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Hammond's icons: Peugeot 205 GTi

  1. There are more clichés associated with this car than probably any other I’ve mentioned here before. And I shall try to avoid them all.

    If there
    follows any nods toward Maggie, dodgy bands, greed is good, red braces or any
    other Eighties nonsense, I ask that somebody kick me in the face please. Because this page is all about
    legends, the cars that really stand out for what they are, what they could do,
    what they do to your soul. Or your trousers.

    Words: Richard Hammond

    Photography: Justin Leighton

    This article originally appeared in the July 2012 edition of Top Gear magazine

  2. The Peugeot
    205 GTi was, and still is, a full-bore, gold-medal-winning legend. Simple. It doesn’t need contextualising
    with stuff about how good it was at the time, how far it advanced the concept
    of small, affordable fast cars, or any of that. Just look at the thing – it’s
    gorgeous. You can see the design work seeping out of every little corner of its
    mouthwatering little frame. This is more than a few plastic pieces stuck on to
    a shopping car… the fundamental shape is stunning.

  3. The pepper
    pot alloys are some of the prettiest wheels ever fitted to a car. As hatchbacks go, I would contend that none prettier has ever been made. The
    more aggressive stance of the GTi just makes it sweeter to stare at. Same
    inside – beautiful everywhere you look.

  4. Let’s not get nostalgic about the cassette player and the half-leather seats,
    nostalgia is all about sinking into the past. There’s no need to do that here.
    The Pug isn’t just beautiful for its day, it is still a beautiful thing to look
    at now. Or at any time.

    beautiful to hear too. The little 1.6-litre four-pot fizzes and shouts, is
    always happy to rev hard and use its modest 115bhp to throw the tiny, 885kg car
    to 60mph in a respectable 8.7 seconds. And now, there’s another enormous cliché
    rearing up ahead like a moose in the road… that the 1.6 was always better
    than the more powerful 1.9-engined version.

  5. Better-balanced,
    sweeter-revving, all of that. Well, there are those who disagree, who say the
    extra grunt of the larger engine, with its longer stroke, more than makes up
    for any low-speed trickiness with an increased sense of urgency and, yes,
    possibly of danger. Personally, I think the 1.6 probably was the sweeter… and
    there is something more appropriate about wringing the most from the
    more modest engine.

  6. Either way,
    whether 1.6 or 1.9, get the GTi in a feisty mood, and it offers huge,
    old-school hot-hatch fun of a kind you seldom get to have now. Anyone still
    unclear about what lift-off oversteer is and how it feels, absolutely needs to have a punt in one of these.

  7. The
    steering wheel becomes pretty much redundant at times, with all steering done
    by your right foot;
    a gentle lift into a corner makes a small slide, a more robust lift means a
    bigger slide and a renewed sense of purpose for the little steering wheel as it
    is employed to steady things down. It is completely addictive.

  8. At least,
    it is on a track. On the road, such habits can be viewed as a little unruly
    and, yes, the bigger-engined car certainly earned a reputation for wasting the
    odd banker. 

    suspension set-up was, as everybody knew, pretty snazzy, with independent front
    and back. But it’s the lightness and the stance that make this thing such a
    bundle of joy.

  9. There’s no way round it, I
    want one. As should you. It’s not some pampered classic, it’s not delicate or fragile,
    and neither will it be ruinous to run. It’s just far, far more fun than any
    modern hot hatch I can think of off the top of my head and, if the world were a fairer, more wonderful place, everyone between
    the ages of 17 and 22 would be issued with one as a matter of course.

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