The Peugeot 309 GTI – Why it outclassed its more famous brother


Back in the 1990s, the 205 GTI got all the plaudits, but here’s why the 309 GTI was the superior car…

If you apply the successful siblings’ theory to a pair of classic French hot hatches – then the Peugeot 205 GTI (1.9-litre of course) would be Michael Schumacher in his pomp, and its less successful brother, the 309 GTI would sadly be Ralf Schumacher. In other words, less famous and living in a considerable shadow.

Despite this controversial comparison, I’m afraid I have to disagree. As I owned both of these cars in the 1990s and the 309 GTI usurped its more famous brother in almost every single way.

All about the driving

Firstly, the 309 GTi was also only available with the 128bhp 1.9-litre four-cylinder engine, as in full fat only with no diet 1.6-litre version in the model line-up.

Also, the boffins at Peugeot managed to bring it in at a svelte 930kg kerbweight – 20kg more than its smaller brother despite the size difference with a 0-60mph time of 8.0 seconds – only 0.2 seconds or a numberplate shy of its sibling. The additional size also gave it a wider track making high-speed cornering sharper and more precise.

This handling prowess was also thanks to a slight rework of the suspension and a power steering setup that improved driving dynamics making it an easy car to drive fast. Which as it was the 1990s, I consistently did on a daily basis.

Far more handsome… And practical

Now here is where I either make you angry or nod in agreement – I prefer the way the 309 GTI looks when compared to its brother. It had all that essence of a 1990s hot hatch, oozing with French cool and flair.

The design looked a far more muscular than its sibling, with the two-tone black plastic and painted bodywork design suiting it perfectly in hotted up GTI spec. At the front, it sported a slightly unnecessary quadruple array of fog lights instantly setting it apart from the 205 GTI.

One of the best things was that you could drive it at a million miles an hour with actual people with legs in the back and many things in the boot. You could even buy one with five doors, making it a little ahead of its time as almost all modern hot hatches now feature the same door count.

Because rarity is king

Back in the day, if you turned up in a 309 GTI at an event you were highly likely be the only one. As it was outsold by its smaller brother at a massive five to one ratio. Also, when you get down to how many are still alive in 2018 things get even more one-sided.

Feel free to guess how many are still kicking around? Well, if you guessed very few at all, you’d be on the money.

In 2018 a little over a hundred cars are still being driven, with around three hundred being SORN’ed. The 205 GTI, by comparison, boasts almost fifteen times more examples being driven with a little over five thousand examples not seeing any tarmac action at all.

All of which makes me a bit sad there are so few left. As having owned both, the 309 GTI was as quick as its more famous sibling making for a better drive and superior all-around car.

Back in my youth, I sold my 205 GTI to swap into a 50k mile one-owner 309 GTI – and I loved it. To this day, it is the one car I regret selling as it was just brilliant in every single way.

Now, if only I could figure out time-travel, and go back to warn my younger self not to make the considerable mistake of selling it.