By the time the Peugeot 305 was released, Peugeot already had a long history and deserved reputation for building extremely strong and reliable cars, although there was always the odd exception, such as the tiny 104 ZS coupe, which lacked flair, but still managed to endear itself to anyone who bought it nonetheless.
During the mid to late 1970s, the motoring press speculated that a new Peugeot would soon arrive, in order to update the company's model lineup, in an attempt to make the Peugeot more internationally appealing. Since Peugeot had only recently discontinued their Peugeot 404 model, many people thought that the purpose of the new car was to fill the gap, previously occupied by the 404, between the Peugeot 304 and Peugeot 504 models.
With the introduction of the Peugeot 305 in 1977
the slightly angular look of the smaller Peugeots vanished; the 305 had, for the time, both a stylish and conventional look which, we are assured, became more attractive the longer you looked at it. It was designed by Pininfarina
, an all-steel monocoque affair which strongly resembled the BMW 3-Series of the time.
The design was based on Peugeot's 'VSS' prototype
safety vehicle, which Peugeot created to improve car safety. This meant that the car had front and rear crumple zones, side impact protection, a protected fuel tank and bolt-on front wings. Three bodystyles were available, consisting of a conventional three-box four door sedan, a five door station wagon, and a three door panel van.
More important to most Peugeot aficionados however was the 305's construction and performance. Output from the all-alloy 1290cc engine in the GL version was a good 65 bhp, and this makes it a little surprising that the 0-60 mph acceleration time was only 16.5 seconds - we have amotrized this amoung several car reviews however we remain sceptical.
Perhaps the less than impressive time was a result of Peugeot chasing an impressive top speed which could be maintained easily, rather than on blistering acceleration. What was not a surprise, however, was that the suspension
proved to be one of the highlights of the car. Shame that decades later they seemed to lose their way.
On the 305 Peugeot dispensed with their long held allegiance to torsion bar springing and opted for MacPherson struts all round. The result was still typically Peugeot (of the 1970's) - compliant, with a sufficiently long travel to cope with particularly bad road surfaces yet not too soft to spoil the pleasure of driving quickly. The way to appreciate just how good the system was, was to travel quickly over poor country roads; the 305 thrived on such treatment; it had no tendency to be thrown off line and it enabled the driver to make good use of the usual safe handling
of a front wheel drive
There were areas where the car was weak; too much noise was allowed through from the engine and transmission
, and the driver was always conscious of just how hard the engine was working. The 305 was affected by rough winds and side winds to an extent surprising even for a car designed in the mid 1970's, and the ride on highway type surfaces was adequate but not as impressive as its rougher-road ride. Also, on a car that was offering considerable performance in its class, it was a shame that there was no fifth gear provided. Peugeot, it is said, claimed a top speed of 93 miles per hour, but the test figures we researched suggest 90 as more realistic.
And as for its "class", its key competitors were the Ford Escort, Volkswagen Golf and the Opel Kadett/Vauxhall Astra, but it was actually quite a bit larger these. In fact, it was almost as large as the Ford Cortina, Opel Ascona/Vauxhall Cavalier and Fiat 132. Overall Peugeot succeeded in their aim of producing a very competitive and attractive successor to the 304, capable of making a real impact in the middle range of the sedan market.
Sales of the 305 were strong in France and most other countries where the car was sold, though Peugeot found its British sales volumes disappointing. The problem was eased in January 1986 when Peugeot launched the 309, a replacement for the Talbot Horizon which took some of the pressure off the larger 305.
The 305 won 1979 What Car? car of the year in the UK. Production of sedans ceased in 1988 following the launch of the slightly larger and more powerful Peugeot 405, which was a much stronger seller in the UK. Production of 305 wagons ceased in 1989 and vans a few years later. The diesel engine fitted to the phase 2 305 was capable of over 50mpg. The engine at the time was regarded as the best diesel around where most other engines notably those from VW and British Leyland sounded agricultural in comparison.
Peugeot introduced a hot version of the 305, designated 'S', a deluxe model with enhanced performance and notable fuel economy using the 1472 cm3 ohc light-alloy (transverse) four-cylinder engine, but with twin-choke Solex 32/35 TACIC carburettors. The motor also had venturi-type inlet ports, larger inlet and exhaust valves
, new exhaust manifold, electronic ignition, automatic choke and bigger radiator
. The result of all these engine
modifications was a substantial 20.3% more power (66.36 kW at 6000 rpm), 8.2% extra torque (123.37 Nm at 3000 rpm).
To enhance handling (in line with the higher performance) the rear anti-roll bar
diameter was increased from 17 to 18 mm, and low profile 165/70SR 14 tubeless radial tyres
were fitted. The attractive spoke wheels were steel, not light-alloy. Maximum speed of the 305S was a little disappointing at 162 km/h, but 0-100 km/h acceleration at 12.1 seconds was good for a 1.5 litre 4/5-seater saloon. Under the three fuel consumption headings (90, 120 and Urban) the respective official figures were 6.49; 8.61; and 9.38 litres/100 km. So, the overall average was about 7.96 litres/100 km which was excellent. Standard fitments included central locking, steel sun-roof, electric front windows, tinted glass all-round. In the UK the new models cost £5495 pounds 37p (about A$11,540).
Peugeot 305 Quick Specifications
Front transverse, in-line, four cylinder. 78mm (3.07in) bore x 67.5mm (2.66in) stroke - 1290cc (78.7 cu in). Maximum power (DIN) 65bhp at 6000 rpm; maximum torque (DIN) 70lb ft at 3750rpm; light alloy cylinder block and head. Compression ratio 8.8:1.5 main bearings. 2 valves
per cylinder operated by single overhead camshaft. Solex downdraught carburettor.
Single dry plate clutch and four-speed manual gearbox. Ratios 1st 3.650., 2nd 2.217, 3rd 1.451, 4th 0..986, rev 3.952. Helical spur final drive, ratio 4.0.65:1.
Independent by MacPherson struts front and rear.
Rack and pinion.
Discs front drums rear. Wheels 4.5in x 13in. Tyres 165SR x 13.
4 door, 4 seats. Integral.
Dimensions and weight:
Wheelbase 10.3.15 in; track -front 53.94 in, rear-51.97 in; length 166.93 in; width 64.17 in; height 55. 12 in; ground clearance 4.96 in; weight 2040lb; turning circle.35.4ft; fuel tank capacity 9.5 gal.
Maximum speed 91 mph; acceleration 0-60. mph 16.5 secs; fuel consumption approx. 31 mpg.