Short, Sharpish, Chopped: The Peugeot 104 Coupe

While pointing to a direct successor to the original Honda CRX coupe is a tricky thing, the CRX did have an antecedent of sorts, built not in Japan, but in France: the Peugeot 104 coupe.


Launched in France in 1972 and the U.K. in 1973, the Peugeot 104 was another entry in the burgeoning “supermini” class typified by the Autobianchi A112 and Fiat 127, Renault 5, and later the Honda Civic and Ford Fiesta. Designed by Paolo Martin, then of Pininfarina, the 104 was a straightforward interpretation of the theme established by the BMC Mini and 1100/1300. Like the BMC cars, the 104 had front-wheel drive with a transverse front engine whose four-speed gearbox was combined with the engine sump. The main novelty was that the engine was tilted almost 72 degrees toward the firewall, allowing the spare to be stowed up front, atop the engine.

Peugeot 104SL five-door front 3q © 2009 Joost J. Bakker (CC BY 2.0 Generic - modified by Aaron Severson)

The Peugeot 104 was offered in a variety of models and trim levels. This is a 104SL five-door, which had the 1,124 cc (69 cu. in.) engine, rated at 57 PS DIN (41 kW) and 59 lb-ft (80 N-m) of torque, along with somewhat better trim and 145SR13 tires on 4.5×13 wheels. (Photo: “Peugeot 104 SL” © 2009 Joost J. Bakker; resized and modified 2014 by Aaron Severson and used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license with modifications offered under the same license)

Originally, the Peugeot 104’s sole engine was an all-aluminum SOHC four producing a modest 46 PS DIN (34 kW) from 954 cc (58 cu. in.). With a manufacturer curb weight of only 1,680 lb (760 kg), that was enough for adequate if uninspiring performance and a claimed top speed of 84 mph (135 km/h). A bigger 1,124 cc (69 cu. in.) engine became available in 1976, later supplemented by 1,219 cc (74 cu. in.) and 1,360 cc (83 cu. in.) versions.

The 104 was a very compact car — in its original incarnation it was only 140.9 inches (3,580 mm) long and 59.9 inches (1,522 mm) wide sans mirrors — but it had a comparatively lengthy 95.3-inch (2,420mm) wheelbase, which combined with long suspension travel and relatively soft springs to provide a comfortable ride. (The suspension itself used coil springs all around with MacPherson struts and an anti-roll bar in front and independent trailing arms in back.) As with the Renault 5 or later Citroën Visa, the 104 would lean precipitously in turns, but it had surprisingly good grip and was seldom untidy.

Oddly, despite their two-box profile, early 104s were all four-doors rather than hatchbacks, although the rear seat did still fold for additional cargo space. Nonetheless, the 104 was one of the roomier cars in its class, although the interior trim was far from luxurious. Around 1975, Peugeot considered notchback sedan and break (station wagon) versions, but neither made production.

Peugeot 104SL five-door rear 3q © 2009 Joost J. Bakker (CC BY 2.0 Generic - modified by Aaron Severson)

In SL trim, the Peugeot 104 five-door was 142.4 inches (3,616 mm) long on a 95.3-inch (2,420mm) wheelbase with a factory curb weight of around 1,765 lb (800 kg). Although the hatchback offers an extremely low liftover height, the utility of the trunk is limited by the narrowness of the body (overall width is only 59.9 inches/1,522 mm) and the intrusion of the rear shock towers, which may have been the reason Peugeot originally opted not to offer a five-door version. Both problems were addressed by the later 205, which was wider and had a less intrusive rear suspension. (Photo: “Peugeot 104 SL (1)” © 2009 Joost J. Bakker; resized and modified 2014 by Aaron Severson and used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license with modifications offered under the same license)


Although a five-door 104 didn’t arrive until 1976, in late 1973 the sedan was joined by a new three-door 104 coupe. To create the coupe, Peugeot trimmed 3.5 inches (90 mm) from the 104’s wheelbase and an additional 7.5 inches (190 mm) from the tail for a result that the inimitable LJK Setright later likened to a five-door that had backed into a wall. Inevitably, the surgery took its toll on interior room; while the 104 coupe was still officially listed as a four-seater, adults crammed into the truncated rear seat might have begged to differ.

Offering the same engines as the four- and later five-door models, the 104 coupe wasn’t necessarily a sporty car, although the top 104ZS coupe rode about 0.6 inches lower (15 mm) and had a rear anti-roll bar, a sport steering wheel, a tachometer, and alloy wheels. On the other hand, the same features were also available on the S five-door, so the coupe’s advantages were limited to a smaller polar moment of inertia (thanks to the shorter wheelbase), a slight weight advantage (on the order of 45 lb/20 kg), and the peculiar bobtailed styling.

Peugeot 104 coupe front 3q © 2013 Matthias v.d. Elbe (CC BY 3.0 Unported - modified by Aaron Severson)

The original Peugeot 104 coupe was only 130 inches (3,300 mm) long on a 87.8-inch (2,230mm) wheelbase; 1979 and later coupes were listed at 132.5 inches (3,367 mm) overall. This one has no model identification, but based on its skinny tires and lack of headrests, we’re guessing it’s a base 104ZL, which had the 954 cc (58 cu. in.) engine and 135SR13 tires on 4×13 wheels. The 104ZS had wider 165/70SR13 tires, which required a peculiar compromise: The bigger spare was too fat for its normal position under the hood, so Peugeot simply deflated the tire until it would fit and provided a small electric air compressor with the toolkit! (Photo: “Peugeot-104-1” © 2013 Matthias v.d. Elbe; resized and modified 2014 by Aaron Severson and used under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license with modifications offered under the same license)

From late 1979 on, Peugeot assigned the 1,124 cc (69 cu. in.) to a new midrange ZR coupe and fitted the ZS with the bigger 1,360 cc (83 cu. in.) Douvrin four, also used in the latest Renault 14 TS, which boasted a whopping 72 PS DIN (53 kW) and 79 lb-ft (107 N-m) of torque. This was accompanied by bigger 165/70SR13 tires on alloy wheels and a taller 3.56 axle ratio, allowing slightly more relaxed cruising. A five-speed gearbox was belatedly added in late 1981.

Even with the larger engine, the 104ZS was more lukewarm than hot. The 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) sprint still took around 12 seconds and claimed top speed was a conservative 98 mph (158 km/h). That wasn’t bad for a normally aspirated 1.4-liter car, but was certainly not in the league of 1.6-liter cars like the Volkswagen Golf GTI or the later Ford Fiesta XR2.

The 104ZS handled fairly well, although as with the BMC Mini, there was some drivetrain snatch through the front wheels in sharp turns. For better or worse, the 104 also lacked the later Peugeot 205’s propensity for lurid trailing-throttle oversteer. Lifting off the throttle in mid-corner would tuck in the nose a bit, but the tail would stay put except on very slippery surfaces.

Peugeot 104 coupe rear 3q © 2012 Matthias v.d. Elbe (CC BY 3.0 Unported - modified by Aaron Severson

Utility was not a high point of the Peugeot 104 coupe. While the five-door’s rear hatch extends all the way down to the bumper, the three-door coupe’s ends above the taillights. The coupe’s rear seat does fold down, which is undoubtedly more useful (not to mention more humane) than attempting to put humans in it. (Photo: “Peugeot-104-2” © 2012 Matthias v.d. Elbe; resized and modified 2014 by Aaron Severson and used under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license with modifications offered under the same license)

An unexpected virtue was excellent ride quality for such a small car. Because the 104ZS was marginally stiffer than the standard five-door 104GL, the coupe could be caught out more easily by ridges or deep potholes, but the ride was considerably more civilized than the short wheelbase might suggest. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for noise levels. The gearbox whined annoyingly (a problem shared with other 104 models), wind noise was high, and the engine, though smooth, was quite noisy. The coupe was not a car for long trips, although the limited cargo space meant you would have to pack light in any event.


The Peugeot 104 remained in production through 1988, although by 1984 it was superseded in most markets by the new 205. Production of the 104 eventually totaled more than 1.6 million units, roughly 40% of which were coupes. That total doesn’t include the 104’s various derivatives, which included various Citroën models (the Visa, LN, and LNA) and later the Talbot Samba.

Unlike the original CRX, which has cast a long shadow over its erstwhile successors, the 104 has been thoroughly upstaged by the 205. Today, the 104ZS is largely forgotten while the 205’s sporty edition, the 205GTi, is still widely acclaimed as the greatest hot hatch of all time. Furthermore, the 205GTi didn’t even have to lop a few inches out of its wheelbase to achieve that distinction …

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Our sources for this article included “AutoTest: Peugeot 104,” Autocar 31 July 1976: 62–65; “Auto Test: Peugeot 104SR,” Autocar 23 February 1980: 36–41; “Auto Test: Peugeot 104ZS,” Autocar 12 July 1980: 68–73; “Giant Test [Citroën Visa Club v. Daihatsu Charade XTE v. Peugeot 104GL],” CAR February 1980: 56–59; “Giant Test: Fiat 127 Sport -v- Ford Fiesta 1.1S -v- Peugeot 104 ZS,” CAR March 1979: 58–67; “Giant Test: Peugeot 104 [v.] Fiat 128,” CAR June 1973: 84–89, 112; “Giant Test: Reliant Kitten/Peugeot 104,” CAR April 1976: 62–68; “Giant Test: Simca 1100ES, Alfasud 5M, Peugeot 104SL,” CAR January 1977: 56–63; “Giant Test: VW Polo -v- Peugeot 104 -v- Ford Fiesta -v- Renault 5 -v- Fiat 127 -v- Mini 1000,” CAR March 1977: 42–49; Chris Haining, “The Carchive: The Citroën Visa,” Hooniverse, 6 January 2014, hooniverse. com/ 2014/ 01/ 06/ the-carchive-the-citroen-visa-2/, accessed 6 January 2014; Annamaria Lösch, ed., World Cars 1979 (Rome: L’Editrice dell’Automobile LEA/New York: Herald Books, 1979), and World Cars 1985 (Pelham, NY: Herald Books, 1985); Alain Mercier, “1975 104 Berline Trois corps” and “1975 104 Break” (photos taken in January 2009 at Muse de l’Aventure Peugeot in Souchaux, France), com/ photos/ alain-mercier/ 3254109754 and com/ photos/ alain-mercier/ 3251034526, accessed 7 January 2014; Paolo Martin Designer: Dream & Product [official website], www.paolomartindesigner. com, accessed 6 January 2014; Peugeot Automobiles (U.K.) Ltd., “104 Peugeot” [brochure], 1979, “104 Peugeot” [coupe brochure], September 1981, “Our new performance car: the 104” [advertisement], 1974, “The new Peugeot 104ZS really packs the punches” [advertisement], 1980, and “The Peugeot 104S. A Sporting Chance for the Young Family Man” [advertisement], 1979; Peugeot NL, “Peugeot 104” [Dutch brochure 1B093], c. 1983; “Peugeot 104,” Autocade, n.d., autocade. net/ index.php/ Peugeot_104, accessed 6 January 2014; “Peugeot 104,” Classic Cars A to Z, Classic and Sports Car, 6 April 2011, www.classicandsportscar. com, accessed 6 January 2014; “Peugeot 104 ZS (Motor Road Test No. 56/79),” Motor Road Tests 1979: 120–121; LJK Setright, “Fly Babies,” CAR April 1980: 66–70; “Star Road Test: Peugeot 205 GR,” Motor 22 October 1983: 16–21; and Ian Wearing, “Pricey Peugeot,” Hot Car July 1973: 103.

Some historical exchange rate equivalences were estimated based on Lawrence H. Officer, “Exchange Rates Between the United States Dollar and Forty-one Currencies” (2012, Measuring Worth,, used with permission). Please note that all exchange rate equivalencies cited in the text are approximate and are provided solely for the purposes of illustration and general reference; this is an automotive history, not a treatise on currency trading or the value of money, and nothing in this article should be taken as financial advice of any kind!



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  1. First of all, let me join all other readers stating how thoroughly researched and well written your articles are. Every post is highly anticipated.

    I never considered the Peugeot 104 as an antecedent of the CRX, mainly because of the power difference – as I recall, only the faster versions of the CRX were sold here in Switzerland. But this is an interesting assumption nonetheless.

    While I still was a little child, a 104 sedan was our only car, used extensively by a family of 5 plus (smallish) dog. Luggage that didn’t fit inside would go on the roof and my mother, then the only driver, would beat the fully loaded little car up alpine passes. But then, the family of a friend of mine, also of 5, used to drive all the way to southern Italy in a fully loaded Beetle. Every summer, w/o AC.

    Hard to imagine by any US standards, even for the time (we are talking seventies), or by any actual standard, as a matter of fact.

    During the same time, my mother’s brother bought a 104ZS, which seemed to be much more fun – at least for the driver. As we obviously were infected by a Peugeot virus, my grandfather bought his second 504 sedan. I must admit I have fonder memories of the 504 than of our way too little 104.

    The 104 was prone to blown head gaskets, often before reaching 60k miles, and the tilted engine required it to be taken out of the car for repair. That made for very expensive repairs for such a cheap car.

    Our next car was a Peugeot 305 – quite a step up then. It was resold almost new as we expatriated to the US for a year in 1980, though. Where we were then fitted with a 4th gen. Pontiac Grand Prix coupé and a much more fun ~73 Mercury Grand Marquis. Quite a difference!

    Back in Europe, our Peugeot streak was over until I got my first car – an oldish and very cheap Peugeot 504, almost 10 years later. First longer trip was to southern Italy, of course…

    1. Admittedly, comparing the 104 coupe to the CRX makes considerably more sense if you consider the Japanese and U.S. versions of the Honda. In Europe, the CRX was only sold with the more powerful injected engines and was relatively expensive. In Japan, the base CR-X 1.3 had a 1,342 cc carbureted engine with 80 ps JIS (probably something like 75 ps DIN) while base U.S. cars had only 60 hp; either way, the 1.3 was not terribly different in price from a 1.3-liter Civic hatch.

      In 1.3-liter form, the CRX’s performance was actually quite comparable to that of the 104ZS; it’s just that the CRX also had additional, more powerful engines while the 1,360 cc Douvrin was the top option for the Peugeot. A 104ZS with the bigger XU5J would have evened the score in that respect.

      What I was mainly getting at, though, was that the CRX was created in a similar way — chopping part of the wheelbase and tail out of a supermini and refashioning it as a sort of stubby 2+2 coupe. The CRX was quite a bit bigger, though: it was 308 mm longer than the 104ZS and somewhat wider, to boot! (I still shake my head at the American writers who marveled at how tiny the CRX was and how tightly it was packaged. Granted, U.S. buyers were not actually offered cars like the Metro or the smaller Peugeots, but there were still some Mk1 Fiestas on the road in those days.)

  2. The roofline and greenhouse on the four-door look *remarkably* similar to the (forgive my memory lapse) Talbot, or maybe Simca that later morphed into the US-market Dodge Omni/Plymouth Horizon.

    Is there some relationship there, or are my eyes playing tricks on me?

    1. I noticed that resemblance as well; the 104 also looks like the Mk1 Volkswagen Golf — or more precisely, the Golf looks a lot like the 104, since the VW followed about two years after the Peugeot. As for the Horizon, its development began after both the Golf and the 104 were on the market, so I think it was a matter of following the established leaders. (For the record, I believe the 104 came first; Paolo Martin’s sketches for it date back to before Volkswagen was even thinking of doing the Golf.)

      Now, Peugeot DID eventually end up owning both Simca and Talbot, but that didn’t come about until 1979, after the Horizon was already on the market in both Europe and the States. In that case, Peugeot ended up inheriting a car designed by Chrysler Europe (in-house) that happened to look a lot like a contemporary Peugeot product. Conveniently, the Horizon was a bigger C-segment car (some 14 inches longer than a 104, believe it or not!). Peugeot ended up selling it until the mid-eighties as a budget entry, not unlike what Chrysler did with the Horizon/Omni here.

      1. Splitting hairs here. The “Simca” brand was abandoned and the Horizon was marketed as a Chrysler in Europe.

        When Chrysler divested it’s European operations to Peugeot the brand Talbot was revived to market former Chrysler cars.

        I enjoy this blog quite a bit and also appreciate the amount of research that goes into it.

        1. You’re quite right — thanks for the correction.

        2. Hi all — I just had a spate of reading everything I could find on the Chrysler / Simca / Talbot debacle of the 80s, and it’s a bit more complex than that!…

          When Peugeot (PSA) took over Chrysler Europe (Simca in France + Rootes in Britain + Barreiros/Dodge in Spain) in the summer of 78, one condition of the deal was that PSA would stop using the Chrysler name, which was on several cars (but not all) within a year.

          The European Car of the Year for 1979 was the Simca-Chrysler (or Chysler-Simca) Horizon, even though Chrysler no longer owned the car by then in Europe. Under the skin, European Horizons are pure Simca, essentially an update of the successful 1100 of 1967, which was still in production and would remain so for a while. European Horizons were badged as “Chrysler” on the bonnet and “Simca” on the trunk EXCEPT in the UK and a couple of other European markets. The Simca brand was never strong in the UK, and besides all UK Rootes products had been rebadged as Chryslers in 1977 (Hillman Avengers became Chrysler Avengers, etc.)

          PSA considered several options: rebrand everything as Simca, as Simca-Peugeot, as a new marque or as Talbot. “Talbot” was owned in France by Simca since 1958 and in the UK by Rootes since 1935 (discontinued in 1954). PSA figured that “Simca” was not as widely known / prestigious as the Talbot brand, which was perceived as French in France and British in the UK, for those who could remember the marque.

          So in the summer of 1979 (i.e. MY 1980), PSA launched a big pan-European PR offensive to explain that Talbot was back, former Chrysler / Simca / Matra models were renamed, new logos and dealer signs were designed, yadee yadee yadah…

          But PSA took a while to effectively eradicate Simca. The 1980 Talbots produced in France and Spain, including the Horizon, therefore still carried a “Simca” script, but no longer “Chrysler”. However, Chrysler’s pentastar logo was still stamped on most Talbot products. They disappeared on some cars but not others. The Linwood (UK) Talbots, for instance, such as the Avenger and the Sunbeam, kept their Chrysler emblems until the end of MY 1981. PSA probably reckoned it wasn’t worth the expense, but it didn’t help establish Talbot’s brand identity…

          PSA had been coerced into the Chrysler deal by the French government (who had also forced them to take Citroen a few years before), so maybe the fuzziness in nameplates and logos was a reflection of that lack of goodwill. But Chrysler had also been pretty fuzzy on that score, so PSA’s decision to rebrand was sound, but poorly executed.

          Just one thing on the Peugeot 104: it was not directly influenced by the BMC Mini. The 104 was a city version of the Peugeot 204 (1965-1976), which was definitely following the Mini’s layout (albeit with a brand new alloy engine, unlike the Mini). Peugeot wisely developed the widely acclaimed 204 as a larger car (the 304) and then as a smaller one (the 104).

          1. Thanks for the information! To be honest, the major reason I haven’t yet tackled the 205 (other than to put together notes for it) is that while I have a pretty good grasp of the car itself, I really don’t have a good enough understanding of the politics of the French auto industry.

  3. Though the 93 hp Peugeot 104 ZS2 was never quite the Hot Hatch, it did form the basis of the 105 hp Peugeot 104 ZS2 Arvor prototype featuring a more aggressive restyle to go with the increased performance, yet since Peugeot was not involved Arvor offered kits (either for the engine, bodykit or both).

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