AssemblyFrance: Poissy

Spain: Valladolid

United Kingdom: Ryton-on-Dunsmore

India: Kalyan (Premier)

Body and chassis
ClassSmall family car (C)
Body style3/5-door hatchback
LayoutFF layout
RelatedPeugeot 205
Transmission4-speed manual

5-speed manual

3-speed automatic

4-speed ZF 4HP14 automatic

Wheelbase2,470 mm (97 in)
Length4,050 mm (159 in)
Width1,630 mm (64 in)
Height1,380 mm (54 in)

The Peugeot 309 is a small family car that was manufactured between 1985 and 1994 in England, Spain and France.  It was originally intended to be badged as a Talbot and, as development progressed, to be called the Talbot Arizona.  It was the replacement for the Talbot Horizon, which had started life as a Chrysler in Britain and a Simca in France, and was also being built in several guises for the market in America.  In 1985, the PSA Group decided to discontinue the Talbot brand, with the last passenger vehicle branded as a Talbot to be launched being the Samba of 1981, and to market the car as a Peugeot instead.

The 309 had been conceived as Projet C28 as a replacement for the Talbot Horizon, and as a result its development had been performed by the former Chrysler/Simca wing of PSA.  Styling was the responsibility of the former Chrysler-Rootes design studios in Coventry, whilst much of the engineering was done at the Simca site at Poissy in France.  The only stipulation from PSA management was that the new car had to use as much existing architecture as possible; hence the use of a stretched Peugeot 205 floor pan and door shells, whilst the Simca engines and transmissions from the Horizon were also carried over.

Production in France began at the former Simca plant in Poissy in the end of summer 1985, with the first French customers getting their cars in October of that year; but it was decided that RHD models would be built at the Ryton plant near Coventry, which had previously been owned by the Rootes Group and then Chrysler Europe before Peugeot took it over in 1978.  The first 309 for the British market rolled off the production line at Ryton in October 1985, and sales began the beginning of 1986, although left-hand drive sales of the Poissy built models began in France before the end of 1985.

The 309 was not intended to replace Peugeot’s own model, the 305, but the out of step model number (the next small family car after the 305 should have been named “306” which eventually launched in 1993) was intended to distance it from the larger 305 in the marketplace and to reflect the car’s Simca origins.  It was also the first Peugeot badged hatchback of this size.

With the Talbot brand being phased out on passenger cars, the 309 would succeed the Talbot Horizon.  Peugeot had been considering a new Talbot Samba based on the forthcoming Citroën AX supermini, but the success of the Peugeot 205 meant that there was little need for a third supermini within the PSA combine, and so the Samba was discontinued in 1986 with no replacement.  The larger Alpine hatchback and Solara saloons were also axed in 1986, a year before Peugeot began production of the similar sized 405, successor to the 305.

The 309’s slightly awkward styling (especially when compared with the 205 and 405 of the same era) was due to the decision to reuse the door shells from the 205.  The 309 was also supposed to be differentiated from Peugeot as a Talbot, and was designed “inhouse”.  Other Peugeot cars were designed by the famed Italian design house Pininfarina, up until the introduction of the 206 in 1998.  The notched hatchback design bears an unintentional similarity to the Dodge Shadow and Plymouth Sundance, which were also developed, entirely separately and cut down from a larger (Chrysler K-Car) platform rather than stretched from a smaller one, to replace the Horizon in North America.

The initial engine line up in the United Kingdom market consisted of the chain driven Simca derived 1118cc (E1A) and 1294cc (G1A) overhead valve petrol units from the Horizon, and Peugeot provided 1769/1905cc diesel and 1580/1905cc petrol belt driven overhead camshaft XU units.  Some markets also used the 1442cc (Y2) and 1592cc (J2) “Poissy engine”, as seen previously in the Simca 1307 and Solara as well as the Horizon, instead of the 1580cc OHC.  The XU 1905cc 130BHP engine was used in the highly regarded high performance GTI version of the 309 in fuel injection form; this quickly established itself as the class leading hot hatch of its time, thanks to very quick acceleration and a better balanced chassis set-up than the already-excellent handling Peugeot 205 GTI.

Largely due to its partially British origins, the Peugeot 309 became a popular choice in the United Kingdom, and in 1987, it was joined on the production line by the larger 405.  The 309’s successor, the 306, was also built at Ryton, as was the 206, which was the last vehicle in production there when the plant closed in December 2006.

Facelift (Phase 2)

The summer of 1989 saw the introduction of the Phase 2 Peugeot 309.  It revised the design of the rear, lowering the boot lip, changing the rear lights to a more ‘smoked style’ and making slight alterations to the front radiator grille.  Also, an updated interior was required to address severe criticisms levelled at the Phase 1’s, Talbot designed multi piece dashboard which was prone to developing squeaks and rattles.  The GTi models received a colour coded one piece rear spoiler as opposed to the Phase 1’s outdated rubber spoiler which, by then, harked back to early 1980s design.

Quite importantly a modified gearbox called ‘BE3’ was introduced, a revision of the original ‘BE1’ unit, placing reverse in the “down and to the right” position behind fifth gear, as opposed to the earlier “up and to the left” position next to first gear.  Retrospectively, the ‘BE3’ gearboxes are slightly less prone to failure than their earlier counterparts.  This was also when Peugeot gradually phased in their, all new, belt driven TU Series overhead camshaft engines, in 1,124cc and 1,360cc forms, eventually replacing the trusty Simca units during 1992.  The GTi 16 model, featuring the XU9J4 engine from the 405 Mi16, was also introduced at this time; however, these were only sold in mainland Europe.

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