5 Great Peugeots America Missed in 25 years
This week marks twenty-five years since Peugeot announced it was leaving the U.S. It would be the last of France’s Big Three to officially leave our shores. It’s a little sad considering Peugeot was the company that gave us everything from interesting diesel wagons to Colombo’s ratty 403 convertible. But like that, it was gone a quarter century ago with barely a trace. There are occasional rumors that PSA Peugeot Citroen wants to return to the USA. Until something concrete is announced, let’s take a look a five interesting Peugeots we’ve missed as we observe the silver anniversary of their absence. 205 GTi (1984-1994)
This hot hatch was becoming an icon in Europe while Peugeot still officially had its doors open in the USA. The lightweight body, sports suspension, and razor sharp handling made plenty of American enthusiasts lust for the chance at one. Unfortunately the volatility of exchange rates and America’s aversion to hatchbacks meant Peugeot never sent it over here. There’s an argument that this could have been the vehicle to save Peugeot in North America, but it’s an answer we’ll never know.
The ultra-sleek coupe with the Zagato-style double-bubble roof. This is arguably the only time Peugeot’s moustache-like front bumper of the 308 ever really worked (it was later modified to look even better.) But more than just supercar-like styling, the RCZ was an interesting offering because it didn’t forget its economy car roots. The available engines were the 1.6-liter gas motor or the 2.0-liter diesel shared with the standard 308 hatchback. Of course the French did get a little wild and cranked up the turbocharger to 265 hp for the RCZ R special edition.
Just kidding! The USA dodged a bullet on this one. The sliding doors are meant to be helpful in tight spaces, but it just seems to come off as an economy car that wants to be a soccer mom when it grows up.
Don’t knock it until you tried it (and I did.) Solid, dependable, and easy to drive, there was nothing remarkable about the first-generation 3008. But if it were in the USA, it would give people who buy exceptionally bland crossovers like the Chevy Equinox and Toyota RAV4 an option with a little more French flair. There’s even a new one on the way that looks downright magnifique.
This is the reason why Peugeot could be welcomed back to the USA with open arms anytime it wants. We’d easily say “Bonjour” to a small car with the kind of fun European style that would appeal to those buying Minis and Fiat 500s without having to go all retro. Instead, everyone who looks at the broad, flat nose of the 208 will affectionately call their Peugeot a “Pug.” Oh yeah, and the GTi version isn’t bad either, with 200+ hp pumping out of the 1.6-liter turbo that’s shared with the previous generation Mini Cooper.
It would be nice to have Peugeot back on our shores selling cars, but it would be a tough uphill battle. They left 25 years ago because they weren’t getting traction as a competitor to Saab and Volvo. Everyone from Volkswagen to Hyundai now occupies what was once that sub-premium European territory. And Peugeot likely won’t have high volume to go lower in the market, or the premium products to reach higher in stature.
Instead, maybe some of the Peugeot magic could return to the USA on the back of someone who never left (just look at the Renault components in Nissans today.) Mitsubishi already has dipped its toe in PSA Peugeot Citroen, and their American dealerships have an Evo-sized hole that could fit a 208 GTi.