The Peugeot 4-Series was first introduced in 1960 with the release of the 403 model and was followed by the 404 model in 1962. After the 404 was discontinued in 1970, Peugeot replaced it with a model dubbed the 504, and the 4-Series was not reintroduced until 1989, with the release of the 405.
Like its predecessors, the 405 was available as a four-door sedan in the large family car class, but it was also available as a station wagon. The 1.9L engine of models produced from 1989 to 1992 was replaced in 1993 by a 2.0L engine, which many claim is vastly superior to the engine it replaced.
The 405 was replaced by the 406 as a Peugeot’s flagship family car in 1996, although the 405 was still available for a year after the introduction of its successor. The body style of the 406 was heavily influenced by the pretty, smooth lines of the 405, yet it was 100mm longer, 74mm wider, and its lines were more rounded and aerodynamic in appearance.
The 406 was initially available only as a four-door sedan, but a coupe variant was released in 1997, followed by a wagon variant in 1998. The car had larger standard kit and more added safety features than its predecessor as well as a larger engine, of which there was a choice of three: a 2.0L, a 2.L, and a 3.0L.
The 406 was discontinued in 2003 to be followed by its successor – the 407 – a year later in 2004. Available with a choice of three engines – 2.0L, 2.2L, and 3.0L – the 407 was a departure in terms of appearance due to its large front grille, steeply sloped front pillars, and bulbous body shape. The 407 was also a departure in terms of transmission in that a new 6-speed manual gearbox was now offered, although automatic-equipped 407s still had a 4-speed gearbox.
Early examples of the 405 are subject to inconsistent build quality, although matters had improved considerably by 1993. Both the latter-day 405 and 406 are known for their supple rides, great handling, spacious interior, and overall comfort. While the 407 shares the great handling for which the 4-Series had previously been known, it is somewhat compromised by inadequate legroom for larger passengers and a less comfortable ride.
The 407 was discontinued in 2011 to be replaced by the Peugeot 508. There are currently no plans to reintroduce the 4-Series to the market.
Upon introduction, the 405 had a 1.9L engine that many have claimed was poorly adjusted to changes in fuel emissions regulations in this country that were yet to become law in Europe. Consequently, when running on our 91 octane unleaded petrol, the 405 lost approximately 10kW of power compared to European factory specifications and disappointed many contemporary reviewers here as a result.
This meant that early 405 models had power rating of 80kW and a torque of 163Nm at 4250rpm and could not match the performance of contemporary Japanese cars. Despite this, the 405 was a willing performer that was reasonably economical, using around 9L/100km in an urban environment. Fortunately, the 1.9L engine was replaced in 1993 by one much more suited to our roads: a 2.0L engine with a power output of 89kW and a torque of 176Nm. For this reason, 405 models from 1993 onwards performed much better than their predecessors in the range.
Moving onto the 406, these models were noticeably more powerful than the 405, with welcome increased performance coming in particular from the 3.0L V6 engine, which had an output of 144kW at 5500rpm and 267Nm at 4000rpm.
The turbodiesel was a 2.1L 8-valve single overhead camshaft unit putting out 82kW at 4300rpms and 251Nm at 2000rpms. Of the diesel-powered 406 models, the turbodiesel 2.1L SOHC 8-valve engine put out 82kW at 4300rpm and a torque of 251Nm at 200rpm. Upon introduction in 2004, the 407 ST Comfort 2.2 had a power rating 116kW at 5650rpm and significantly more torque than either the 405 or 406 at 217Nm at 3900rpm.
The 405 and 406 models have a great reputation for refined handling and rightly so, as the front-wheel drive is precise and supple. Early 405 models were subject to a number of issues with build quality as many squeaks and rattles were prevalent on earlier models. However, from 1993 onwards, many of these problems had been eradicated and both the later 405 and 406 models both provide an extremely comfortable ride.
The 407 also handles well, but unlike the earlier models, its ride deteriorates over rough surfaces. One problem that has been prevalent across all 4-Series models since re-introduction in 1989 has been the temperamental nature of their automatic gearboxes, with a number of complaints rising from imprecise shifting which hinders off-the-line acceleration.
The 4-Series has always been well equipped by each of its model’s contemporary standards. The 405 was equipped with power steering, front and rear disc brakes, and alloy wheels complete with wheel arches, as well as air-conditioning, power front windows and mirrors, and remote central locking. Buyers of the 405 were given the option of an added sunroof.
The 406 began with sedan ST, which was equipped with all of the equipment with which the 405 was imbued, plus ABS, dual front airbags, and an engine immobiliser, with metallic paint added as an option. The 407 added EBD, an adjustable steering column, dual airbags for rear passengers, a rain sensor, and traction control.
This came in the form of the different versions of the Honda Accord as a rival to each model in the 4-Series from the 405 onwards. The BMW 3 Series provided formidable rivalry to the 406, and the VW Passat strongly rivalled the 407.
While early 405 models lacked the build quality of their competition and certainly lost out in terms of performance, later 4-Series models provided more solid competition for their rivals. In addition, the styling of the 4-Series has always stood apart from that of its rivals, with an unmistakeable and attractive aesthetic appeal that has remained distinctly Peugeot-esque.