The Pug 406 was a very successful model range. Up until the end of 2003 Peugeot had sold 1,219,756 saloons, 314,657 estates and 103,733 coupes. The 406 was replaced by the Guppy mouthed 407.
As an example of a mature modern saloon it would be hard to better the 406. Peugeot played on their strengths in terms of ride, comfort and handling and wrapped all that up in an attractive body. Because of its size and presence the 406 is often compared with more upmarket rivals, The ride quality is superb, hardly troubled but uneven tarmac, it is always quiet, smooth and refined. Huge levels of grip, good balance and sharp steering can be found on the saloon and the estate is equally crisp and well behaved. Peugeot never felt the need to make a ‘me too’ hatchback model and the rigidity of the saloon body undoubtedly contributed to its superb handling abilities. Although the saloon now seems a little dated the roomy estate still makes sense as a practical family load lugger when pitched against all its rivals. There is a very good basic specification designed to impress the fleet market and on recent models just about everything was standard and remarkably that included satellite navigation.
And finally there is the beautiful coupe. Styled by the Pininfarina, the people who do Ferraris, except that it was a lot cheaper than a Ferrari 456. Oh yes and Peugeot’s diesel engines are really rather refined and frugal.
What’s bad about it? It’s common, but not in an egalitarian, classless VW Golf way. The 406 is common in the sense that it is exclusively associated with motorway pounding company reps. That’s unfair, but true and the Peugeot name and wildcat badge does not deliver much in the way of image or respect. Even if you are not an automotive snob, the 406 can be a big disappointment if all you can afford are the early 1.8s which struggle to heave that big body around. The 2.0 unit is only marginally better and that shortfall was not put right until the turbo was launched and the larger 2.2 litre petrol was introduced. So the 406 can be slow and despite the great ride the seats on earlier versions are not that comfy. Finally you don’t want to buy a tatty ex-company high miler with worn suspension and 10,000 miles overdue for its next service.
Any snags? The 406 has a good reliability record overall, but life as a repmobile takes its toll. Central locking can play up, as can the indicator stalks. Rear suspension can need an overhaul at high miles and the cambelt needs doing at 76,000 miles, which isn’t cheap.