– Amazing exterior
– Loaded with features
– Excellent handling
– Rearward visibility
– Limited rear space
– Above-average prices
Peugeot is pretty much considered the national car manufacturer of France. Their factories have been churning out trendsetting cars for decades. Every model in Peugeot’s range is unique in its category when it comes to styling and driving dynamics. And the 407 is no exception.
At first glance, it becomes obvious that there is no other car in the midsize family sedan category that comes remotely close to the Peugeot 407 when it comes to turning heads on the street. The flamboyant exterior styling is quite a shocker, with its extremely sloped front end, flowing side window design and sharp headlights. While we would like to say that we love the styling, we cannot get over the enormous front grille and the huge front overhang. The overall profile of the car is wedged enough to rival a fighter jet, but the extended bumper ahead of the front wheels gives the car an oblong look when combined with the relatively short rear overhang.
Introduced late in 2004, the Peugeot 407 is available in sedan and station wagon form. The basic model is the 2.0-litre SR, followed by the 2.0-litre ST, the mid-range 2.2-litre SX and the top-of-the-line 3.0-litre SV. The SW wagon only comes with the 2.0-litre engine. Only automatic transmission petrol models are offered in the Middle East. All models receive the four-speed tiptronic gearbox, with the exception of the 3.0-litre SV, which pairs up a rare six-speed tiptronic with the V6 engine.
The interior consists of a fairly attractive dashboard that extends far beyond what the driver can reach, thanks to the extreme slope of the windshield. This creates the illusion of a much larger car from the driver’s point of view. Front and side visibility is excellent, broken only by the wide front pillars. Rearward visibility is reduced by thick rear pillars and the three rear seat headrests. All the rear view mirrors are on the small side. Most of the rubber, cloth, metal and plastic interior trim pieces are excellent, as is the fit and finish, but the grey plastic used to simulate metal in the center console gets scratched easily.
The console houses a digital display that is used to control everything from the rather good CD stereo to the various air-conditioning controls. There are a host of buttons underneath the display and even more buttons on four stalks behind the small steering wheel–overkill in terms of gadgetry if you ask us. However, even the most basic model gets power windows, keyless entry, cruise control, ABS, stability control, power mirrors, fog lights, rear sunblind and automatic climate control. The 4-cylinder models get six airbags, while the V6 model gets as many as nine airbags. The front end is even designed to deform easily in order to save the lives of any pedestrians who may inadvertently become your hood ornament. Additional quirky features included in most of the models are side mirrors that fold in when the car is parked, automatic windshield wipers and headlights, tyre pressure sensors and automatic door locks that seem to have a mind of their own, locking when they please.
The front passenger area is very spacious, with nicely bolstered seats, storage pockets on the doors and a cooled glove box with built-in light. However, there is only one flip-out cup holder in the front, and there is no storage space in the center console itself. Rear seat space is not the most abundant either, with limited legroom and headroom, but some models come with a centre armrest that has built-in cup holders. The sleek body of the 407 sedan is the reason for the limited rear space, with a luggage trunk area that is actually less than the old 406 model. The 407 SW wagon can hold numerous large suitcases though. The seats are firm and hold the passengers in well during hard cornering. A durable but roughly textured cloth wraps the seats in the 2.0L models, while the 2.2L and 3.0L get the full leather treatment. The leather steering wheel is fully adjustable, as are the front seats. Only the V6 model gets electric front seats. The doors are rather heavy, and close with a loud slam uncharacteristic of European cars. We found the air-conditioner to be somewhat weak, taking ages to cool the interior during midday. On the plus side, there are air-conditioning vents for the rear passengers too.
Luxury features aside, it’s the driving dynamics of this family sedan that sets it apart from the usual front-wheel-drive crowd. The 407 features independent double-wishbone suspension in the front, similar to expensive sports cars, while the rear is held up by an independent multi-link setup. All this translates to handling that rivals the leaders in front-wheel-driven cars such as the Alfa Romeo 156 and the Ford Mondeo. The car can be thrown into a corner as fast as a rear-wheel-drive car, and it will make the turn with amazing ease, with no hint of understeer. The standard stability system applies brakes to individual wheels when needed to keep the car from flying off the road. Plus there is hardly any body roll, even during our slalom runs and hard handbrake turns in an open parking lot. The sporty suspension does translate to some bumpiness on uneven highways, but sharper potholes are smoothened out, oddly enough. The steering is very light, but has just enough feel to offer some feedback. High speed stability is also very good, with speeds over 150 kph causing minimal wind noise and just a slight vibration in the steering wheel. The 2.0L models are fitted with 16-inch wheels and Pirelli 205/60 tyres, while the 2.2L and 3.0L models get 17-inch wheels with wider 215/55 tyres that slightly improve cornering grip. Braking performance from the four-wheel disc brakes is very good, but the pedal feel is dangerously soft. This becomes readily apparent when a quick stop becomes unavoidable.
This midsize sedan has the handling to match a sporty car, but it will have trouble keeping up with the same sporty car in a straight line. The base 138 hp 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine is unrefined compared to similar Japanese engines, buzzing annoyingly at anything more than 3000 rpm, and requiring frequent downshifts to get up to speed when the throttle is floored. At highway speeds though, the 2.0-litre motor allows effortless cruising, all the while giving excellent fuel economy. The smoother 2.2-litre version offers the ideal compromise between the weak 2.0L and the expensive 3.0L, pumping out a respectable 160 hp to move the heavy 407. This model matches the 4-cylinder versions of the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Honda Accord, although they are indirect competitors in the Middle East. The four-speed tiptronic in the 4-cylinder cars comes with a gated shifter, has an available sport mode with more aggressive shift points, and even seems to do engine braking like a manual when slowing down. The automatic upshifts are buttery smooth, but downshifts under hard throttle tend to be jerky. The top 3.0-litre V6 model with six-speed tiptronic has adequate power for most people’s needs, upping the juice to 215 hp. However, given its price range, the 3.0L is behind in the horsepower race, with cheaper V6 versions of the Nissan Altima and the Honda Accord offering in excess of 250 hp.
The biggest issue that could put off potential buyers is the price. At a base price somewhat higher than larger and more powerful Japanese competitors, the 407 loses out on quantifiable value, even with the fancy gadgets. However, for buyers who prefer unique styling, excellent handling and European cache, this car is most definitely recommended over more conservative European rivals such as the cheaper Ford Mondeo and the overrated Volkswagen Passat. French flair also stands out well in a sea of boring Japanese functionality.