Earlier this weekend, I did something I’m not supposed do. I tweeted a blog. I told everyone how much I want a Peugeot 309 GTi. But now I’m going to correct my mistake. I’m going to blog my tweet. Here goes. I want a Peugeot 309 GTi. Badly.
For those of you who don’t know what the hell I’m talking about or know what this car is but can’t see the appeal, let me fill you in. The Peugeot 309 GTi was a performance version of the C-segment Peugeot 309 hatchback. The first GTi-spec 309s had 1.9-liter four under the hood that put out a little shy of 130 horsepower. Later, a left-hand-drive version of the GTi got the even more exciting, nearly 160 horsepower, motor out of the 405 Mi16 sports sedan (a topic for another day). That’s the one you really want.
But what exactly was a 309? It’s more complicated than you might think. Introduced in 1985, the Peugeot 309 wasn’t even supposed to be a Peugeot at all. The mid-’80s was right about when Chrysler Europe’s business got swallowed up by Peugeot. The car that was supposed to be Talbot’s Arizona, already a Peugeot in all but name, became the 309. The first Peugeot built in England in the plant that used to churn out Talbots. A sad end to a storied brand.
These days, 309s and 309 GTis, in particular, are hard to come by. According to
slightly creepy numberplate tracking website howmanyleft.co.uk, only 97 are still out there on British roads. There are nearly ten times the number of 205 GTis out there, to say nothing about the troves of little French hatches on the continent as well.
That said, there still are 309 GTis out there and despite their comparative rarity, they don’t seem to cost more than 205 GTis at all. Check. out this one in France, or this one in Belgium, or one more in England. All. well-kept cars owned by people who knew the value of that third box to a hatch’s silhouette.
But what’s actually so great about this car? Why am I so interested in getting my hands on one? It’s not just the rarity. We already know how much fun Peugeot’s legendary 205 GTi is. Just ask Mr. Regular about it. But that car is tiny. Too small. Certainly for someone like me. And that bothers me. I should be able to enjoy that experience as well.
But that’s the glory of the 309. It’s a hot hatch made with all the ingredients that made the 205 GTi so legendary, just in size M rather than S., You get crisp lines, that thin red trim, the playful suspension. What you don’t get are the stares as you try and unfold yourself to stand up and get out. Or the groans of rear-seat passengers when you put the driver’s seat back to where it needs to be to drive fast. And to me? That’s worth it. And others agree.
So please, save me a Peugeot 309 GTi. I deserve it.