Peugeot achieved a major triumph on February 24, 1983, by introducing the Peugeot 205. The brand advanced into the current era of product, marketing, and motorsport. The 40th anniversary provides an opportunity to reflect on a fascinating history and the roots of a long series of successful Peugeot city cars.
The Peugeot 205 changed the course of automotive and motorsport history. Peugeot's "holy number" remains 205. Peugeot is commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 205.
The tale of a vehicle is frequently the story of the men and women who designed it. The Peugeot 205's development is closely related to Jean Boillot, who served on the Peugeot board of directors at the end of the 1970s. During a challenging period for the company, he devised an ambitious plan for a new tiny car that would be much more than a city vehicle. It should be a multi-purpose vehicle that can be used in the city and the country, transport a small family, and be reasonably priced. In summary, it should be a vehicle that can meet a wide range of daily needs.
The Peugeot 205 revolutionized not only design but also technology and marketing. While Pininfarina designed most of the preceding automobiles, the in-house designers, led by Gérard Welter, won the internal competition with a more modern and flowing design. Pininfarina designed the Peugeot 205 Cabriolet. The design debuted certain distinguishing traits in future Peugeot automobiles, such as the horizontally barbed grille and the band between the taillights. Paul Bracq, a well-known name in automotive design and a member of the Peugeot design team, also created the interior of the Peugeot 205.
The Peugeot 205 technically signified Peugeot's entry into the modern era: tiny yet capacious, practical with a hatchback, efficient, and inexpensive at the same time, the model was appropriate for any usage. It was, in particular, the first Peugeot car to be equipped with torsion bars in the back to increase passenger capacity. The Peugeot 205 was also the first vehicle to be fitted with the new XU engine series, the XUD7, a four-cylinder engine with 1,769 cm3 and 44 kW (60 hp). As a result, the Peugeot 205 was the first small French diesel car and the first small diesel model to provide the same performance as its petrol counterpart while consuming less fuel (3.9 l/100 km on average).
The Peugeot 205 was the company's first small car with a wide range of engines, from 33 kW (45 HP) to 147 kW (200 HP), and an automatic gearbox, which was still rare. When it was first introduced in 1983, it had four gasoline engines and one diesel engine. The following year, the lineup was expanded to include the famous GTi, the Peugeot 205 Turbo 16, and a three-door model. Several versions followed, including more affordable ones like the 1986 Junior with its fabric seats and nicer ones like the Lacoste or the Gentry.
Since 1983, the Peugeot 205 has been promoted in a manner consistent with its features. The appellation "holy number" hit the nail on the head when it was first released. The television advertisements with this moniker were both effective and appropriate. A well-known commercial depicts a Peugeot 205 being chased by a military plane on a frozen lake in the style of James Bond. Gérard Pirès directed this commercial, which was followed a few years later by the classic feature film "Taxi," which starred a Peugeot 406.
Racing could be a good way to get the word out about the Peugeot 205 and the Peugeot brand. Peugeot entered the World Rally Championship's highest class, the infamous "Group B," in 1984 at the initiative of Jean Todt with the Peugeot 205 Turbo 16.
Ari Vatanen made a big impression in his first season, winning three rallies. The Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 helped Peugeot win the Manufacturers' World Championship in 1985 and 1986, and Timo Salonen (1985) and Juha Kankkunen (1986) won the Drivers' Championship. Because there was no longer a "Group B" category at the end of 1986, Jean Todt suggested Peugeot join the Peugeot 205 T16 in the renowned Paris-Dakar Rally. The Peugeot 205 T16 was heavily modified and won the legendary Rally Raid in 1987 and 1988, first with Ari Vatanen and then with Juha Kankkunen.
The Peugeot 205 waved goodbye in 1998 after a lengthy and successful 15-year run with 5,278.350 units produced. It will always be remembered as Peugeot's "holy number," establishing the groundwork for a fantastic succession of successful city cars, including the Peugeot 206, Peugeot 207, and current Peugeot 208.