Peugeot 407 SW HDi 136 SE
I used to own a 307. It was without doubt the worst car I have owned and coupled with the experience I have had in testing a multitude of French cars, it convinced me once and for all that our Gallic cousins are as good at making cars as they are at making a nice cup of tea.
The 307 was bad enough, let alone the shoddy treatment I received from that most bare of oxymorons ... Peugeot customer services.
Thankfully, I don't have to deal with them with my hire car 407, although aftersales treatment is something you should investigate fully before buying any car. To be fair, the 407 looks and feels a great deal better than both the 307 and the 406 it replaced - at least from any angle other than head on. The new Pug radiator grille continues to horrify, making the 407 look like a mentally challenged basking shark. You can only hide this by getting a black paintjob, and only then do you appreciate what a well proportioned and handsome car the 407 has the potential to be.
The rear bumper is a bit bootylicious but kinda works as does the smart split tailgate that allows you to dump shopping through the rear window. The weight of the back door is incredible, however, and getting it open and shut is hard enough for a strapping lad such as myself let alone a school-run mum.
Five-spoke alloys look great and there are nice styling touches around the windows and door sills that give the car a more sporty, aerodynamic and longer profile than really exists.
Inside, the cabin looks quite classy, with splashes of well-executed carbon fibre and OK chrome-effect surrounds. The dash is beautifully constructed and amazingly solid. Unfortunately it houses orange-lit and barely decipherable dials that make night driving a squint-laden pain in the retina. The audio/trip computer system is also a bit of a pain, refusing as it does to display information longer than about 5 seconds. And a warning bong telling me something about the particle filter kept on going off incessantly despite there being no problem whatsoever.
The seats are amazingly comfortable and coupled with the smooth ride and generous space, long journeys are an absolute breeze. But there are plenty of niggles, not least of which is the careless conversion from left-hand to right-hand drive. Worst of all, the handbrake hasn’t been moved so it sits right up against the passenger seat, making every yank of it a knuckle-rubbing experience. The centre console and a laden cup holder also hamper left-hand gear changes. The wipers haven’t been reversed either, leaving a too large uncleaned strip down the side of the A-pillar, reducing visibility in the blindspot.
All these minor irritations build up. It’s not as if the 407 SW is so capacious that it can be forgiven. And neither is it a great car to drive. The not-so economical diesels feel woefully underpowered, cornering doesn’t feel too hot and it has the turning circle of the QE2: with big overhangs that’s a problem. Never mind the fact the Pug feels too wide for some width restrictors.