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Peugeot 407 HDi review (2004-2011)
Bodystyle: Four-door Saloon
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged 4 cylinder
Fuel type: Diesel
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Date of test: April 2004
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What is it?
The 406 falls into what is known as the full-sized car segment, aimed at providing the space needed by a growing family with the size, performance and safety suitable for short and long journeys alike. Peugeot has gone down the saloon route, which isn't necessarily a problem, except that most direct rivals also offer a hatchback alternative, a style that seems to suit many UK buyers. The 407 does offer an estate, however, although in today's parlance it is known as the 407 SW with, Peugeot hopes, an altogether sexier image than a traditional load carrier.
Where does it fit?
Large cars from the mainstream manufacturers - like the Peugeot 607 and Vauxhall Omega - have seen demand tumbling, and now it seems to be the turn of family models like the 407. Buyers are either downsizing further into the likes of the Astra, Golf, Focus and Peugeot 307, or going for 'class''. This second category is typified by the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. Neither has the room of a family car, but significantly the saloon models sell well, so the 407 has that in its favour. Mainstream rivals for the 407 include the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Vectra, Nissan Primera and Toyota Avensis, although there are more than a dozen other competent models in this sector.
Is it for you?
First you have to make up your mind about the style. Sure, you have to do this with any car, but the 407 is more radical than most. The long bonnet overhang and large, Ferrari-like grille, make for a distinctive presence on the road. We applaud a car with character, but it inevitably means it's not for everyone. Peugeot reckons 75% of sales will be diesels so the fact that there are two new engines, 1.6 and 2.0, on offer is attractive; Peugeot has long been a leader in this field, but others have caught up. Petrol drivers won't miss out though, with a 1.8, 2.0, 2.2 and 3.0V6. Upscale models get six-speed gearboxes, both manual and auto.
What does it do well?
You can't sell a car on looks alone, so here Peugeot is hoping to reinvent itself as a maker of fine handling, smooth riding cars, a mantle that, surprisingly Ford has taken on in recent years. And the 407 certainly turns in the goods as an appealing driver's car, few front-wheel-drive rivals bettering it for grip and poise in the corners. It allows the 407 to be driven with gusto when you feel the need, yet always feel safe and confident in its responses. The 2.0HDi engine is a good match for the chassis, with the expected strong pulling power through the gears and economy well in excess of 40mpg.
What doesn't it do well?
That sloping windscreen means only a short length of the door is full height, so tall drivers may find they bash their head getting in and out. The boot measures up well for size, but the sill height in the saloon is high and the opening shallow. The estate version is better, but still has a high floor and the highest parcel shelf/shallowest rear window combination we have ever seen. Peugeot claims you can fold the rear seats without removing the headrests, but they clash with the front seats unless they are moved well forward. Then there's a bit too much wind noise at high speed from around the door mirrors, and a ride that's more Germanic than traditional French in its firmness.
What's it like to live with?
The above criticisms generally pale compared with the positive aspects of the 407. The seats are well shaped and very comfortable, there's plenty of adjustment in the front, and the interior is particularly classy for a car in this segment. Room in the rear is fair enough as long as those in the front don't make full use of that seat travel, and there's a good climate control system in all models. The 407 also comes packed with a full compliment of airbags. That long bonnet means parking isn't the easiest (just try parking head on to a kerb) and it also means you'll need extra care on ramps and speed bumps. The HDi is particularly easy to live with, it's high toque meaning little gearchange is needed if you don't feel like it.
Would we buy it?
The 407 would certainly be on our shortlist. It is at least as good as a Mondeo to drive and arguably looks and feels classier inside and out. The boot access is a bit of an issue, and for that reason the stylish 407 SW estate would be our choice. But we like the way it drives, welcome the economy of the 2.0-litre diesel and admire the adventurous design. The major problem, as it is with all its direct competitors, is that cars like the 407 tend to depreciate heavily. That's why so many can justify buying more expensive BMWs and Audis that hold their value far better.
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