16 July 2017

UNSUNG HEROES: Peugeot 405

Very much forgotten and in banger territory today. But the 405 reflects a golden era for Peugeot.



FOLLOWING success of the 205. After all, it was Peugeot’s saviour, in being the car to make or break the company. Which goes to show on how important the 205 was to the French outfit. Peugeot understood that putting the goodness from their desirable and high-flying supermini. Could be passed on and filtered across the range. Of which is what they did with the 405.

Upon its arrival in 1988, the 405 was the replacement for the old Peugeot 505. As a rugged and dependable family car that it was. It didn’t appeal to fleet buyers that larger cars were often bought from. Peugeot though, had missed out on sales despite that the 505 had sold well worldwide by private buyers in Europe. In France and Africa, they have a cult following in being a hit with minicab drivers.

Despite strong sales, there was no getting away from the fact that the 505 was looking and feeling dated. Becoming obsolete after the arrival of newer family cars, like the radical looking Ford Sierra, and the well-accomplished MK2 Vauxhall Cavalier/Opel Ascona.

After looking at the competition for inspiration, and to use as a benchmark. Which is more than likely what Peugeot came up with a brief into making their new family fleet car. As slick and aerodynamic as the Sierra. But also in having decent performance and road holding of the Cavalier/Ascona. But all in all, making it Peugeot’s family car with its own DNA.

As well as a four-door saloon. The 405 was also available as an equally handsome, yet practical estate.

When it came to designing and styling of their new family fleet car, Peugeot had turned to Pininfarina. Who for many years, had worked with the French company in sketching the designs of their cars. The Italian styling house came up with the goods once again.

On appearances alone, the 405 bore some passing resemblance to the Alfa Romeo 164 ‒ another car designed by Pininfarina. With a wedge-like profile sporting a high tail and a low nose. But in keeping with Peugeot branding and DNA, the 405 had design and styling elements from the 205 and the 309.

The Peugeot 405 shared much with the Citroën BX under the skin. As hard as it is to believe considering how much different the 405 looked to the BX. Unlike Citroën, Peugeot used conventional coil springs for the 405. With independent suspension having MacPhearson struts at the front, and torsion beams in the rear in contrast to the complex, hydro-pneumatic unit used in the BX.

Peugeot's boffins sprinkled the 205 magic onto the 405. By using their expertise on the chassis-set up giving it excellent ride and handling. Something many buyers and the motoring press had raved about the 405. It was one car that drove as well as it looked.

Peugeot made a coupe prototype of the 405. Never made production though.

Given how good the 405 was as a standard car. Peugeot used its starting base in making quick, performance models. Of which they did with the 405 Mi16 and T16 models. Which are rare, and become increasingly sought after. Sadly, as many Mi16s have been broke to shoehorn the excellent all-alloy, 16-Valve, 1.9 litre blocks, into 205s. At the other end of the scale, the diesel 405s were frugal (if noisy), and drove as well as their petrol engined counterparts.

The 405 was available in two bodystyles. A smart looking four-door saloon, and also a practical and cavernous five-door estate. Peugeot did make a 405 coupe prototype, but that never made production. Would have been interesting to see how that would've fared against the Vauxhall/Opel Calibra, Toyota Celica and the Volkswagen Corrado. Especially in Mi16 and T16 flavours.

The 405 was a huge success for Peugeot. As well as appealing to the more sophisticated European buyers. The 405 sold well in Africa and the Middle East that large Peugeots did from yesteryear. It also built on the company's strengths from the foundations that was laid down by the 205. As did the 106 and 306 that arrived in the following years, and the 406 that replaced the 405 in 1996.

Furthermore, the Peugeot 405 made its mark in history in setting the standards of making fun to drive family cars. So much so, that Ford and Nissan used the 405 for inspiration onto making the new Primera and Mondeo.

The quick, rare and highly sought after 405 Mi16.

PUB FACTS

  • The 405 was the last ever car from Peugeot to be sold in the United States.
  • The 405 was a major departure from the 505 it replaced. In being a smaller car that was also front-wheel drive.
  • The 405 was the first Peugeot made and available with four-wheel-drive. Which was on the more powerful Mi16 models.
  • Even though it was replaced by the 406 once it ceased production in France and the United Kingdom in 1996. The 405 continues to be manufactured and sold in Africa and the Middle East. More on this featured on the excellent Ran When Parked website.

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