Resulting from the absorption of the Talbot marque by Peugeot, the 309 was intended when it was launched to fill the gap between the lively 205 and the more family orientated 405. Project C28 was in progress at the time when the Talbot company was taken over by the much larger car maker, Peugeot, and it had already been given a name, the Talbot Arizona. Peugeot acquired the prototype of this small three-volume saloon car and, on the strength of the worldwide success of the extraordinary 205, in 1987 launched a high-performance version, the 309 GTI, using the same platform as the small Peugeot. It was immediately successful as it met the market demand for a model enabling four adults to travel in great comfort even with spirited driving, with enough boot space for their luggage. Even greater renown was achieved by the 16 valve 309 GTI, which was still more exclusive and much seen in Group N and Group A rallying.
This small saloon, which cost at the time more than a 205 GTI 1.9, was chosen by many rally drivers and its outstanding road-holding, facilitated by its wider track, was highly praised by contemporary testers. Often overlooked because it remained in the shadow of the 205 GTI, the 309 GTI 16 notably enabled Richard Burns to win the Lombard RAC Rallye in England in 1991.
The car in our sale is one of the first 8 valve 309 GTIs, as it was first registered in June 1987. Painted in Graphite grey, she has power steering and electric windows. The car underwent a full restoration in 2017 at the hands of a Peugeot fan who collects GTIs. The paintwork, the running gear, the engine and even the magnificent PTS wheels (a period accessory) are new. Bought after completion of the restoration by a major collector of French cars, she has only been used for leisure trips and meetings of ‘youngtimer’ cars.
A road test showed the car to be well sorted and in very good mechanical condition. With four new Koni shock absorbers fitted, the ride is firm but not uncomfortable. The rear end is skittish and the handling is even more precise and highly tuned than that of a 205 GTI 1.9.
Too often overshadowed by the 205, Peugeot’s star of that period, the 309 is a car well worth rediscovering. For a price which is still reasonable, this fabulous GTI is an invitation to explore the joys of small twisty roads, accompanied by the soundtrack of the XU9JA engine.