Half Talbot, half Peugeot but 100% PSA
During the early 1980s, Peugeot experienced a difficult situation. The vehicles they produced didn’t sell well and ingeneers were already preparing an upcoming vehicle, which had the tough job to give to the group better revenues. The vehicle was launched on 1982 and was named 205. Nevertheless, in 1984, even if the sales of the new 205 were good, it didn’t really change things for Peugeot and the bad sales of Talbot cars, as well as the various strikes in the French Talbot factory, cost a lot of money. Hence the decision of Peugeot to end the production of all Talbot cars.
At the same time, the C28 project was nearly acheived. The new vehicle was first announced by the press as the new Peugeot 206 in 1985 but Peugeot chosed another name: 309. If the name seemed quite unusual, Peugeot had in fact no choice. Two upcoming cars were being realized and their names were already chosen: 405 since Peugeot wanted to come back to the 40X series, and 605, the logical name of the car replacing the old 604. Consequently, Peugeot couldn’t name the new vehicle 306 as two other models, the 405 and 605, would be part of the X05 range, thus it was obviously too soon to launch the X06 series. Peugeot decided to name the car differently from the other Peugeots, since it was necessary to keep the 30X name as the car was bigger than the 205 but smaller than the upcoming 405. The group finally decided to name the car 309 only some months before the launch (they had chosen another number in early 1985). More, it is possible that Peugeot deliberatly named the car differently from the other Peugeots as it was the first Peugeot model to have a fifth door instead of a classic boot.
The Peugeot 309 was launched on February 1986. Five models were available: GE, GL, GR Profile and SR Injection.
The Peugeot 309 shares a great number of elements with the Peugeot 205, 305 and the Citroën BX. It is 2,4 inches larger than the Peugeot 205 and 2 inches longer but is 8 inches smaller than the 305. Concerning the body, electro-zinc coated sheets represent more than 40% of the weight of the car. It needs 2528 weldings among which 2492 are done by robots. Compared to the Peugeot 305, great advances had been made since the 305 needed 4020 weldings among which 990 were to be realized manually. Thus, the body weights only 216 kg compared to 260 for the one of the 305.
When it was launched, the main advantage of the 309 was its drag coefficient which was as low as 0,30 for the GR Profile model and 0,33 for the other ones. At that time, it was very important for customers to know the car they would buy was consuming less petrol, meaning economy.
Specialized magazines often compared the Peugeot 309 as a small Mercedes because of its unusual width considering its length. The press also said the dashboard and the global shape of the car were lacking of originality. Peugeot finally decided in 1989 that it was time to consider the critics and the Peugeot 309 MKII appeared with a new front grille, new rear light clusters plus an entirely new designed dashboard which looked better but was still made of a quite bad quality plastic.
The Peugeot 309 was the first Peugeot ever to be “Built in Britain”, in the Ryton factory, and Peugeot clearly intended to make it an advantage to attract British customers. It worked quite well since 309s were better than the Ford Escort and the Peugeot 309 GTI model had a huge success in the UK and in the whole European market as well. Afterwards, Peugeot even launched the top of the range 309 GTI16 model, which was fitted with the same engine as the Peugeot 405 MI16 developping 160hp! It was often said to be the best GTI ever built, but was unfortunately not available to British customers. The British market saw the birth of GTI Goodwood limited edition, which was in fact a GTI model with a full leather upholstery, a racing green colour, dark grey alloy wheels and a wooden steering wheel to make the final “British touch”.
Cars that were being built in Britain were actually not only built for the British market. In fact, the Peugeot 309 sold in Japan and in New-Zealand came from the same factory. In the Ryton factory, Peugeot built more than 300 automatic 309 GTI models equipped with air conditioning for the Japanese market but those cars were sent back. The reasons were not clear and Peugeot finally sold the cars in the UK. The same story happened to a few Peugeot 309 SL and SI models which were also sold in the UK instead of Japan.