Half a century ago Peugeot launched a revolutionary car that changed the world of high quality small cars.
Today, front-wheel drive cars are something of the norm, but 50 years ago they were out of the ordinary. The Peugeot 204 was the car that changed everything on its release in Paris on 22nd April 1965.
From the outside the four-door saloon may have appeared to be just another Peugeot, but it had some truly innovative features. The 204 was the first Peugeot to be driven by the front wheels and have disk brakes at the front.
Arguably the most revolutionary feature of the 204, however, was its size. Since the end of World War 2, Peugeots had steadily increased in size and by the 1960s the brand was known as a large car maker. While the designs were chic and sophisticated, their prices put them out of reach of buyers with smaller budgets. The 204 saw Peugeot return to its basic principles that are still prevalent in the range today: stylish, high quality and fun to drive cars that are affordable.
The 204, less than 4m in length, is said to be one of the first examples of a 'small-medium' sized car. Peugeot's idea was to offer the space of a family car in a smaller package, something that later became a motoring phenomenon and can be seen in popular models today, like the 308.
Initially, the 204 was powered by a 1130cc petrol engine, but three years later a 1255cc diesel version was introduced to the range, which is believed to have been the smallest capacity diesel engine in a production car. Thanks to this, the 204 received many great reviews for its lively performance, positive and accurate steering and good fuel economy.
New body styles were later added to the range, including a two-door cabriolet, three door 'coupe', five-door estate and three-door van alongside the original four-door saloon.
Between 1969 and 1971 the 204 became the best-selling car in France, a title Peugeot had previously never held.