Peugeot 204 1965.jpg

Peugeot 204

The forgotten perfectly formed small sedan

As a rule, sedan designs work best when they have some length — truncating their three boxes to make an elegant short car is tougher that squeezing the two boxes of a hatchback, coupe, wagon, or SUV. But the four metre long Peugeot 204 of 1965 was always a handsome sedan, helped by simple and well resolved volumes and a short trunk ending in a novel chamfer — as borrowed from the little known Cadillac Jacqueline concept also designed by Pininfarina. This novel trunk form of the 204 was developed further in the subsequent 504, and its lozenge headlamps and the way they floated within a full width grille also pioneered Peugeot signatures used for decades.

As well as leading design for the brand, the 204 also lead technically with independent suspension and a transverse aluminium engine powering the front wheels, and went on to be the best selling car in France for two years and thus a major contributor to the commercial success that lead to Peugeot buying Citroen and growing to become the PSA Group. Yet the 204 has a modest aesthetic that means it will arguably never be more than a footnote of the discipline — even in its native France it is now a much forgotten car. In an unassuming way this Peugeot reminds us how a small sedan can be perfectly formed, but also how a pioneering design can become quickly forgotten.