20 Years of the Peugeot 406

Want a car as solid and durable as the Mercedes W-123 but nicer to drive? Look no further than this car and look past the lack of chrome.

1996 Peugeot 406: the press reviews started in July 1995 and the car went on sale in the UK and Ireland the following year. This is an Irish example from the year of launch.
1996 Peugeot 406: the press reviews started in July 1995 and the car went on sale in the UK and Ireland the following year. This is an Irish example from the year of launch.

Forty years ago Peugeot presented the 604 and attempted to gain entrance to the prestigious large car market. That didn’t work out, despite review after review praising the car’s ride quality, steering comfort and commendably huge boot. In 1995 the 406, a class down from the 604 but similarly dimensioned, replaced the well-respected and successful 405.

As in the cases of the 604 and 405 journalists wrote highly of the 406 which carried on the best aspects of the 405 and improved on it in many areas. It was well-built, reliable and did very well in many comparisons and single-car tests. Even the V6 version garnered compliments, with Car magazine’s John Simister judging the engine and chassis to be a very good combination and declaring it the best version Peugeot sold. In a long-term test, Car asked how long manufacturers such as BMW could continue to claim their price premium, such was the quality of the 406’s build, comfort and handling.

The answer is: two decades and counting. With the 407 Peugeot lost ground and with the dreary, drooping 508 yielded it almost entirely to the premium brands and competitors such as the Mondeo and Vectra/Insignia. With the 604, Peugeot made serious errors of judgement in not offering more engines than the V6 petrol and turbodiesels and failing to ensure long-term reliability. They have not always got it incorrect. It wasn’t only the 205 and 306 that captured sales and garnered respect. The 406 did so too.

The 406 arrived on the scene in 1995 ready to kick Ford, Opel and Renault. They probably secretly wanted to steal sales from BMW and Audi too and possibly did. The 406 had four engines and a V6; there were manual and auto transmissions in addition to expensive multi-link suspension. As ever, Peugeot worked hard on the suspension. The bushings at the rear were designed to be more flexible longitudinally than the transverse links, helping smooth out small bumps incredibly well. There was even an element of passive rear steering too.

Galvanised sub-frames isolated the suspension from the body, contributing to the impressive ride and supreme smoothness. This was no Vectra and certainly no Audi A4, both of which had worse rides. The Ford Mondeo lost out for its lack of refinement, by comparison. Only jingoism gave Rover’s 620 victories in some tests while badge-snobbery often was at play when BMW’s 3 was challenged.

In July Car magazine wrote of the 406 that it had more room, better quality and greater safety than the car it replaced. The cost however lay in the weight, which was a then above-average 1355 kg which somewhat challenged the 2.0 litre, 4 cylinder engine. These days that’s a bantam.

Roger Bell felt the 1.8 litre handled more crisply than the 2.0 and my own extensive experience of the car can support such a contention:  it is a remarkably good car to drive, with precise steering, an easy gear-change and the kind of skilfully judged ride quality for which Peugeot was once famous. Put that down to the non-variable power assisted steering (it was variable on the other models) and narrower tyres. As Bell wrote: “There’s an agility about this model that faster variants can’t match.”

What is it about the 406 that has ensured that such a capable and affordable car remains fifth-owner fodder and a non-existent afterlife? In July 1995 Autocar described the car as chic, modern and understated: “Think of it like this year’s Chanel two piece, only designed to last eight years not one.” Partly it might be that understated and classy was mistaken for ordinary. As I have written elsewhere this was a car screaming for brightwork. But Peugeot went down the path of understatement, in disguise and at night. Inside the car, the shapes were decidedly bland. Car said the 406 lacked Frenchness  (as most latter-day Peugeots did).

I have often felt that if there could be a more modern successor to the dour but dependable Mercedes W-123, the 406 should be it. Why should people forever pay £2000 for a cramped, uninvolving, stolid and dipsomaniac Benz when £600 will get you a 406 in full running order?

The answer is the chrome trim and badge of the Stuttgart taxi. The 406’s straightforward but uncharismatic interior lacks the overt, austere conservatism of the Mercedes and instead offers a very generic set of shapes that eventually command respect but not adoration. In contrasting the two cars, one sees the difference between the classic and the bland.

1996 Peugeot 406 interior. This photo seems to show the front seats set as far back as they can go: photo by wwarby at flickr.com
1996 Peugeot 406 interior. This photo seems to show the front seats set as far back as they can go: photo by wwarby at flickr.com

If you look closer at the 406’s interior the decision to choose a very low-key design language can be seen to be a tremendous misstep. It undersells it. The parts are well-assembled. There are no design flubs. Ergonomically the driver is as well treated as in any Saab or Volvo. The seats are first-rate, possibly the best I have ever experienced. At first glance the standard cloth seems banal. Actually it’s incredibly durable and pleasant to the touch. Versions with tan leather are rare but now look delightfully patina’ed.

Passengers in the Pug’s rear have superb seating with the armrests centre and side properly located. In comparison with the W-123 there is no doubt which car is more spacious, faster, more secure and more comfortable. And in comparison with all entrants in the current executive class, the 406 still stands head and shoulders above them. But it all looks so decidedly, emphatically dull. Peugeot really did hide their shining light under a sober and serious bushel.

Here’s Murat Gunak who in 1995 had been recently poached from Mercedes: “ What is innovative? What is radical? If by that you mean fashionable, then no, this car is not innovative. This car, however, will still look extraordinary in eight years.” Correction, Murat, it looked okay at the time but today looks somehow even younger than its two decades, at least on the outside. Odd that. If it had received the finessing of the coupe it would be a recognised classic today.

1996 Peugeot 406 dashboard. This version looks less dreary than the basic version: www.406oc.co.uk
1996 Peugeot 406 dashboard. This version looks less dreary than the basic version: http://www.406oc.co.uk

I’ve driven this car, most recently a 16-year-old example with 140,000 miles on the odo. It feels nicer to drive than any of the newer cars I have been in and, most importantly, still very credible. Nothing rattled, nothing shook. Partly this is down to car-building reaching an important threshold in the 90s: things were now built to last but still lacked the digital components that will spell the end of rust-free, unmarked cars in 2026. If you drive a 406 it really is hard to detect it’s a 20-year-old car – other than that has great outward visibility, delightful steering and a commodious interior, that is. Oh, and the IP is still a mechanical affair with some bulbs for back-lighting.

This captures the dreary blandness of the 406 dashboard. To be fair, its Ford, Opel and Toyota peers were as dull: www.cars-directory.net
This captures the dreary blandness of the 406 dashboard. It works incredibly well though and the seats are quite simply superb. To be fair, its Ford, Opel and Toyota peers were as dull: http://www.cars-directory.net

The only sign of age on the car I drove recently was faint corrosion on the matte-painted metal spar of the rear quarter glass. I have seen 20-year-old E-classes with worse evidence of entropy.

What do others think?  Honest John sings its praises. They report that a taxi firm local to the HJ office runs a 406 in HDi guise which has reached 450,000 miles with few problems. I once took a 45 minute ride to Stansted in a 200,000 km car (over Essex’s worst roads) and there wasn’t one squeak out of the machine. The user reviews at the AA website endorse the car too. AutoExpress describe the car as popular second-hand buy due to its tough construction, good handling and decent diesel engines. What Car?’s view is that it has a smooth ride and a well-equipped cabin. There’s loads more like this…

Thus the mystery of the 406’s current status. Nobody seems to have taken on board the fact Peugeot fielded a robust, comfortable, good-looking car which was well-regarded and competitive with private and fleet buyers. And its still a car people rate. But it’s not raved about like the first Focus, the W-126, the Saab 900 or Volvo 240. What happened?  The 407 happened. That’s where it all went wrong. If you read the reviews of that car you can sense the motoring press had no interest.

Not once but twice have Peugeot presented a well-regarded car and failed to make headway against their peers and betters.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

55 thoughts on “20 Years of the Peugeot 406”

  1. Once the ultimate bourgeois car firm, Peugeot hated drawing attention to itself. It gave you an efficient and comfortable car, but nothing flashy.

    Possibly, the highest praise for the 406 lies in its current status. It was conceived to do a job. It did that job very well. It sold pretty well. Then it was replaced. Job done, it was forgotten. In a way, isn’t that the essence of a good car (as opposed to an enthusiast’s car or a fun car or a cult car)?

  2. Thanks for this insight, Richard. It really makes me want to try one. I already found the car pleasing when it was new, though for me it always stood a bit in the shadow of its Citroën sister. At least before they brought us the C5. I also see parallels between the Xantia and the 406 in their robust design and interior blandness.

    If I’d want a 406, it will certainly be a V6, as I rate this engine very highly. I had it in my Xantia where I enjoyed its smoothness, garnished with a slightly aggressive undertone when revved higher up. Besides that, it also regularly gave me consumption figures well below 9 l/100 km (32–33 mpg).

    What about the coupé? I still think it’s one of the most beautiful cars of the last three to four decades. Here it becomes even more obvious how much the 407 lacked in comparison. I just saw one yesterday. I had to turn my head away.

    1. Simon. You’ve reminded me of the short drive I had in a secondhand Xantia V6 saloon. I was highly impressed both by the engine (much more responsive than its PRV predecessor) and the handling. But it was a hot day, the aircon was broken and I knew it would probably cost as much to fix that as was wanted for the car. After that I looked out for a better condition V6 Estate but the Audi S6 came along first.

    2. The V6 estate is a real wolf in sheep’s clothing. Hardly anyone would suspect it to be capable of running close to 240 km/h. And it has the advantage to be available also with manual shift, which in the saloon was coupled to the Activa suspension – a joy to drive, but a nightmare to keep going.

    3. I saw photos of entire Xantia dashboards removed to replace the heater matrix. Any car that needs that sort of effort to replace it has lost my sympathy. It´s as if Citroen designed the car to die at nine years.

    4. Yes, that matrix was an all-time favourite in Citroën forums. I was lucky to have one that was still good after 16 years of service. It’s all the suspension bushings, cylinders and tubes that killed it.

    5. I had to remove a whole Espace dashboard once to get to the wiper motor. And a Renault 5 engine to get to the timing chain. And contort myself stupidly to get to the distributor of a 305 hidden well behind the engine one dark rainy night. Not to mention the positioning of the fuse box on the bulkhead of an SM. Possibly French production engineers’ ears burn more rosily with the curses of amateur and professional mechanics than those of any other nation.

    6. By the way, I suspect that the 406’s heater matrix might be hidden in a very similar place as the Xantia’s. They share a lot of their structure, don’t they?

  3. A friend who owned a 406 back in the day still says it was the nicest car he ever owned; better to drive than either the Mondeo or Alfa 159 that followed it. You could tell that Peugeot threw everything they had at the 406; styling, engineering, refinement, drive quality, the lot. Top Gear (remember that?) suggested that at some point thereafter, the brass hats at Peugeot must have made a conscious decision to churn out awful cars. There is no other explanation for the precipitous decline in the quality of their products.

    As an aside, it is easy to forget what an awful time the 1990s were for interiors. At least the 406 could be had with wood and contrasting options for the lower half of the dashboard. Fords were quite awful by comparison.

  4. My essay is rather a scatter-gun affair. Sorry about that.

    By the time I finished drafting it, I had realised my real point is that the 406 is a good enough car to be the W-123 for our times but it isn´t. That´s the unfortunate part as in every major way it´s a superb vehicle cloaked in a thick layer of ordinariness.

    The version I would like would the impossible-to-find green metallic, beige intererior 1.8 litre model. Alternatively, a V6 that isn´t black or grey metallic.

    1. That´s a good combination. It´s like a smart dark suit. You can turn up anywhere in one of those cars. Just makes sure it´s shiny. Most people won´t notice it and those who do will be quietly impressed.

    2. This again reminds me of my Xantia. It was black with tan leather. From time to time it was shiny, too. At these occasions, and with its “Activa” alloys fitted, it was quite a representative, though unobtrusive car. Note that I like neither black cars nor leather, but with a used car you can’t be too picky. And I have to say that I even grew fond of this combination after a time, even more so after seeing the patterned velour that would have been the alternative.

    3. Citroen and Peugeot had some horrible fabrics. I hated the jacquard trend that appeared in the 90s. I have to say I have never, ever liked the Xantia. It was the first Citroen that truly offended me. I can see why people like them but I would always take a 406 over the Xantia.

  5. Some time I might get to understand what happened to sensible Peugeot at the start of this Century. As you say, all the reviews spoke well of the 406’s comfort and dynamics, but less so of its anonymity. So the obvious answer was to give it a bit more style and, if possible, improve still further the comfort / dynamic bit and they’d surely have a winner. So how come they ended up producing the flash and mediocre 407?

    1. The 407 lost the plot as regards appearances. Wasn´t that one of Murat Gunak´s cars? They also threw out dynamics. Another thing that happened was that the press stopping writing about these cars very much. Attention turned to anything flashy, fast and exotic even if that was not what most people drove. If Peugeot had got it right the following car would have been much the same lookswise but with even more “quality”. Audi pursued this path very effectively. Another element is that there was a generation change at PSA and whoever was the guardian of their values was no longer there to keep the ship on an even keel.

  6. I never got to drive a 508 but I have sat in them. They feel bulky and gloomy. The 407 has a window so raked you bang your head getting into it and the interior is not any better though more complex than the 406.

  7. My father bought a 406 new in 1997. It was a 1.8 SL model in a deep metallic red with a tan interior. I remember the psychedelic pattern of the seat fabric being quite offensive, but as Richard points out, the seats themselves were extremely comfortable. It was a lovely car otherwise, rode and steered beautifully, but the 1.8 engine – (a rather asthmatic 8-valve unit) – struggled to provide much in the way of useful overtaking performance. My dad was very happy with the car until the gearbox packed up for no apparent reason when it was about two years old. It was replaced under warranty, but he didn’t keep it long after that.

    The odd thing about the 406 is that despite it being a well-regarded, reasonably durable car, the numbers of them left on the roads (France excepted) are minuscule. And I know this because I tried to find a decent one to buy a couple of years ago. All I could find were high-mileage diesel variants. Surely this shouldn’t be the case if they are as good as Richard says? Or were they all exported to Africa like the 505’s were reputed to have been…?

  8. I’ve just followed a 406 V6 Coupe down some South London back roads. It had conspicuously good body control over speed humps and potholes. You could pick up a reasonable one for between £1,000 and £1,500 and have a fine car. Or of course a money pit if you were unlucky, since I can’t entirely accept Richard’s suggestion it would be as solid as a W123.

    1. Why not? It’s better protected against rust and made using processes two or three decades ahead of the Mercedes. It’s faster, roomier and more fuel efficient and parts are freely available. It steers better and handles better. How does the Merc better it other than looking more stately?

  9. Regarding the 407, Steve Cropley wrote the following in Autocar’s 10th August issue: “Funny how your opinion of a car changes with time. When it was new, I thought of the Peugeot 407 (2004-2010) as an inoffensive car of no great merit, its plus points all but obscured by the better credentials of the Volkswagen Passat and Ford Mondeo. Now I’m starting to see 407s as special because of the Ferrari-derived front-end styling that starts with the ‘mouth’, the rakish lights and the wide egg-crate grille.
    All of a sudden it seems remarkable – and as history flows it will inevitably become more so – that a big-selling family model was styled to echo the best points of the Ferrari Daytona by a French designer (Gerard Welter) who simply could not disguise his admiration for the Italian supercar. But then, Welter 
was very special himself. He was the only chief designer in history ever to run his own, private Le Mans team – Welter Racing – from workshops in 
his own back yard”.

    Is it me, or does anyone else suspect that some person or organisation kidnapped Steve Cropley for their own nefarious ends and put this imposter in his place? Because his latter-day outpourings bear scant relation to someone who once edited Car Magazine.

  10. Regarding the disappearing 406s: yes, they have become rare. It’s the kind of car that I don’t even see anymore on the place where Bulgarian people collect used cars from Switzerland to bring them to their country. Most of them are around 7–10 years old (or newer, if damaged by an accident).

    I think what might have reduced their numbers much more than the W123’s is a different perception of their owners. As a Mercedes was considered an object of standing in its time, people tended to look after them well and a high resale value made it worthwhile to invest in meintenance and repair. Whereas a Peugeot was rather seen as a commodity (although a good one) and often not very well preserved. I remember some years ago my typical image of a 406 was a car with dull paint and a third owner who didn’t bother to put hubcaps on.

    1. Oddly enough, I saw a tidy looking 1999 405 parked in suburban Cork today. The styling has aged extremely well; not something one could say about its successors however.

    2. That should of have read ‘406’, although the 405 has also aged gracefully. Bloody Pininfarina!

  11. Are you still reading Autocar?
    Cropley is as mad as hake. This evening a V6 407 caught my eye. The styling is unrefined, simply put. The nose is too long and the rear too short. The rear compartment is cramped. That it looks vaguely Ferrari makes it derivative. The lamps’ upper curve is forced. No thanks, Steve.

    1. Although Cropley is certainly firmly in the admirable old guard of Car Magazine (anyone who ran a turbocharged 2CV must be OK), I long ago realised that even they, even Setright (actually especially Setright), couldn’t be trusted to comment on aesthetics.

      He even gets his Ferraris wrong. Surely the 407 apes the Ferrari 456, not the Daytona? The Rover SD1 ripped off that particular car, but thanks to David Bache with far more style. But taking elements from a good looking design and transplanting them onto a different type and shape of car doesn’t work. It’s like dying your hair blonde, having a perm and telling everyone you look like Marilyn Monroe – well it didn’t work for me anyway.

      He attributes it to Gérard Welter, who was nearing the end his tenure as Styling Director. He had been with Peugeot since 1960. Probably he didn’t actually draw it, but its hard to understand how the man who oversaw all those classic Peugeots could have permitted it.

      True, when I first saw sneak photo of the front view, I thought that a more stylish Peugeot, embodying all the usual virtues, was a good thing. But when I saw more photos, saw the proportions, then read an early review in a French magazine, it was apparent that they had got it wrong – it neither looked coherent, nor did it respect its passengers. But, yes, I can see the 407 as the sort of car that deluded souls will collect in 30 years time and bore their neighbours by telling them it was a direct copy of a Ferrari GTO, but faster – good job they won’t be allowed the petrol to actually run them.

    2. I agree that it’s a minefield to take design cues from sports cars and apply them on different body types, be it Ferrari or Aston Martin. Or even worse, Porsche design on an SUV…
      It really looks as if someone at Peugeot said “Let’s spice up these boring cars a little bit. A Ferrari front would be good. Oh, and why don’t we use reverse rake pillars for estates?”. The 407 is particularly hideous as an estate. Again they got the proportions very wrong. From behind it looks too low and wide, but not dynamic or sporty, rather like a potato bag that broadens at the bottom when you put it on the floor.

  12. Eoin’s comments on Mr Cropley made me smile and I agree that it is as if he has fallen victim to the body snatchers.

    My brother in law went out of his way to buy a dark metallic blue 406 and I had charge of it for a day (his wedding day, from memory). At the time I thought it a slightly staid and serious choice for such a young man (I think I was buzzing around in a bright yellow Cinquecento Sporting), but within a few moments remember feeling a bit silly about myself and was quite jealous. It was a 2 litre, which was a bit anodyne in itself, but it felt like a well rounded and mature proposition, and there was magic in that chassis.

    Someone really should try to research what did actually happen at Peugeot. The transition from the 205 to 206, 306 to 307, 406 to 407 and, perhaps less offensive, 605 to 607, was most marked for a sudden fall from form and grace in so many ways. Who wrought this systematic lowering of standards? The chassis element of this was and remains especially baffling. It is like the onset of the dark ages when the Romans left Britain and people forgot so much about how to build a civilization. We need to know!

    A great article, Richard – no wonder so much debate has flowed from it. Thanks.

  13. S.V: thanks but I really wish I’d spent more time drafting. I feel I only scratched the outer layer of a subject and by the time I was finished corrections I had just begun to grasp what I really should have focused on. Still, I am pleased with the interest!
    About PSA: yes, what happened? I think that that question is good enough for an MA dissertation. If I can offer some guesses: management changes and market changes. What would be hard to fin out is why the management gave up a focus on ride and handling even as Ford were gaining sales and plaudits for this. Did PSA think that VW’s indifference to ride quality justified a change in their own priorities? I like to remind people that Peugeot used to make their own shock absorbers. Did that stop in the 00s?

    1. I don’t know about the shock absorbers, but isn’t that also about the time when Citroën outsourced the complete production of their hydraulic components and went away from the central hydraulic system? Coincidence?

    2. Richard probably remembers the same article as me from Car Magazine (when it actually had interesting articles) which was a interview with Peugeot’s long-term suspension genius (who now presumably spends his retirement grumbling at every Peugeot taxi he has to ride in, or is permanently spinning in his grave) in which he stressed how essential it was that Peugeot manufactured their own shock absorbers. It was both the quality and the design of the units that was important. If we remember this, why doesn’t anyone at Peugeot?

    3. Some people tend to forget the simplest things they know if you show them a Powerpoint slide saying “savings”.

    4. I feel ashamed not to remember his name. It seemed that he was near to the end of his career, and was obviously a major contributor towards the virtues that gave Peugeot its deserved reputation. Presumably when he left the accountants said “Thank God Pierre’s (guess) gone. Now we can buy some of those shockers I’ve found on on Alibaba. I mean, what’s the difference. Bet the punters can’t tell”. “Bloody right, and now we’re not paying Pininfarina a retainer, profits are really going to soar”.

  14. Simon S: Do you suppose they listened too hard to motoring writers who endlessly carped about boring appearing saloons? Yet as Sean observed, these chaps are not very good design analysts and live on a diet of sports cars costing large sums of money.
    It takes a great deal of maturity to do a good saloon and PSA’s in-house team evidently lacked the depth of understanding to get it right.

    1. I don’t know if it’s the press that made them doing this, but it might have contributed to it. This goes for the wannabe sporty design as well as for suspensions where they lost their orientation and replaced refinement with hardness (or in some cases, not even that but harshness).

  15. I agree with Richard’s theory about generation change at leadership level within the company. I also think that the combination of parting ways with Pininfarina and the challenge of the new EU pedestrian crash rules led to some of the styling problems with the 206/307/407.

  16. Yes, those regulations challenged Peugeot but not so much other firms. And dropping Pininfarina was a daft move even if a case could be made that Pininfarina had lost their touch by then. Isn´t it down to judgement at a managerial level? The number of good designers exceeds demand: a good design manager (the missing element here) could have guided either PSA or Pininfarina towards a better set of results.
    There is also the question of dynamics. PSA changed their approach because they felt it was necessary not because rules demanded that. PSA dropped that ball all on their own.

  17. The very nature of Peugeot means that they are probably not sexy enough for a journalist to be asked to write an in depth recent history – at least an English language one – which is a pity because I suspect it would be an interesting read, as well as being an object lesson for management types generally. Their fall remains a mystery to me – what broke their confidence?

    Having had a quick look at M.Welter’s career today, I found an interesting (to me) piece from 2002 by Peter Dron who was chastised by Peugeot’s PR department for writing that the 205 was a Pininfarina design. I had always thought this too, but Peugeot are vehement that it was entirely in-house. Obviously there are instances where design houses were involved but part of their contract was that they took no credit but, since Peugeot didn’t hide their Pininfarina collaboration on other cars (504, 505, 405, 406 Coupe), this is all very confusing.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/4755873/Keeping-track-I-knew-that.-Or-did-I.html

    Did Pininfarina leave Peugeot’s payroll before or after the 407’s design? If before, then the shameless cribbing of Ferrari details by Peugeot seems even more crass.

  18. Sean: I remember that article very well. The 605 was still in production at the time. It was a super bit of journalism. The suspension guru noted that the nervous handing of the 205 could not be repeated. What made it agile also made it unstable and prone to lift-off oversteer. I once managed that in my XM. It was horrifying as I ended up on the opposite side of the road, luckily pointing in the direction of the lane.

  19. Hello people,

    It was Jean Baudin who was the aged chassis engineer at Peugeot. Yes, I’m very sad as I remembered it before checking the interweb. Presumably, he took the recipe home with him.

    I think sometimes a corporate insanity sets in with a management change. The 306 was a simply timeless design and was superb to drive. The 307 had an awful driving position, awful ride and handling and looked awful too. Retrograde in every repect. The 407 was some kind of French joke, which didn’t translate.

    1. Hello Nick:
      Yes, from 306 to 307 is a transition I remember clearly. I did not accept that car as an authentic Peugeot. The view at the time was one formed by a distraction over improved interior plastics. Plainly there must have been no continuity. Ditto the 407; again more waffle about interior trim and all the babies went out with the bathwater.

    2. Richard,

      My wife had a couple of 106s back in the day, but as a result of the slightly irritating glitches, we switched to a whole series of Hondas (the interesting ones) and she now drives a Toyobaru 86.

      Whilst waiting for the delivery of the 106, we were given a 306 as a loaner and I rather liked it. I was later given a 307 as a loaner and having recently had experience of the equivalent Honda Civic EU, I couldn’t believe the journalists’ test results; the Civ did everything far better, from driving position and ergonomics, ride, handling and more relevant here, subjective things like styling.

      I’ve never believed the magazines since.

  20. I’ve just reviewed two articles from 2004 about the 407 and there’s little sense the car deviates from the norm of the 405/406 barring the appearance which was viewed favourably. What you don’t get from the articles is any real warmth either. Paul Horrell in Car thought it was worth 4 out of 5 and thought it would do well. What he didn’t say was if he really liked it; rather he described features and some good points but this never gels into a single message.
    At the time the Mondeo and Vectra were accused of being Passat clones though not the 406 yet the 407 was styled in a more overt and expressive manner. It didn’t have to be, did it? Nobody complained about the 406’s appearance. Welter messed up.

  21. Great handling car, getting acceptably reliable after facelift.
    Oh, and I hated front leather seats – gave me cramps on long drive (very short bottom cushion)

  22. Nice article !
    For sure I have a coupé 406, and it’s a real pleasure to drive it. Not a sport car (I could use more horsepower, I have a 2L 140hp), but a very good behavior in turns and braking, even at high speeds).
    Peugeot may have faced what every French brand has to deal with in the early 2000’s, a worldwide market threatening their futur. Renault went international with cheap sub-brands, while PSA did not manage to adapt except by cuting costs everywhere…

    1. Thanks! The article gets a nice amount of traffic so it’s pleasing to hear owners’ views.
      The coupe is a lovely car. Peugeot should have implemented similar details on the saloon. It would not have harmed the coupe. I expect they were too mean to do this. I feel the saloon deserves to move into the pantheon of enduring classics like the 240, Saab 900 and Mercedes W-124. It has as many great qualities, chief of all its fabulous blend of ride, practicality and classless style.

  23. When the 406 was current, my wife and I chose a saloon (2 litre, petrol), to run on the proverbial 3 year lease, Some time before, we’d also had a 405 GRi 1.9.
    Agree, as any thinking driver would, that the 406’s combination of ride, handling, and generally relaxed travel were outstanding. And nothing (that I can recall) went wrong with it. My only gripe was 5th gear being too low, making it fussy at higher speeds, and thirstier, compared to longer-legged rivals (dare I mention the Cavalier, on this site? …Probably not…..).
    Ah, and the 405 – another happily remembered car, with its taut feel, and soupcon of passive rear steer. So rewarding to flick through a deserted roundabout, with a timely lift-off, though perhaps not with the family aboard.
    Our other cars with the Lion badge have included a 205 GTi, and 106 GTi. Then, like everyone else here….. the first (and only) time I drove a 307, my heart sank. Peugeots, clearly, were now some different kind of car, and not a kind which had any future with us.

    1. Thanks for that.
      We don’t have a Cavalier embargo here and some of us even quite like Opel. I think the Cavalier did a useful job but lacked a shade of character.
      Wasn’t the 406’s weight the reason the fifth gear struggled a bit a high speeds? Here in Denmark where the limits are low you don’t really notice. On an autobahn it might be tiresome. That said, overall it’s a very good set of compromises.

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