The 309 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, also being built in several guises for the American market.
In 1985, the PSA Group decided to discontinue the Talbot brand, with the last Talbot passenger vehicle being the Samba, and market the Arizona as a Peugeot 309 instead.
The Talbot brand was phased out completely when Talbot Express production stopped in the early 1990s.
Production in France began in late summer of 1985, with the first French customers getting their cars in October of that year, but it was decided that right-hand drive models would be built at the Ryton plant near Coventry, England, 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 at the beginning of the following year. The 309 was not intended to replace Peugeot's own 305 model, but the out of step model number – the next small family car after the 305 should have been named "306" – was intended to distance it from the 305 in the marketplace and to reflect the car's Simca origins.
The 309's slightly awkward styling (especially when compared with the 205 and 405 of the same era) is due to the decision to re-use the door shells from the 205. The 309 was also supposed to be differentiated from Peugeot as a Talbot, and was designed "in-house". Other Peugeot cars were designed by the famed Italian design house Pininfarina, up until the introduction of the 206. The notched-hatchback design bears an unintentional similarity to the Dodge Shadow and Plymouth Sundance, which were also developed, entirely separately, to replace the Horizon in North America.
The initial engine line-up in the United Kingdom market consisted of the chain-driven Simca-derived 1118 cc (E1A) and 1294 cc (G1A) overhead valve petrol units from the Horizon, and Peugeot-provided 1769/1905 cc diesel and 1580/1905 cc petrol belt-driven overhead camshaft XU units. Some markets also used the 1442 cc (Y2) and 1592 cc (J2) Simca units, as seen previously in the Simca 1307 and Solara as well as the Horizon, instead of the 1580 cc OHC.
The XU 1905 cc 130BHP engine was used in the very 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 a better balanced chassis set-up than the, already excellent handling, Peugeot 205 GTI and very quick acceleration.
The 309 was also significant in that it was the first Peugeot car to be assembled in the former Rootes factory in Ryton-on-Dunsmore, which Peugeot had inherited from Chrysler Europe in 1978. Largely due to its British origins, the 309 became a popular choice in the United Kingdom, and set the scene for future Ryton-assembled Peugeot models (the 405, 306 and 206).
A mild facelift in October 1989 revised the design of the rear, lowering the boot lip and changing the rear lights, as well as providing an updated interior to address severe criticisms levelled at the 309's multi-piece dashboard which was prone for developing squeaks and rattles. Also, in 1990, 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. In 1991 Peugeot gradually phased in their all-new belt-driven TU-series overhead camshaft engines, in 1,124 cc and 1,360 cc forms, eventually replacing the trusty Simca units during 1992.
The GTi 16 model, featuring the XU9J4 engine (with 160 PS/118 kW; 158 hp in uncatalyzed form), was also introduced with this facelift (see trim levels below).
End of lifecycle
The 309 was eventually replaced by the Peugeot 306, returning Peugeot to their normal numbering scheme. The 306 was in turn superseded by the 307 in 2001, with the 308 launched in 2007.
- XE, GE: 1118cc E1A or 1294cc G1A OHV Simca engine, X with three doors and G with five doors. The 1118 cc engine came with a four speed gearbox, whilst the 1294 cc came with a five speed gearbox. Standard equipment was sparse, featuring a rear bench seat, heated rear window, small wheel centre wheel covers, as well as a flick wipe facility. Options included a rear wash/wipe, side bump strips on the doors, and a pop up sunroof. Many special editions were based on the X/GE, such as the Sport model, which came with a spoiler and side decals; and also the Sunseeker model, which came with a pop up sunroof, and side decals. In some markets a diesel E model was also available, using the 1905 cc XUD engine. All diesel models carry the D suffix on the model badge (XLD, GLD). The Special Equipment model available in the UK in 1989 also added a pop up sunroof and a rear wash/wipe to the standard equipment list. The E designation was replaced by the Style designation, which began as a special edition in 1987, but became a part of the range from 1988, to denote the base model, in line with other contemporary Peugeot models of the time (e.g. the Peugeot 205 Style and the Peugeot 405 Style). The Style was also available with the 1124 cc and 1360 cc TU and 1905 cc XUD (Style D) engines, all with 5 speed gearboxes, after the Simca units were phased out.
- XL, GL: 1294cc G1A, 1580cc XU5, and 1905cc XUD engines (with D suffix), all with 5 speed gearboxes, X with three doors and G with 5. The L model was available throughout the 309's production, varying differently from early to late cars. The early cars came with some standard features, such as better seat coverings than the E model, a clock on the dashboard, door bump strips, intermittent wipe, a glovebox door (as opposed to the X/GE's glovebox hole), 50/50 split/fold rear seats, full size wheel covers and a rear wash/wipe. A three speed automatic option was available with the XU5 engined GL. Later in the production run, the XL model was dropped, and a 1769 cc XUD turbo diesel engine was added to the L range, to become GLDTurbo, which featured alloy wheels (from the Peugeot 205 1.6GTI), uprated GTI specification suspension, and a pair of front fog lights. Options on this also included central locking, electric front windows and the Peugeot vacuum operated moonroof, essentially a large glass sliding sunroof.
- GLX: 1294cc G1A, 1360cc TU3, and 1580cc XU5 engines, all with 5 speed gearboxes and all with 5-doors. Standard equipment includes a digital clock, a tachometer, a sliding glass moonroof, sports style seats (similar to those fitted to the 205 XS), rear wash/wipe, door bump strips, intermittent wipe, and a small boot spoiler. The 1.6 model also added central locking and front electric windows to the list. Post facelift 1.3 models and the 1.4 model also have central locking. Curiously, if the GLX was ordered in white, and later burgundy red, the bumpers were body coloured, with a contrasting trim strip, red with the white bumpers and silver with the burgundy ones. After the facelift the bumpers also gained a pair of fog lights. A reflective strip panel was also on the options list, that replaced the louvred panel that sits between the rear lights.
- GR Profile: 1294cc G1A, five doors. Intended as competition to such cars as the Austin Maestro HLE, the GR Profile used exactly the same G1A engine as the lower models in the range, but combined it with subtle aerodynamic improvements and lower rolling resistance tyres to reduce the drag coefficient of the car, with the brochure claiming a fuel economy improvement of 3 miles per gallon at a constant 75 mph (121 km/h). The standard equipment list included an instrument lighting rheostat, a digital clock, an engine compartment undershield, a glovebox lamp, a carpeted boot and a boot light. Options included metallic paint, central locking, electric windows, and central locking. Was discontinued sometime in 1988, at about the time of the introduction of the GLX.
- XR, GR: 1580cc XU5, and 1905cc XUD engines, XR three door, GR five door. Much the same as the GR Profile in specification, with much the same standard features, and options. Was available later with the 115 PS (85 kW; 113 bhp) fuel injected XU5 engine, and also a detuned 90 PS (66 kW; 89 bhp) version, badged GRi, to address the problems Peugeot had with the XU engine and 95 octane fuels. Later in the run, a 1769 cc XUD turbo diesel model was also added, to become the GRDTurbo. This came with all the features as the GLDTurbo, and also added the features on the options list as standard. The XR was unavailable in the United Kingdom.
- SR, SRD, SR Injection: 1580cc XU5, and 1905cc XUD engines, all with five doors. The SR model was intended to top the range, along with the GR, to provide sporty sophistication. The SR used the 80 PS (59 kW; 79 bhp) tune single carb XU5, the SRD used the 65 PS (48 kW; 64 bhp) XUD9, and the SR Injecton used the 115 PS (85 kW; 113 bhp) XU5 from the 205GTI 1.6. Equipment levels as standard were much the same as the GR, with the addition of central locking, internally adjustable headlights, a map reading light, electric windows in the front, and Windsor seat trim. The SR Injection, in addition, added alloy wheels, remote controlled central locking, and remote controlled heated door mirrors. The options list included metallic/black paint, front fog lights, a sliding glass sunroof, an automatic gearbox (SR only), and SR decals on the rear flanks. Discontinued at about the time of the October '89 facelift.
- XS and SX: 1580cc XU5, three door version was designated XS and the five door version SX. Marketed as a sporty model, to complement the GTI, with the 115 bhp (86 kW; 117 PS) XU5 injection engine. Was a little more basic than the SR models, to enchance the sporty feel, and made do without such things as luxury seats, instead having sports seats from the 205XS. It also came with opening rear windows (3-door), a digital clock, a black spoiler (painted spoiler from the GTI after the face-lift), driving lamps and a load area lamp. Options included alloy wheels, central locking/electric windows (only available as a twinned options pack), a sliding glass sunroof and front fog lights. The SX model was not available in the United Kingdom.
- GTI: 1905cc XU9, three and five door. Arguably the top of the range, fitted with the 1905 cc XU9 engine, producing 130 PS (96 kW; 128 bhp), later detuned at around the time of the facelift to 122 PS (90 kW; 120 bhp) to conform with 95 octane unleaded and emissions regulations. The GTI came with some features unique to the range, such as the large black boot spoiler, driving lights and fog lights in the front bumper, remote opening rear windows (three door only), and the Speedline 1.9GTI alloys, the first car to be fitted with them. Also benefitted from uprated suspension, tinted glass, a deep front airdam, a leather steering wheel and internally adjustable headlights. Items on the options list included central locking/electric windows (as part of a twinned options pack), a sliding glass sunroof, and metallic/black paint.
The GTI was introduced a little later than the range launched, in 1987, but ended up continuing to the end of production. In 1992 a London dealership ended up with a batch of 309GTi and 205GTi models to clear direct from Peugeot France which were destined for Japan but were cancelled. They are unique in being GTI specification with a detuned 115 PS (85 kW; 113 bhp) XU9 engine coupled with the ZF 4 Speed automatic gearbox and air conditioning. The Peugeot 309 GTI is still widely regarded by many enthusiasts as one of the all time greatest 'Hot Hatches'.
- GTI16, A late addition to the range and only produced for a limited period. It featured the PSA XU engine XU9J4 160 PS (118 kW; 158 bhp) 16V 1.9 engine from the 405 Mi16/Citroën BX 16V. It also included slightly uprated suspension (stiffer rear torsion bars, and wider track-width both front and rear). The GTI16 was produced in LHD only, due to clearance issues with the master cylinder in RHD cars. The very high power-to-weight ratio (160PS / 975 kg) resulted in a highly responsive drive, even by modern standards.
Other notable models included the Zest/Zest D and the Trio/Trio D, with 1124/1360cc TU engines and 1905cc XUD engines, with unique seat fabric and green seatbelts. The 'Look', available only in blue and white and fitted with unique seat fabric with a sunroof.
The Goodwood, Limited Edition was a GTI with full black leather interior as standard, and no-cost optional wooden steering wheel, gearknob and CD-Autochanger. The model was only available in limited numbers for the UK market (only 394 vehicles were constructed) in metallic pinewood green with anthracite Speedline alloy wheels, with metal lip on outer rim and badging depicting the Goodwood racing circuit on the front wings, tailgate and steering wheel boss.
There was also a Roland Garros special edition with a White leather interior and metallic green paintwork, this model was only made in the Ryton factory.
A known defect on the pre-facelift models was rainwater leaking into the rear of the car via the tail lights, resulting in puddles of water sitting under the rear seats which ultimately could rust out the vehicle around the rear suspension mounting points, as well as rotting the rear seat itself. Modification kits to resolve this were available for a time; some owners resorted to the use of liberal applications of silicone sealant. On pre-facelift models the boot hinge bolted directly to the glass. On these models, the wiring for the rear window wiper relied on the boot gas struts to have electrical connections to complete the circuit: struts with the necessary connections are now difficult to get hold of, leading to many earlier 309s having non-functioning rear windscreen wipers (and the wiring connecting to the struts also breaks). With the facelifted model the rear window was reinforced with steel around the edges and at the same time the heating element changed to a more traditional design. Better designed seals ensured no leakages made their way into the bootwell.