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Peugeot 406 2.0 HDi review (1995-2004)
Bodystyle: 5-door Estate
Engine: 2.0-litre in-line 4-cylinder
Fuel type: Diesel
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Date of test: July 2002
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What is it?
The 406 is a familiar sight around Europe. It's the French manufacturer's alternative to the Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall's Vectra. Popular among business users and private buyers alike, the 406 has been a huge success for Peugeot. That's despite the fact that it's only available as a saloon or an estate - there's no hatchback version. It's a fine looking machine, though, with an extensive range of engines, the diesels being the most impressive - which is why they're also the biggest sellers.
Where does it fit?
The 406 fits perfectly into the large family car/business car sector -hatchback or no. The estate shape is a big seller, especially when combined with the fantastic turbodiesels. In this form the 406 comfortably outsells key rivals like the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Vectra, Renault Laguna and Nissan Primera. The combination of pace, style, space and low fuel consumption makes the 2.0-litre HDi a hugely attractive car for business users and private buyers alike, despite its advancing years it still being a serious contender in its market segment.
Is it for you?
In estate guise the 406 is a capacious load-lugger whose boot shape is designed for carrying rather than being a stylised add on. It still looks good though, the 406 always was a smart car, and the estate is no different - despite advancing age. Newer rivals show the way in terms of interior packaging, managing to cram more head and legroom into similar dimensions - though the 406 is comfortable enough for all but the tallest or widest of rear seat passengers. It comes fairly well specified, to attract buyers from newer machinery, and provides a fine driving experience.
What does it do well?
The 2.0-litre HDi diesel in the 406 is a cracker. Smooth, refined and offering punchy performance, it still ranks among the class leaders. The estate complements the engine's long range and hauling ability with the practicality of that spacious load area. It's a classy looking machine, particularly if you opt for a metallic paint finish. It'll reward keen drivers with keen responses and body control when the roads become more challenging, yet it's happy to sit on the motorway for hours on end, munching miles.
What doesn't it do well?
It's old. There's no getting away from it. It shows in the interior, the plastics used being rather harsh and unforgiving, the design dated. Passenger space isn't the greatest and the cabin can feel claustrophobic with darker interior trim combinations. Insurance costs are higher than many rivals as crash repair costs are higher. As a result of it having been around for so long - and selling so well - you're hardly going to stand out either. .
What's it like to live with?
The 2.0-litre HDi engine combined with the estate body is an attractive proposition. It will happily fulfil its role as a business vehicle during the week and family load-lugger at the weekends. Standard equipment is extensive, meaning you should have everything you need without having to dip into the options list. It also remains one of the most enjoyable driver's cars in its class. Peugeot dealers are reasonably widespread, but have a reputation for being expensive. Low emissions should keep tax costs down for business users, the 406 with the diesel engine and estate body being a fine all-round proposition.
Would we buy it?
In this form the 406 is at its best so it would certainly be right up there on our shopping list. It's a great drive, if now eclipsed by the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Vectra. And that sums up the 406. Asked whether we'd buy one a few years ago, the answer would have been an unequivocal yes. But with newer rivals on the scene it's more difficult to argue for the 406, however impressive its range of qualities. We certainly wouldn't be disappointed with one, but the Mondeo and Laguna hold more appeal. The superb Mazda6 should be a strong contender too when it arrives in estate form, but for a useful, spacious diesel estate, the Citroen C5 beats the lot, though we'd take the 406 over it purely on looks. Certainly worth considering - but check out its rivals first.
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