The first 2-Series model was technically released in 1930, but the 201 and later 203 and 204 models have little in common with the much smaller models that began production in 1987 with the 205 GTi model. These newer models have a distinct lineage right up until the present Peugeot 208 that was released in 2012. Indeed, all 2-Series models from the 205 onwards are part of the supermini class, with each successive model replacing its predecessor in the same small car end of the market.
From 1987 onwards, the 2-Series has been available as a three-door hatchback up until the release of the 208, which is only available as a five-door hatchback. Whereas, the three-door was originally the only option, five-door variants have been available since the belated release of the 206 in 1999. The 206 was also made available as a two-door convertible and by 2007, the 207 had broken the small-car mould with the release of a larger wagon variant.
In terms of appearance, the 2-Series has changed from the straighter, boxy lines of the 205 to ever sleeker, rounder lines with the release of each successive model. Other changes include a greater number of safety features, an increasingly larger standard kit, and a greater level of room for both occupants and storage.
What the different 2-Series models have in common is the fun go-kart handling and impressive performance, with a styling that – although different from model to model – remains refined yet cute.
Upon its introduction to the market, the 205 was given an 8-valve 1.9L single overhead camshaft fuel-injection engine that had a power rating of only 75kW and a torque of 142Nm. These figures are somewhat lacklustre due to the fact that the imported cars were given a lower than usual compression ratio, along with a somewhat makeshift cylinder head and porting in order to pass emissions tests that were in force here in the late 1980s.
Despite the fact that output could be perceived as a disappointment, these models were still equipped with go-kart style handling and smooth 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic gearboxes that made them fun to drive. Any criticisms regarding a lack of power were dispelled by the release of the 205 Series III in April 1991, which came equipped with a 90kW and 152Nm engine, finally matching power with handling.
Improvements continued with the release of the 2.0L equipped 206 in 2001, a notably large engine for a car of its size and weight. The 206 is available in a number of different formats, most of which have power outputs of either 100kW or 102kW, although the GTi180 – released in 2003 – pushes out a more determined 134kW. The 2007 207 GTi has less output at 128kW, but significantly more torque at 240Nm.
Both the 207 and 208 models faced some criticism in reviews, with most making reference to somewhat temperamental gearboxes and the distant and somewhat vague feel when driving the cars, with a Top Gear review comparing the experience of controlling a 208 to ‘steering a remote control car.’ However, both the 207 and 208 models have tested to be pleasantly neutral and precise in terms of handling, due in part to the sporty steering wheels they share.
Standard kit in the original 205 GTi model is impressive. In 1987, the 205 boasted air-conditioning, 14x6-inch alloy wheels, central locking, fog lamps, power windows, a radio cassette stereo equipped with 4 speakers, and a leather steering wheel as standard. Power steering was added to the standard kit in 1991.
The 206 model added an engine immobiliser, 15-inch alloy wheels, climate control, a driver’s airbag, and a CD player, whereas GTi models added ABS as standard.
The 207 and the 208 both have five-star ratings from ANCAP, due to the inclusion of 6 airbags, two front seat and side airbags, a load-limiter, and height adjustable pretensioning seatbelts. In addition, rear park assist, ABS, and tyre pressure sensors also come as standard in these models.
Throughout their lifespan, the latter 2-Series models (small cars produced from 1987 to the present) have seen competition from the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo and later from the Nissan Micra. While older 205 models certainly trump the contemporary Ford Fiesta in terms of style, handling, and performance, the VW Polo has consistently been a leader in this class. Arguably, later 207 and 208 models do not match the contemporary Fiesta or Polo in terms of either handling or performance. That being said, 2-Series models of all ages continue to be fun to drive, have excellent handling and decent fuel economy, and remain both visually appealing and practical.