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Used car review Peugeot 406 1996-2004

Graham 'Smithy' Smith reviews the used Peugeot 406 1996-2004, its fine points, its flaws and what to watch for when you're buying it.

Peugeot has had a proud history in this country. The company’s exploits in early Round Australia trials in the 1950s established its credentials beyond doubt. Back in the 1950s it took a special car to conquer the rough and rugged conditions a rally through the outback threw up as a matter of course, and those early Peugeots were right up there with the best in the bush.

The rally successes might be a fast fading memory for those old enough to have witnessed them, and younger Australians probably don’t know anything about them, or much less care, but those same qualities that marked the early cars have been carried through to more modern models like the 406.

Smooth, refined comfort combined with a reassuring agility; with a little French flair thrown in for good measure make the 406 an alluring proposition.

MODEL WATCH

While there can be no mistaking Peugeot’s French connection it has few of the quirks that its cousins from Citroen are renowned for having. In most respects the 406 is a very conventional car.

Peugeot made a switch from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive with the 405 that preceded the 406; it was a late change, but one that had to be made if the company wanted to stay on the pace with the market.

The 406 was a little larger than its predecessor so it was roomier and more comfortable inside for those in the front and the rear.

Like at Peugeots the 406’s ride was supple and superbly comfortable, the seats generous and supportive. Peugeots are renowned for their so-called “long legs”, the ability to cruise for long distances without any fuss, and the seats are part of the package that allows the driver to emerge after hours at the wheel feeling as if they’d just driven around the corner.

Along with the roomy interior, the 406 had a generous boot capable of swallowing plenty of luggage for a lengthy trip. It also had a full-sized spare wheel.

Power was provided by a 2.0-litre double overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine, which produced a relatively modest 100 kW at 5500 revs and 187 Nm at 4200 revs. With the weight of the 406 the 2.0-litre engine was made to work quite hard. There was also a double overhead camshaft 3.0-litre V6, which added some welcome zip to the 406 equation with 144 kW at 5500 revs and 267 Nm at 4000 revs. Buyers had the choice of a five-speed manual and a four-speed auto, and the drive was through the front wheels.

The model range began with the ST sedan, which came well equipped with velour trim, air-conditioning, ABS, dual airbags, power windows and mirrors, remote central locking, power steering, and eight-speaker sound. An SV sedan added alloys, auto air, engine immobiliser, and auto windscreen wiper actuation. There was also an SV Wagon, which also came with cruise and a CD player, and a stylish SV Coupe.

From 1998 the range also included a diesel STDT sedan and wagon, which makes the 406 a model worth considering in this age of spiralling fuel prices. The turbo diesel was a 2.1-litre eight-valve single overhead camshaft unit putting out 82 kW at 4300 revs and 251 Nm at 2000 revs. An upgrade in 1999 saw more aggressive styling, more equipment across the range, increased performance and a new 1.9-litre HDi turbo diesel.

ON THE LOT

The 406 was generally a good value-for-money package when new and remains so as a used car. For the earlier D8 model, pay $6500-$9500 for an ST Sedan, $9800-$13,000 for an SV Sedan, or $10,500-$14,000 for an SV Wagon. An STDT diesel will cost $7000-$10,000, with Wagons costing $1000 more. The Coupe goes for $14,000-$20,000.

A later D9 ST Sedan will cost $10,000-$23,000, and SV Sedan $12,000-$32,000 with a Wagon running from $15,000-$32,500. A desirable D9 Coupe will cost $18,000-$40,000, and diesel $10,000-$25,000.

IN THE SHOP

Generally the 406 is doing a pretty good job and owners are pleased with its performance and reliability. There were question marks about Peugeot build quality in the 1980s and ’90s, which perhaps explains the electrical gremlins one owner complains about.

Mechanically the 406 seems robust and reliable, the cam timing belt needs changing around the 100,000 km mark, but check the state of the oil in the engine. Infrequent oil changes leads to the build of sludge, which can become terminal if left. A service record is important. Being front-wheel drive listen for clicking noises when turning, which might indicate worn CV joints.

IN A CRASH

Airbags were standard across the 406 range so passive safety is of an acceptable level, while the stable handling and powerful brakes provide a decent level of active safety. ABS electronics added to the active safety of the later D9.

OWNERS SAY

Self-confessed Peugeot nut Doug Brockfield bought his 2.0-litre manual 406 new in 1998. It's now done 275,000 km and he says it has served him very well in all respects. There have been a few electrical problems, but by and large he says the 406 has been very reliable and a delight to drive. Tyres last for 80,000 km and fuel economy is a wonderful 7.0 L/100 km on the open road. The car has done numerous trips to the outback when the renowned Peugeot "long legs" come to the fore. He says that servicing costs and parts prices are quite reasonable. Summing up, he says the 406 is a fine car, and a second hand, well maintained one, would be a good buy.

In the last five years Ray Nicholls has owned two 406 sedans, a 1997 D8 auto ST followed by a 2001 D9 V6 SV. He’d previously owned a 405 and says the 406 was quieter, roomier, and sat better on the road. Its handling was superb, and it was reasonably economical at around 9.0 L/100 km around town. His second 406, a D9 now with 133,000 km on it, was a totally different vehicle to the first. It was more economical, the performance was improved, the brakes are sensational, the seats are more comfortable and he believes it was quieter. The V6 was quiet, smooth, and had wonderful performance. Economy on the open highway was similar to the four-cylinder ST, but suffers in city driving.

Serge Petrovich hadn’t owned a Peugeot before buying his 2003 2.0-litre auto ST new, but he’s now done about 135,000 km in it and simply loves it. He says the handling, economy and all round drivability is fantastic.

LOOK FOR
• Attractive styling
• Roomy interior and generous boot
• Supple ride
• Agile handling
• Good economy from four-cylinder

RIVALS
• BMW 3-Series – 1998-2004 – $13,000-$42,000
• Honda Accord – 1997-2005 – $7000-$30,000
• SAAB 9-3 – 1998-2005 – $10,000-$39,000

THE BOTTOM LINE
The 406 is a smooth, comfortable, economical mid-sized car that makes a wonderful long distance cruiser.

RATING
75/100

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 11 comments

  • Just bought my second 406, an ST after reluctantly parting with a 406 STDT owned previously. I paid an absolute bargain $2000 for the ST and still love the performance and handling but it lacks the torque of the Diesel and the brilliant overtaking power on the open road. Still, a STDT or HDI will set you back at least 5 grand for a good one in 2013 so I can't complain. Love my Pugs and love the 406. Also previously owned a 405 MI16.

    Steve Beldi of Adelaide SA Posted on 16 August 2013 2:39pm
  • my 406 was bought in 2009. It's adaptability with tropical conditions, strong Air condition, untiring long distance on fuel economy has been wonderful. Of course, It is services after every 3000km and changed timing belt 5 months ago and is still sounding good.

    Ahmed Nuhu of nigeria Posted on 03 June 2013 10:25pm
  • I bought my 406 in 2009 to date the performance has been great, fuel economy, comfort and chillingly strong Air condition. Yes its "Long legs" distance performance has always been untiringly enjoyable.

    Ahmed Nuhu of nigeria Posted on 03 June 2013 10:19pm
  • i bought my s/h 406 hdi in 2009 it had 182000km on the clock but drove like new now its got 122000km on it and still drives like new without any problems. on the long trip it uses 4.6 l per 100km and with a 70 l tank gives me over 1500km, its the best car ive ever had i used to have citroen cars like 3x 2cv and 1 citroen hy van that i extended and lived in for over 4 years and also had plenty jap cars but nothing like the smooth and cheap powerfull ride like the peugeot i change the oil and oilfilter every 10000km and thats the only maintenance it gets i cant be happier with my pug

    Eddie Roselea of New Zealand Posted on 17 May 2013 2:20pm
  • Was a fine marque in the old days of 403-404-504, as the story says, but there have been some horror lemon stories with some modern Peugeot models like 205..beware of secondhand modern Euro cars models which have any question mark over the electrics and electronics integrity,some low-priced S/h 10YO+ will appear to be tempting bargains, but do your homework and know what you are getting into...you will be a long way from a competent fully-equiped Peugeot repairer if an issue develops, like the poor bastard in Esperance WA above.

    Patrick of Melbourne Posted on 30 September 2012 9:05am
  • We bought a 2003 SV 406 in 2006 and as our mechanic says it drives like new. Today, Dec 10, its got 140k on the clock and is still a far better car than a new falcon or commodore...as proven by been driven in siblings' cars. The 406 is better than the 407, hence we never bothered to buy a 407. The log book suggests not to change the transmission fluid, but at 85k I got our mechanic to change it and the transmission became smoother. We service it every 6mths...regardless of KM (the last 3 years we have done less than 10k a year). It's going to be a hard car to replace. We might take a look at the 508 when it comes out, but we have decided to keep the 406 til its 10 yrs old...even then we'll probably just keep it as it is that good. Oh and friends of ours, one of whom worked as a sales person at peugeot, has a 406. He moved onto another job now, but still reluctant to sell the 406...even thought he has worked for 2 other luxury car makers...

    Peter of Brisbane Posted on 12 December 2010 9:46am
  • Could someone help i have a Peugeot 406 in my workshop and the electrics have failed and we cannot start the vehicle we have tried various scan tools to no avail,i have spoken to Peugeot in Perth and they recommend sending it on a truck to Perth as they are the only ones that have the ability to fix it,we 800 kms from Perth,so this would be an expensive excercise for us and the customer,we also tried the spare key a new battery all with no luck,the vehicle is a turbo diesel.

    alex markovic of esperance western australia Posted on 11 November 2010 6:54pm
  • I've owned various models of cars, but currently a happy owner of a yr 96 406st, the car is all round the perfect machine for me, its now done over 100000 k's but as always in good form and ever looking new. for sure ill keep this car forever.

    isaac muchura of nairobi, kenya. Posted on 21 September 2010 6:42pm
  • I've had a couple of Peugeots over the past 12 years firstly the 306 manual hatchback which was a great little car, very economoical and handled exceptionally well but did suffer from electrical problems and stalled often when coming to a halt an oxygen sensor being the problem did about 200,000 klms in it before trading for the Citroen Xzara which wasn't bad but wasn't quite as good as the 306. Did over 200,000 klms in the Citroen and had a few niggling problems with it also electrical and did clutches 3 in the lifetime of the car. I now have a lovely 406 ST that I bought just cos I love Peogeots. This one is a 1997 model and had done only 82000 klms picked up for a little over $5000. Has the usual electrical problems like the speedo sticking and the fuel guage floating up and down but I love the ride and the handling especially in the country also very economical and a pleasure to drive. Wished I could get my hands on a newer one but happy for now. I would recommend them to anyone who is looking for a first car that is very safe for their kids to have. Parts are reasonable and most mechanics can deal with them. Paintwork and body are excellent and seem to look new for ages.

    derek minett of Mandurah Western Australia Posted on 27 April 2010 2:01pm
  • I read your article on the internet about Peugeot 406 Sedans.  I classify myself as a french car enthusiast, having owned a Renault 10, 12, 20 and a Feugo.  Some years later I purchased a Peugeot 505 and currently have purchased a Peugeo 406 Coupe and have had since 1998 a Peugeot 406 Sedan - auto transmission - which is due for its 350,000 kilometres service.  At 310,000 k’s a secondhand transmission was put in and would you believe its a petrol motor, and gets serviced reguarly every 10,000 k’s, by European Auto Works at Rozelle who specialise in Peugeots. 

    John Wilson of Varroville Australia posted 9th July, 2009 at 6.35pm.

    John Wilson of Varroville Posted on 09 July 2009 7:33pm
  • I am a bit of peugeot biggot as well.  I have owned 3 x 405s (all new company cars replaced due to mileage), 1 x 605 3.0SV (worst car I have ever owned).  1 x 406 2.0l and two 406 3.0SV.  Currently own the latest 406 SV facelift model and recently purchased a 2006 407 3.0SV.  The 407 is a great drive but is heavier than the 607!!

    Currently I prefer to drive the 406 over the 407 but none of the later pugs have come close to the exceptional handling of the 405.

    John Hislop of Wellington NZ Posted on 05 July 2009 8:40pm
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