Reminder: don’t let the lion out of its cage!
While the hot hatch genre started in the 1970s, the 1980s saw car makers racing to market their own hot hatch cars.
Despite having a sedan body, the Simca Rallye is considered to be the first true hot hatch launched in Europe. But everything began with Volkswagen launching the GTI version of its mass production hatchback, the Golf, in 1976. Its huge success encouraged worldwide car makers to have their own hot hatch.
Peugeot entered the race with its Peugeot 205 GTI on March 1984 even though it did produce a hot hatch before that, the Peugeot 104 ZS2. Success was immediate and the 205 competed well against the Golf GTI and sold like hot cakes. In 1985 Renault launched the Renault 5 GT Turbo which was more powerful than the 205. On March 1986, the Peugeot 205 GTI was fitted with the 1.6l engine developping 115hp and in order to stay ahead of its competitors, Peugeot launched the Peugeot 205 GTI 1.9 developping 130hp on December 1986.
Since the Volkswagen Golf grew bigger, the Peugeot 309 launched in continental Europe in late 1985 was the only one which was able to compete within the Peugeot range, being larger than the 205. Peugeot launched the Peugeot 309 GTI in 1987. The car was equipped with the 1.9l engine developping 130hp, the same one than the 205 GTI 1.9 had. The Volkswagen Golf GTI Mark 2 was larger, heavier then its predecessor and Volkswagen knew that Peugeot was its most serious competitor. Actually, the 205 GTI sold so well that it surpassed the Golf GTI. Volkswagen chose to put a step forward and to launch a Golf GTI equipped with a 16 valve engine. The Golf GTI 16V developped 139hp and Peugeot was defeated… for a short time.
In 1989, Peugeot launched the Peugeot 309 mark 2 and in late 1989 Peugeot launched the Peugeot 309 GTI16. The car was fitted with the 405 MI16 engine, developping 160hp. The 309 GTI16 was a bomb in its category, it was powerful and handled like a real sports car. The only downsides to this was its high price as well as the bad build quality. Sports car magazines even complained that it was too sporty and quite dangerous to be driven on an everyday basis!
The Peugeot 309 GTI16 was the best hot hatch ever for some sports car magazines but unfortunately, the car didn’t sell well in Europe (but in France) because of its high price and its poor interior build quality.
Peugeot knew the Pegeot 309 GTI16 would sell well in the UK since British people were fond of hot hatch. Unfortunately, it was impossible for Peugeot to make it happen. The reason was quite simple: the engine was too big and engineers had made some changes to fit it in the 309 engine compartment. It was thus financially impractical to make a RHD version. But Peugeot didn’t want to forget the UK market which had always been faithful. Peugeot launched the Peugeot 309 GTI Goodwood in 1991 and this very limited edition was for the UK market only. A nice way to say sorry…