Shortly after its introduction, the Peugeot 205 GTi gradually became more powerful, better equipped, and, consequently, more expensive. Moving upmarket was an effective way to keep the Golf GTI in check, but it left many long-time customers longing for an affordable way to have fun behind the wheel.
Peugeot launched the 205 Rallye in March of 1988 to satisfy those buyers. Developed jointly with Peugeot-Talbot Sport, the car was aimed at the bottom end of the hot hatch segment, and it was very carefully packaged in order to avoid cannibalizing the 205 GTi. Metallic paint and alloy wheels? Not a chance.
The 205 Rallye was only offered as a three-door hatchback, and it came only in white with body-colored bumpers that were sourced from the GTi parts bin. Up front, the fog lights were removed and replaced with plastic covers in order to shed excess weight. The car sat on white steel wheels and it was fitted with Rallye-specific fender flares that had a different shape than the ones found on the GTi. Finally, Peugeot-Talbot Sport stickers on the grille and on the hatch added a touch of color.
Inside, the Rallye was stripped of every component that was deemed superfluous. That phrase often gets tossed around in the auto industry today, but modern cars are brimming with high-tech gadgetry so it has lost much of its meaning. In the late 1980s, when a company announced that a model was stripped of all unnecessary equipment, it wasn’t an exaggeration. The 205 Rallye had no radio, no A/C, no rear ash tray, no clock, and no storage bin in the passenger-side door panel. It did have bucket seats for the front passengers, red carpet, and a three-spoke steering wheel, all parts borrowed from the GTi.
Under the hood was a 1,249cc four-cylinder engine that was tweaked with input from tuner Danielson. It was the same engine that powered the Citroën AX Sport, but it was fed by a pair of Weber carburetors — Citroën used Solex units — and upgraded with a high-profile cam. Thanks to these modifications and others, the four-banger generated 102 horsepower and 88 pound-feet of torque, figures that were impressive in a hatchback that tipped the scale at just 1,740 pounds (less than 800 kilos). Power was sent to the front wheels via a five-speed manual transmission. The Rallye hit 62 mph (100 km/h) from a stop in 9.2 seconds (half a second slower than the 125-horsepower 1.6-liter GTi) and went on to a top speed of 116 mph (about 185 km/h).
In its first year on the market, the 205 Rallye carried a base price of 69,800 francs. That same year, a 205 GTi with a 1.6-liter four retailed for 84,200 francs, and the more powerful 1.9-liter model sold for 94,400. Over at Volkswagen, the cheapest Golf GTI cost 88,450 francs and a three-door base model started at 57,400 francs. Peugeot initially planned on building just 5,000 examples of the Rallye, but it was so popular that it was eventually added to the car maker’s catalog as a regular-production model. It was given the ax in 1992 after roughly 30,000 examples were built.
Note: The German- and Swiss-spec Rallye got a 1.9-liter four in 1992, while British-spec models got a 1.4-liter engine and could be ordered in yellow.