2009 Peugeot 407 2.2

The Good:
– Sleek exterior design
– Superb handling
– Nice cabin trim
The Bad:
– Aging auto gearbox
– Not the best of engines
– Average rear legroom

The last time we drove a Peugeot 407, the year was 2005, and this French midsize sedan was the sleekest car in its category, if only in style. Cut to 2009, and the 407 still looks more or less the same, receiving a facelift so minor that even we don’t know what has changed. But it is still the sleekest car in its category, and remains a unique sight on UAE roads, especially since it never sold well in the first place.

After we stared at our 407 2.2 tester long enough, we realised there were slivers of chrome trim on the gaping grille and on the rubber striping around the car, along with a redone tail-light arrangement. Assuming the 17-inch alloy wheels were also redesigned, we’d say we’ve got the exterior changes covered. It is still a very futuristic car, and as before, we still wish it had a shorter nose.

The interior is also familiar, but our new 2.2’s beige cabin was much more upscale than the grey cabin of our old 2.0 tester from 2005. The new car also came with minimal wood and chrome trimmings, as well as a gloss-black centre-console housing a touchscreen and a hundred buttons below it. Soft-touch materials were generously applied along the upper surfaces of the doors and dashboard, but what impressed us more was that even the glovebox cover was padded.

Space up front was very generous, with a huge glass windshield making it seem even roomier. The seats had moderate bolstering in keeping with the more-upscale-than-sporty theme. But due to the uncharacteristically sporty roofline, rear space suffers when compared to the midsize competition. To put it in terms of Toyota, the amount of rear legroom is somewhere between a Corolla and a Camry, although headroom is still decent and there are three headrests. Rear passengers also get two hidden cup-holders, while there is only one up front. Storage spaces include a cubby under the front central armrest, a few pockets and the largest glovebox we’ve ever seen. And the cargo boot has enough space for a few large suitcases, as expected from a midsizer.

The car we drove came with fair features, such as keyless entry with flip-key, touchscreen navigation, good CD stereo, sunroof, cruise control, front and side airbags, power mirrors, electric windows, and a dual-zone digital a/c with rear vents. The a/c worked fine during our February testing, although it remains to be seen how it handles a GCC summer. We liked the visual display on the screen for the parking sensors, while the navigation system was also easy enough to navigate through. We also appreciated the manual rear-window sunshade and the auto-hazard lights that turn on by itself under heavy braking. About the only thing missing was an increasingly-common starter button.

Our tester came with the mid-range 2.2-litre 4-cylinder engine, which is smaller than the usual Japanese mills, but it never felt any weaker than them. Making 160 hp at 5875 rpm, with peak torque of 220 Nm hitting at a reasonable 4150 rpm, the engine has useable power at earlier revs than most common 4-cylinder cars. Unfortunately the engine is still mated to an old 4-speed automatic, but it is a decent gearbox, with manual-shifting and engine-braking capabilities. Our test numbers were not very favourable, with a pathetic 0-to-100 kph time of 12.1 seconds, as the engine runs out of breath at higher revs. Add to that our unimpressive fuel consumption of 13.2 litres per 100 km, and we began to see the deficiencies of the 407’s aging drivetrain.

While the engine turned out to be a dud when we tallied the numbers, it still does fine in city driving. However, what we were looking forward to was the handling, and the 407 delivered that in spades. It solidified our belief that Peugeot makes the best-handling front-wheel-drive cars in the world. Riding simply on Pirelli 215/55 tyres, it manages to handle like a sports sedan, with minimal body roll and a total lack of tyre squeal until terminally abused. It is also easier to push hard, knowing that it will only understeer if we ever reached the limit.

And unlike its smaller siblings, there is no ride penalty with the 407. The suspension seems to have been tuned with comfort in mind, and the car quietly soaks up everything, without wallowing at all, while keeping the handling intact. The steering is accurate and the braking is adequate. Indeed, the French 407 is worth buying for the handling alone.

The Peugeot 407 fails at competing with the established nameplates when it comes to being the perfect family sedan. It lacks the efficiency, space, value and cup-holders to appeal to regular people. It seems more ideal for enthusiastic drivers who do not speed on highways, but can appreciate a good set of curves when they see it, whether on the car or on the road.

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