Throughout most of its production run, the Peugeot 205 GTI was considered more bare-bones than a lot of its competitors. A lot of the time buyers liked that, it was exactly what they were looking for, but there existed a small clientele that wanted a more premium-feeling and better-equipped hot hatch.
To cater to that crowd, Peugeot launched a limited edition of the 1.9-liter 205 GTI called Griffe, a word which means “claw” in French. The name had been previously used by Peugeot on a Pininfarina-designed concept car, and throughout most of the 1980s the brand’s logo was “un constructeur sort ses griffes”. That phrase means “an automaker gets its claws out”, a reference to the lion that has historically been its logo.
The 205 GTI Griffe greeted the public for the first time at the 1990 edition of the Paris Motor Show, and it hit dealer showrooms not long after as a 1991 model.
The Griffe is said to have been inspired by the GTI that Jean Todt, the director of Peugeot Sport at the time, drove around in. It was a custom-built 1.9-liter model that had a lot of the aesthetic features that would later be found on the Griffe.
The 205 GTI Griffe was only offered in a model-specific shade of green called Fluorite. It sat on the same alloy wheels that equipped the 1.9-liter GTI, but they were finished in a glossy and dark shade of gray. The trim of the sides was flat black, and a “GRIFFE” emblem was found on both c-pillars.
The Griffe retailed for noticeably more than a 1.9-liter GTI, but buyers got their money’s worth. The car came standard with leather-upholstered bucket seats that featured green stitching, and the typical red carpet was now black. There were also a lot of minor details added to the model, including courtesy mirrors built into both sunvisors, a trunk light, power windows, and an adjustable map light that automatically turned off after several minutes.
Buyers in Holland could order the car with a sunroof for an extra cost but in France, the Griffe had no options. The car was not offered with air conditioning as the power steering system took up all of the available space under the hood, and it did not come with a radio, either. The only way to get one was to buy it as an accessory from a Peugeot dealer, or to install an aftermarket unit.
The extra equipment bumped the car’s weight up to 2,017 pounds, a slight increase of 44 pounds over the standard 1.9-liter 205 GTI.
No modifications were made to the engine, meaning that the Griffe used the same eight-valve 1,905cc four-cylinder found in the car that it was based on. Cars sold on the French market were not fitted with a catalytic converter, so they were rated at 130 horsepower and 121 foot-pounds of torque. Cars sold elsewhere in Europe were fitted with a catalytic converter, and were only rated at 122 horsepower.
The Griffe took 8.3 seconds to hit 62 miles per hour from a stop, and it went on to a track-worthy top speed of 127 miles per hour.
Production ended after precisely 3,000 cars were built. Today, the Griffe is particularly sought-after in 205 circles, and it logically commands a premium over a standard 205 GTI 1.9.