Torquey engine, impressive economy, handily compact wagon package
Room for improvement
Parts and servicing can be expensive
THE French design their cars to be eminently practical. The Renault 16 was the first true hatchback, even though its front and rear ends appeared to be designed by two committees who never spoke to each other.
The Citroen 2CV was renown for its lift-out seats which could be used for roadside picnics.
The 405 wagon continued the tradition of the 504 and 505 seven- seaters, being a thoroughly practical family vehicle in the Peugeot style.
It comes in two versions - the 405 wagon with 1.9-litre petrol engine and automatic transmission and the 405 SRDT with a 1.9- litre turbocharged diesel engine.
The diesel-powered version is better equipped and consequently more expensive than the petrol car, but is only available with manual transmission.
The Peugeot does not have any direct rivals in the market as diesel engines have never been as popular in Australia as they are in Europe where the price of diesel fuel is significantly less than petrol.
Although there is little price advantage at the pump in Australia, the diesel gives far better economy than a petrol engine which makes the 405 an attractive proposition for the owner seeking economy.
The 1.9-litre turbocharged diesel engine drives the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox.
The engine has an intercooler to boost performance by lowering the temperature of the air entering the cylinders.
The all-independent suspension is by MacPherson struts and coil springs at the front, and trailing arms and transverse torsion bars at the rear.
The rear shock absorbers are mounted almost horizontally in order to lower the rear floor.
Brakes are dual circuit power-assisted, ventilated discs at the front and drums at the rear with a load-sensitive pressure limiting valve.
Steering is power-assisted rack and pinion with a typical small turning circle and tyres are 185/65 R14s (originally Michelin) on 5.5 X 14 inch rims.
Fuel economy in the SRDT is quite sensational with official AS2877 figures in the city of 7.1 litres per 100km and a miserly 4.7L/100km on the highway - marginally better than a 1.0-litre Daihatsu Charade three-door hatch.
Economy will vary with load and driving conditions but expect about 7.5L/100km in normal driving.
Although not as roomy as the 505 before it, the 405 offers seating for five adults with adequate room for luggage.
The interior offers velour trim, height-adjustable driver's seat and steering column, lumbar front seat adjustment, plenty of storage pockets and compartments and full instrumentation.
Standard features include climate control air-conditioning, central locking, fog lamps, power mirrors/windows and six- speaker radio/cassette player.
The Pininfarina-styled body has zinc-plated and galvanised panels in key areas to prevent corrosion, anti-chipping compound on the sills to prevent gravel rash and wax-injected box sections to protect inner body surfaces.
Clear varnish is applied to all metallic finishes and there is a final wax seal over the paintwork.
Peugeot has done a remarkable job of reducing the noise and vibration of the diesel engine.
The 405 is smooth and quiet on the road. The performance lacks nothing compared to petrol-engined rivals.
The steering and handling are crisp and responsive, the brakes work smoothly and powerfully and the chassis of the 405 is outstanding.
For the family seeking economical and reliable motoring in a quality environment, the 405 SRDT wagon is an excellent choice.
Performance, handling, room and features are all of a high standard and the car is well suited to Australian conditions.