honest about their cars, many will lie to get a quick sale. Take in what the owner has to say, but check out the vehicle thoroughly and inspect all the car’s documentation.
- Bounce between sellers/dealers. If you are looking at multiple GTIs, let the owner/seller know. This way they will know that you have other options and they may try to undercut the price.
- Be prepared to walk away. If you are not happy with the deal, simply walk away. You may miss out on the car or the seller may get back to you with a better offer.
Mileage vs Condition
Mileage vs condition is always a big debate, but we recommend that you should always buy on condition and then on the mileage. There are a truck-ton of 205 GTIs out there with low mileage but in poor condition, while some high mileage examples may be perfectly fine.
Lots of owners make the mistake of believing that they are preserving their car by not driving it. In reality, this is completely false and not driving a vehicle can actually do more damage than good. Short distance trips are not kind to a 205 GTI’s engine as they do not have enough time to warm up and get lubricated properly.
Rubber seals and plastic parts will fail regardless of mileage and can even deteriorate quicker on cars that don’t get used often. Letting a car sit will not prevent rust or stop the electronics from failing.
Mileage will never decrease with age, so go out and drive your car!
Service History and Other Documentation
It is incredibly important to check any vehicle’s service history and any additional paperwork that goes along with it. The service history will give you a good idea of how the 205 GTI you are looking at has been maintained. In addition to this, receipts and paperwork for modifications can help you determine whether they have been done by an experienced tuner or a bad one.
If the owner can’t or won’t let you see the service history, you should probably pass on the vehicle. A complete service history will only add value to any 205 GTI and will make it easier to sell the vehicle in the future.
Additionally, you can check websites such as CarFax (USA) and CarJam (NZ) for more information about the car you are thinking of purchasing. These sort of websites can be incredibly useful, but there is usually a cost associated with them.
Questions That You Should Ask the Seller/Owner
- How often do you drive the car?
- When was the last service and who was it serviced by?
- How much oil does it use?
- What oil do you use in the car?
- When was the timing belt replaced?
- What parts have been replaced?
- What modifications have been made to the vehicle?
- Has the vehicle overheated at any point?
- Has the car been in any major or minor accidents? Is so, what repairs were made?
- Is there any money owing on the car?
- Have you got any information on the previous owners and how they treated the vehicle?
- Is there any rust?
- Has rust been removed at any point?
- Has the car been used for track use at any point?
- When were the brake pads replaced and have the calipers seized at any point in time?
- Where do you store/park the car usually?
There are loads more questions you can ask the seller, but we feel these are some of the most important.
Things That Would Make Us Walk Away from a Peugeot 205 GTI
Sometimes, the best option is to simply walk away from a vehicle. While you may be happy with a vehicle with these problems, we are not.
- Overheating problems
- Significant Crash Damage
- Money owing on the car
- Modifications with no paperwork or carried out by a poorly reviewed tuner
- Excessive amounts of power (too much power can lead to reliability problems down the track)
- Bad compression
- Bad resprays
- Significant rust problems
- Engine swaps with non-standard engine (MI16 would be fine)
- Significant track use
- Major engine or transmission issues
- Owner who is not forthcoming with information (could be trying to hide something)
Where to Find a Peugeot 205 GTI for Sale?
Websites such as Craigslist, Kijiji, TradeMe, Piston Heads and GumTree are excellent places to start your hunt for a Pegueot 205 GTI. You will find a range of GTIs at different prices and in different conditions. You can easily compare the price, specs and condition of different 205 GTIs and you will be able to select the ones that look promising.
Dealers and Importers
Most dealers and importers will have an online presence, so make sure you check out their website for any 205 GTIs for sale. Dealers tend to be a bit more expensive than private sellers, but sometimes you can get some extras thrown in or better protection.
Websites such as Reddit, Facebook and even Instagram can be excellent places to find 205 GTIs for sale. Check out some of the many enthusiast groups or subreddits and let other users know you are interested in buying a 205 GTI. Additionally, social media groups are often great places to find spare parts or get advice from other owners.
This sort of ties in with the above, but many owners’ clubs have their own website or they may not even have a website at all. Look to see if there are any Peugeot or 205 GTI clubs in your area as these are often great places to find cars for sale or ask for advice. We have listed some good websites to check out below:
5 thoughts on “Peugeot 205 GTI Buyer’s Guide & History”
Wow! Great information the 205 GTI. Just what I was looking for.
Hoping to import one this year.
Great advise I took the plunge and bought a cherry red 1.9 gti in november last year with 114,000 miles on the clock. It’s not perfect but pretty solid and drives well I’ve spent an additional £1200 on top of the £5300 I bought the car for and feel i’ve overall got a pretty good deal. They really are as good as people say they are – a lot more fun than my jcw mini cooper s! Get one now if you can!
THank you for all the great information .
Can a 1992 205GTI have both air conditioning and power steering ?
Air conditioning was an optional extra, though not in conjunction with power steering due to the lack of space in the engine bay for both.
Thanks for your helpful comment Stephen.