Welcome to Old School vs New School, the series where we pick out the cars from the good old days, and pair them with their spiritual successors. Last week we pitted the MK3 VW Golf VR6 takes on the Mk7 VW Golf R. This week it’s the Peugeot 205 GTi 1.9 vs Peugeot 208 GTi

Cast your mind back to the modifying scene of the late-1980s and the go-go nineties. Was it all TSW Venoms, asymmetric Delta bodykits and badly smoothed tailgates with number plates cabletied back on to please the rozzers? It’s easy to be cynical, but the bare bones of what we used to do in those days were pretty similar to what we’re up to today.

Sure, back then it was all about outrageous bodykits, big rims, neon lights, and massive audio installs… but doesn’t that sound familiar? Yep, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Of course, there are some things that were massively popular which have since totally gone out of fashion – everyone used to rock Lexus lights, headlights swaps from random different cars were popular, every other Saxo had four 6-inch exhausts… but a lot of the things that went out of fashion have come back around.

Like what? Well, three-spoke wheels, big aluminium spoilers, wide-arch kits – the difference is that people are focusing more on quality. It’s all in the details, from your obsessively smoothed engine bay to your impeccably retrimmed interior, and there’s a lot more awareness of rare parts; if you spend a year tracking down an obscure OEM+ spoiler that was only available in Austria for six months in 1994, the chances are that people will recognise it when you roll into a show.

The internet has broadened everyone’s horizons, and it’s also inspired a oneupmanship that keeps so many builds truly world-class. The days of building something over the winter and debuting it at a springtime show are largely over, as people are documenting their builds on Instagram, everyone’s open and aware, and it’s all about being the person who’s using the most original ideas to win the most peer approval.

With all that being said, some things really don’t change. At the heart of the tuning scene, now as it was then, we all want to run a car that goes fast, looks cool, and makes rowdy noises. The technology’s moved on, and the bar of quality gets raised time and time again, but we’re fundamentally still doing what we’ve always done. Long may it continue.

That’s enough of the chat, let battle commence!


It’s amazing that 205 GTIs are commanding such silly money these days, as back in the 1980s and ’90s these things were everywhere – proper affordable pocket-rocket lunacy. We’ve had quite a few of them ourselves over the years.

OK, 130bhp may not sound a huge amount in a modern context, but you have to remember that the 205 weighed about as much as a packet of fags and a pint of mild. It also had a magical chassis that liked to cock a rear wheel through the corners, a lovely little gearbox, and – most importantly of all – red carpets.

Because it was the eighties, and stuff needed to be red back then. Back when Fast Car was starting out, everyone had these, it was the benchmark that all modded hot hatches were built to.

Oh, and don’t be put off by all the low-mileage concours GTIs that are going through the auction houses for £40k+ these days – it is still just about possible to buy a decent runner for around £5k. If you’re quick.


Performance: 130bhp, 0-62mph – 7.6s
Top mods: Mi16 conversion, Peter Lloyd exhaust, Bilstein adjustables, 306 GTI-6 brakes, rollcage, Cobra buckets.
Price then: £9,495 (in 1987; equivalent 2018 price adjusted for inflation: £25,391)
Price now: £5,000+


Peugeot used to rule the hot hatch roost, but that’s not really been true in recent years. The 206 GTI was a bit wishy-washy when it came out (although the firm responded to criticisms and re-released it with quite a lot more power as the GTI 180, which helped a bit), and the 207 GTI was downright disappointing.

But thankfully the 208 GTI has done a lot to rekindle the magic of the 1980s classic – sure, it could never replicate the super-lightweight thrills of the 205, as modern cars have to have airbags and crumple-zones and stuff, but it’s a perky little thing with great handling and a well-judged amount of performance.

Early used ones have dipped well below £10k now and the tuning potential is huge.

If you had a 205 GTI back in the day, and now you’ve grown up and raised a family and don’t fancy ferrying your nippers about in something that would immediately dissolve in an accident, the 208 is the modern equivalent. It’s got a turbo and an LSD too. The 205 certainly didn’t have that!


Performance: 197bhp, 0-62mph – 6.5s
Top mods: Forge BOV and recirc valve, Scorpion exhaust, Airtec
intercooler, BC Racing coilovers, T16 bodykit
Price: £19,334

What would you choose?

Words Dan Bevis