Always a fleet favourite, the Peugeot 406 has long since become a justifiably popular second-hand buy. Its tough construction, good handling and decent diesel engines combine to offer plenty of value-for-money motoring - providing you pick the right one.
Always a fleet favourite, the Peugeot 406 has long since become a justifiably popular second-hand buy. Its tough construction, good handling and decent diesel engines combine to offer plenty of value-for-money motoring - providing you pick the right one. But the big Pug has been around for so long that early examples should be checked carefully. While more recent versions have plenty of standard equipment, some older cars are spartan in comparison. And although the petrol engines offer reasonable performance, it's the excellent turbodiesels - particularly the recent common-rail HDi - that attract the keenest interest. The 406 has a fairly good reliability record and is known for its decent ride, tidy handling and excellent passenger comfort. That said, respondents to our Driver Power 2003 reliability and satisfaction survey criticised the performance - especially on smaller-engined models - and its stiff, notchy gearbox. If you can live with those, the Lion makes a great alternative to the likes of a Mondeo or Vectra, and can usually be picked up cheaper as well.Checklist * On high-mileage cars, make sure the cambelt has been changed regularly - proper servicing is essential. * Rear brake assemblies need to be renewed fairly often. Test the performance of the handbrake and look out for excessive brake disc dust. * Oil consumption can be heavy on 1.8 and 2.0-litre petrol engines. Be wary of blue exhaust smoke on start-up, and steer clear of ex-minicabs. * Hard-driven diesel models can suffer from premature gearbox wear, so check that all ratios engage and the clutch uptake is smooth. * Electrical glitches are common, with stereos and keypad immobilisers being the most likely victims.Glass's View The Peugeot 406 has had its day and is very much an old-stager. Used values have fallen sharply during the past 12 months, especially those of petrol-powered saloon versions, but there are still some attractive bargains around. Diesel model prices fare better, but are lower than those of rivals. On the other hand, 406 estates hold their value well and remain popular, especially seven-seat examples.Life With A 406... Niall Desbottes took delivery of his 2.0-litre HDi LX two years ago and has so far covered 78,000 miles driving around south-west England. The 32-year-old salesman from Bristol is a fan of the Peugeot's comfort and equipment. "I spend a lot of time in my car, so it has to be a pleasant environment," he said. "Some of the other models I looked at were too bland and sombre inside, but the 406 has an attractive, if slightly dated cabin. The seats are excellent, too." He also likes the spacious boot and torquey HDi engine, both of which are well suited to the 406's role as a cost-effective company motor. Niall's only real gripe concerns the brakes. "The discs and pads on my car have been changed three times already," he told us. "And several other owners I've spoken to have experienced similar problems." His next motor will be a company car and Niall will probably remain loyal to the Lion. "I'm thinking about getting a 406 estate, because I'll be a father by then and the family will need more space than the saloon can offer," he explained.
If you can afford a more recent model, post-1999 HDi diesels are the pick of the bunch. Smooth, torquey and respon-sive, they're a delight to drive and offer impressive fuel economy. Avoid earlier examples, however. The 1.9 and 2.1-litre units are both slow and noisy, and replacement parts are expensive.