Peugeot 205 CTi Buying Guide

Peugeot's 205 was a landmark car, and in CTi form it's arguably the greatest convertible ever made

Peugeot 205 CTi Buying Guide

How much to pay

• Project £1000-2500 • Good £2000-4500 • Concours £4500-5000 •

Overview

Practicality ★★★
Running costs ★★★★
Spares ★★★
DIY friendly ★★★
Investment ★★★★
Desirability ★★★★

When the Peugeot 205 GTi arrived in 1984, it seemed like just another hot hatch in a world awash with power. This is a genre that’s continued to thrive, with models such as the Honda Civic Type R and Ford Focus RS pushing the bar ever higher – but very few have had drop-top brethren.

However, while the modern-day hot hatch has a level of power that in the mid-1980s was reserved for supercars only, the 205 GTi had a level of agility and poise that allowed a topless variant, the CTi. We’ll never see this sort of venture again, due to modern demands of safety, refinement and comfort, which leaves enthusiasts to fight over solid examples of a largely overlooked convertible. Many would rather have a Golf cabriolet, but they are missing out.

As with so many hot hatches, good examples of the 205 CTi are hard to find, as so many have been crashed, neglected or badly modified – sometimes all three. However, it’s worth seeking out a really good CTi – it was smaller and nimbler than its period competitors, and has a flat torque curve that easily exploits the agile chassis with which it’s blessed.

The open-top CTi was, like the hatch, designed by Pininfarina. Introduced in 1986, it ensured Peugeot reigned supreme against the likes of the Volkswagen Golf, Vauxhall Astra and Ford Escort. The convertible’s extra 188lb of shell stiffening didn’t help its 0-60mph dash, but it still led the pack. Try one for yourself and you’ll soon see why.

Your AutoClassics Peugeot 205 CTi inspection checklist

Engine

All 205 CTi and GTi engines can run on unleaded without modification, but 1.9-litre models run best on super-unleaded. The 1.9 is effectively a longer-stroke version of the 1.6-litre; check that the ‘1.9’ you’re buying actually has the bigger unit. The engine serial number is one way of checking; the digits on 1.6-litre units include XU5J, and the 1.9 model, XU9JA. Alternatively, look between the sump and cylinder block; if there’s a half-inch-thick alloy spacer, it’s the bigger powerplant. If it’s missing, there’s just 1580cc of Peugeot power.

Beware of engines set up by the enthusiastic amateur. Adjusters on the fuel-injection butterflies and mixture control are sealed to prevent this – a CO meter is essential to achieve correct settings.

Both the 1.6 and 1.9-litre engines can be fragile; hard use will see camshaft failure along with worn valve guides within 60,000 miles. A clattery tickover is normal, but if treated with care the unit will cover 100,000 miles with ease.

Cambelts must be renewed every 36,000 miles. If the belt has been changed recently but the engine fails to run properly, check the ignition timing. The distributor is driven directly off the camshaft, and swapping the drivebelt will probably have knocked out the settings.

Early 1.6-litre engines had a steel gauze in the oil-filler tube. This can rust, allowing metal to fall into the engine, so remove the gauze if it’s still fitted. There’s a lot of sealed breather tubing, which can get sludged up and lead to erratic running. This can also be caused by air leaks or cheap ignition parts. Coolant and breather hoses aren’t very durable, while the radiator also tends to rot at the bottom.

Gearbox

All 205 CTis have a five-speed close-ratio gearbox, but not the same one throughout production. The first incarnation, the BE1, is fairly low geared, as it allows just 18.7mph per 1000rpm in top gear in the 1.6-litre. In the 1.9 it gives 20.9mph per 1000rpm, thanks to a higher final-drive ratio and larger-diameter wheels.

Gear linkages wear, so rebushing the change is worthwhile if it’s getting sloppy. An omnipresent knocking noise that sounds like a worn CV joint points to a differential with imminent bearing failure. If this isn’t fixed quickly, it will jam and split the gearbox casing.

Suspension and brakes

Clonks from the front emanate from worn wishbone bushes and bottom ball joints, or a tired anti-roll bar drop link. The top mounts also wear out. Cracks in the rear trailing arm bearings lead to creaks and a large bill, as it’s an involved fix. Rear-suspension mounting blocks also break, and dampers can seize.

Viewed from behind, the top of each rear wheel should lean in slightly – if it leans out, it’s been kerbed and will need a new stub axle.

All 205 CTis had alloy wheels as standard – 5.5Jx14 on 1.6-litre models and 6Jx15 on 1.9-litre cars. The two are interchangeable, but if a 1.6-litre model is fitted with wheels and tyres from a later car, the gearing will be raised slightly.

Strange noises from the front brakes on a 1.6 is probably because the wrong pads are fitted or the anti-rattle springs have been fitted incorrectly or not at all. Alternatively, the sliders on the calipers may have worn or a caliper piston may have seized. Replacing the discs and pads can make a huge difference, as these tend to get hard use.

Bodywork

Shunted and poorly repaired CTis are common. Pattern panels were often specified, but panel fit was never that great. Original panels have disappeared, and while some pattern parts are available, the fit and quality vary enormously.

Rust in the front wings suggests they’ve been replaced. There should be plenty of seam sealer between the front outer and inner wings. Insufficient seam sealer allows water and dirt to get into this joint and wreak havoc. Check the front-wing retaining bolts; if the paint on them is missing or damaged, they’ve been replaced. The leading edge of each door has an anti-chip sticker below the body moulding, which is normally missing if the door has been replaced or repainted.

The slam panel should be painted grey or black, and the two VIN plates should tally. On the inner wing is an aluminium plate with the car’s identity stamped on it. This should be the same as the number stamped onto the bodyshell at the base of the windscreen.

Meanwhile, the door bottoms corrode when their drain holes get blocked, while the base of the tailgate rusts if the glass has been poorly replaced. The lower edge of the tailgate rusts, and check the boot floor for corrosion and signs of ripples, indicating crash damage. Brake fluid also leaks from the master-cylinder reservoir onto the bodywork under the servo, and the metal can become holed, so use a torch to inspect here.

The drainholes for the factory-fitted sunroof get blocked and the surround can rust in the corners where water collects, so look for a water-stained headliner. Repairs aren’t easy, but things will be trickier if an aftermarket pop-up roof has been fitted. These tend to leak, and sourcing replacement parts is usually impossible.

Cabriolet doors have quarterlights but no frames, so are not interchangeable with hatchback ones. Rear wings are unique to the CTi, along with the bootlid. Any panels used only by the CTi are very hard to source, and when they do come up the prices can be eye-wateringly steep.

Interior

The sunroof can leak because of blocked drainholes, so make sure interior trim hasn’t been damaged by water ingress into the cabin. Interiors aren’t very hardwearing, but post-1988 models are more durable. Cloth trim was standard on 1.6-litre models, but 1.9 versions came with more durable half-leather seats; finding decent used trim isn’t easy. The CTi’s hood has a rear window that zips out and can be replaced.

The alternator drivebelt has to be very tight for the system to charge properly. Front foglamps are prone to stone damage and the reflectors corrode, but replacement is straightforward. The fuel-injection loom can suffer inconsistent connections, so check these if the engine runs erratically. The fuel-injection relay can also fail, leading to the fuel pump being permanently on or off.

History

  • 1984: The 205 GTi 1.6 arrives.
  • 1985: Rear seatbelts and side repeaters are added.
  • 1986: The 205 CTi convertible hits the streets in 1.6-litre form only.
  • 1987: The 205 GTi 1.9 is unleashed, while camshaft and cylinder-head revisions boost the 1.6’s power to 115bhp. All 205 GTis get a leather-trimmed steering wheel.
  • 1988: The dashboard is redesigned.
  • 1990: A catalytic converter becomes optional from January (standard from August 1992), reducing power to 122bhp. The range receives clear front indicator lenses, revised taillights and remote central locking in a September facelift. The Miami Blue and Sorrento Green special editions go on sale; 600 of each are made – 300 with each engine.
  • 1991: The 205 CTi gets a 1.9-litre engine with a standard catalytic converter. Air-conditioning and ABS become optional for the hatch. The 1.6 hatch is discontinued in August and the 1.9 in April 1994.
  • 1992: The special-edition Gentry arrives, based on the GTi 1.9; 408 are sold. Available with metallic green or gold paintwork, it features leather-trimmed seats and steering wheel, automatic transmission, 14-inch alloy wheels and an upgraded stereo.

AutoClassics says…

Don’t assume that you need a 1.9-litre GTi to have fun – if you’re on a budget, think about a CTi instead. These open-topped 205s fetch less than equivalent GTi models, and while the driving experience isn’t quite as sharp, it’s still superb. The CTi is also as much of a looker as its tin-top brother.

If possible try to find a car that’s as close to original as possible – especially if you’re buying with an eye on investment. If you don’t care about resale values, it’s worth opening your mind to a CTi that’s had some sympathetic upgrades such as the engine, gearbox and brakes from a 306 GTi-6. It’s a popular conversion and one not to be sniffed at, as the engine is usefully more powerful (167bhp), the gearbox has a great set of ratios and the brakes are stronger, too.

The key is to find a really good example and mollycoddle it – don’t get hung up on the recorded mileage.

Specifications

205 GTi 1.6 (1984-1986)
  Power 105bhp
  Top speed 116mph
  0-60mph 8.7sec
  Economy 31mpg

205 GTi 1.6 (1986-1992)
  Power 115bhp
  Top speed 122mph
  0-60mph 8.7sec
  Economy 30mpg

2205 GTi 1.9
  Power 130bhp
  Top speed 127mph
  0-60mph 7.8sec
  Economy 28mpg

Picture courtesy of MagicCarPics

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