The Carchive: The Peugeot 309

I didn’t quite get this ready in time for the usual Friday slot, so let’s use our 13:30 Monday lunch break to fix that puncture on the bicycle of discovery and head out for a muddy scramble along the bridleway of motoring history.
The Lion goes from strength to strength. A couple of weeks ago we took a look at last of the Peugeot 404’s. Today we’re heading forward in time and a little way downmarket. It’s the Peugeot 309, a real Poissy magnet if ever there was one.

“Beautifully styled to please the eye, the 1989 Peugeot 309 3 and 5-door range is engineered for performance with comfort, reliability and long life”
If ever there was an unloved car it was this one. Launched in ’85 as an intended replacement for the globally celebrated Talbot Horizon, the 309 seemed to forever live in the shadow of its smaller, sexier sister the 205.
It’s a shame, because the 309 was actually a far better car than its forgotten nature would suggest.
“The XE and GE models illustrate to perfection the proportions of the 309 body”
This was a very broad range. Things got off to a start with the XE model which proudly came with absolutely no standard equipment. In fact, taking in the spec list at the rest of the brochure shows it to lack fully trimmed door panels, any load area illumination and  any sign of interior oddments storage.
To really emphasise the stinginess there was a big round blanking panel in the instrument cluster, not where the tach would have been but where the analogue clock that models too rudimentary to have a tach would have been. We’re talking seriously bare bones here.
“The petrol engines for the 1989 309 models have a spread of power outputs to satisfy a range of demands, from economy to performance”
The original, ex-Simca 1118cc and 1294cc units had been phased out with the introduction of the 1124cc and 1360cc TU engines by the time this brochure was released. There were also the 1580cc XU and a couple of diesels around the 1.9 litre mark.
And, speaking of 1.9….
“The breathtaking 130 bhp GTI comes in 3-door and 5-door versions for 1989, offering 0-62 mph in 8.0 seconds and a top speed of almost 128 mph.”
There are people out there who maintain that the 309 GTi was the best Peugeot to have ever worn those three letters. Certainly there can be no doubt whatsoever that the transformation from dreary to dynamic between the bottom and the top of the 309 range was one of the most startling of all time.
With its 15″ Speedline alloys, fog and driving lights in the lower front bumper, and unambiguous red stripes throughout the interior, the GTi was unmistakeable and has held onto a following it richly deserves. Late model “Goodwood” special editions are particularly sought-after, while those devoid-of-trim XE models are as close to extinction as makes no difference.
One thing, though. These things have always reminded me of the Plymouth Sundance / Dodge Shadow.
(All images are of original manufacturer promotional material, photographed by me. Copyright belongs to PSA group, who, every now and again look like creating another world-beating GTi. Good as most of them have been, I’m still not sure they’ve ever beaten the original)

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  1. tonyola Avatar

    Fun fact: The 309 was originally going to be called the Talbot Arizona, but Peugeot decided to discontinue the Talbot brand instead. That’s why the 309 ended up being outside the regular Pug numbering scheme with a “9” at the end.

  2. Maymar Avatar
    Having learned to drive on a very, very basic Plymouth Sundance, I sort of understand your shudder (although it was a great appliance). But the Shelby CSX has about 20mph on the GTi, apparently (so said Motor Trend’s radar detector, at least), which is hugely impressive for a K-derivative.