(first posted 10/17/2012) The U.S. market is a funny, fickle thing. Take the Peugeot 405, for instance. This is a car that you would have seen absolutely everywhere in Europe, but one seldom seen Stateside even when it was new. I guess every market has its preferences; after all, I’ll bet there weren’t many Cadillac Broughams in Nice or Paris, either. But the 405 was Peugeot’s last stab at the potentially lucrative U.S. market. Suffice it to say things didn’t work out.
In July 1987, Peugeot introduced the 405, as a 1988 model. The midsize, front-wheel drive sedan had been slated to replace the venerable RWD 505; however, Peugeot decided to keep the 505 in production for a few more years, much as Volvo kept the 240 around after the 740/760 debuted. The 405 sedan became available to Francophiles in October 1987, and the station wagon arrived a bit later, in May 1988. Despite having much in common with the Citroen BX, which came out in 1982, there was no hydropneumatic suspension on the Pug.
In the late ’80s, the Pininfarina styling of the 405 was up-to-the-minute and quite attractive, although almost a dead-ringer for the Alfa 164. The Pininfarina tradition of handing out the same suit to multiple clients was an old one that was still fairly acceptable in the ’50s and ’60s–but in the mid- to late-’80s, not so much. By then, almost every manufacturer save Peugeot had developed their own in-house design studio. After this rather embarrassing episode (which was repeated with the larger Peugeot 605), Peugeot made definitive steps to develop its own design studios and break its dependence on Pininfarina. (ED: Update: the upper car is actually a 605, which also shared the same Pininfarina suit)
Several varieties of inline four-cylinder engines were available in 1.4-liter (70 hp), 1.6-liter (92 hp), and 1.9-liter (110, 125 and Mi16-exclusive 160 horse) versions. A 70-hp 1.9-liter diesel and 90-hp turbocharged 1.8-liter turbodiesel were also available.
There was also the special 1993 T16 405 with a turbocharged 2.0-liter, 16-valve four, all-wheel drive and other assorted goodies. Only 1,061 were produced, 60 of which went to the French police. These rare Pugs produce 200 horsepower under normal boost and 220 with overboost.
Sadly, the wide variety of 405s did not transition to North America. As is often the case when European cars are exported here, the U.S. got only a few models. If you happened to among the few and the brave who had to have a 405, no matter whether you were in Ohio or South Dakota, your choices were limited to plain DL and fancier S models with a 110-hp, emissions-friendly version of the 1.9; or the sporty Mi16 sedan, with an extra 40 horses.
Station wagon versions of the 405 were imported to the States as “Sportswagons”, in DL and S guises. These look quite attractive, though I have never seen one in the metal. I wonder what the take rate was versus the sedans?
By all rights, the 405 should have done well in the U.S., but that just didn’t happen. Burgeoning Japanese luxury marques like Lexus and Acura probably took a bite out of Peugeot’s hide, not to mention the lack of Peugeot dealers compared with those of such mainstream Euro makes as Volvo, BMW and VW.
By the early ’90s, Peugeot was sinking steadily in the U.S. Despite the 405’s good looks and performance–particularly in the Mi16 version–there just weren’t many takers. In 1990, sales of 405s and 505s totaled a mere 4,261 vehicles. After an even more dismal 1991 output of 2,240 405s and 505 wagons (the 505 sedan was discontinued in the U.S. after 1990), the marque withdrew from North America in July 1991.
Although Peugeot returned to the Mexican market in 1997, they still have not reentered the U.S. or Canadian markets. On a family vacation to Puerto Vallarta in 2006, I was pleasantly surprised to see small late-model Peugeot hatchbacks cruising about. They looked pretty nice. Looking back, I’m pretty sure they were 307 models.
Despite tanking in the U.S. market, the 405 did just fine in Europe, with 500,000 units sold by 1989; that number doubled to a cool million by 1990. Long after the last American Pug dealer had closed their doors (or moved on to more lucrative marques), Peugeot continued to refine the 405. A “Phase 2” version, featuring new rear styling, a new instrument panel, and other refinements appeared later, keeping the French Sochaux factory (English 405s were also built from 1987-1997 in Ryton, U.K.) chugging right along and cranking out 405s with no worries.
But the party had to end sometime. In 1995, the 406 replaced the 405. At the time, the 405 sedan had been discontinued in Europe, though the wagon would remain available through 1997. But even that was not the end of the 405, whose production continued in Argentina until 1999, in Zimbabwe until 2002, and in Iran until earlier this year, when Peugeot stopped importing parts. All in all, about 2.5 million 405s were made.
But you would never know that from driving around in the U.S. My friendly local Volvo dealer actually sold Peugeots from 1985 to 1991 in Moline, but I can tell you that I never saw many, even as a car-crazed kid at the time. The only one I really remember was a gunmetal gray 505 I used to see parked in front of a nearby house in Rock Island. It was an uplevel model with alloys, and I liked the way it looked–it reminded me of our family Volvos. I recognized it because I had a Corgi model of a burgundy 505! It was still there in the late ’90s when I started driving, and then one day it was gone. I regret never getting a picture of it.
So a couple of weeks ago, on a crummy, drizzly day, I was shocked to see this 405 parked near the mall. A Peugeot, wow! I wasted no time turning around. As I started taking pictures it began to rain harder, but I didn’t care.
I don’t remember ever seeing one of these in the Quad Cities. The only times I recall seeing Peugeots were when my folks took us to the Chicago Auto Show during the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Once again, I remembered the 405 because of a toy I had as a kid, in this case the well-detailed 405 Mi16 by Majorette. You may remember it from my Majorette retrospective a few months back. See, toy cars can be educational!
I was very happy to find this car and finally see a 405 up close. This one was well-equipped, with a moonroof, leather and always-classy black paint. I am guessing it’s an ’88, judging by the “1988 European Car of the Year” decal in the rear quarter window.
I’ve always had a soft spot for French cars. My favorite is the classic DS, but Peugeots are neat cars too. I think it’s a shame that so many European cars aren’t available on our shores. Hopefully, that will change someday. But survivors are still out there, and this one proves it!
ED: brochure images and vintage ads other than those captioned above are courtesy of productioncars.com.
Fascinating! I do love the look of these, and they’re very comfy to ride in by the standards of the day.
Hmmm…I was certain the CC Clue was an early Altima. Shows what I know!
This isn’t a bad looking car, even if my sole experience with driving a “French” car was a 1985 rental Alliance in Chicago that summer on a family trip and the lousy Peugeot manual transmission on the 1992 Wrangler we owned a few years ago!
My other experience was our junior year art teacher’s DS in 1967-68. Go figure.
This Peugeot? It’s certainly not a bad looking car. The photo of the station wagon above is a dead-ringer for a Honda Accord wagon at a distance, at least from the side. I had to mull over the photo for more than a few seconds to discern the differences.
On the subject at hand, this car does not appear to stand out in any way from the rest of the compact/mid-sizers from the Japanese crowd back then. Even a Ford Tempo looks similar until they “European-ized” the look around 1990 or so.
Were these anywhere near as reliable as an average American car at the time? I’m looking at our assorted K- and K-derivatives we owned, and they weren’t half-bad.
When I see these type of cars on here, especially makes I have either never heard of (Skoda and many others) or am not familiar with, I feel I missed out on possible driving experiences and checking out things beyond Chrysler’s offerings during that time.
When that is your first French car experience, it ruins your opinion forever of French cars Zackman.
Perhaps, but at least it wasn’t a Dauphine or later, a “Le Car”!
Others in my art class including me would have loved to get a crack at our teacher’s DS, one-spoke-steering wheel, air suspension and all! THAT would’ve been a real treat, I’m sure.
I drove a 1989 405 DL between 1994 and 2009. I bought it with 34,000 km on the clock and drove it to 366,000 km, at which point the head gasket let go and we decided to scrap it. The roadholding of this car was amazing. I still miss its sublime mix of ride and handling.
I remember seeing your name on many early Peugeot club blog submissions. I still own three 405’s and can’t bear to part with any of them. A DL, S automatic, and a mint Mi 16. Best cars ever!!
I have 200K on the DL, bought from new. Still has the original clutch plate, throw out bearing, everything. Unbelievable light weight agility, tight handling, comfortable seats and ride; much like a comfortable pair of Italian loafers. Just fits and feels right every time I drive it. Great personality of a car. A shame more people didn’t recognize the value these cars offered in pleasureful driving experience!
Nice writeup on a nice car, thanks!
There are still quite a few 405s on the road in France today. They can still be found on the used car market, most often with high mileages. And low prices too, because people looking for a used Peugeot will rather buy a 406 instead (more modern, better equipment), or even a 407.
The 405 hasn’t found its niche as a classic car yet but I think it’s just a matter of time. See for instance what is happening to the 505, which nobody really cared about just ten years ago and which is making inroads now as a classic “youngtimer” (especially V6s and Turbos). Too bad Peugeot never made a 405 coupe or convertible, but on the other hand they made quite a few special series and limited editions definitely worth preserving. Good ones might be hard to find.
Cool site by a dedicated Peugeot enthusiast: http://peugeot405.e-monsite.com/
“….but on the other hand they made quite a few special series and limited editions definitely worth preserving. …”
My feeling exactly! I was actually looking for ’92-’95 sedan 405 ST 2.0, automatic , with leather seats, sequential LPG system installed, and found three for sale! They have 185-300,000km , reasonable condition (not sure if rear axle seriously needs some work…), priced 1000-1500 EUR.
Around here, 405 in decent condition can be found, but, due to recent project, I know need a van:)
One is never satisfied…;)
Nice looking cars, and I remember the striking similarity to the Alfa 164 and larger 605. But somehow these struck me as just too mainstream and ordinary, compared to the earlier models available here in the US. I always had a thing for the 504, 505 and even the 604, which so many saw as dull. I wanted to like the 405, but it didn’t appeal to me the way the earlier models did.
Ain’t perspective a funny thing?
Growing up in Yorkshire in the 80s, it seemed like these were all over the place almost as soon as they launched, and (while I take Zackman’s point that they don’t look very distinctive now) back then among the sea of bulbous Sierras and Cavaliers they really stood out, looking really sharp and stylish at the time.
I always thought it was sad that Peugeot parted ways with Pininfarina, their in-house designs have been very hit-and-miss, while some of the best looking mainstream cars of my later youth (this, the 306 and 205 spring instantly to mind) were Pinin-derived Pugs.
In terms of reliability I have no first hand knowledge, but the fact that the 405 was the near ubiquitous minicab of the 90s has to say something.
Splateagle,agree with your sentiments re Peugeot and Pininfarina,have always thought Peugeots have become more bland since they were designed inhouse.I love the RCZ but the new 308 could be just another Japanese car.Nearby I often see a white Peugeot 205si and a mint metallic red 306 xsi and another mint light metallic blue 306xt.Occasionally see one white and one black last series 306 Grand Rallye,both in great condition.I read here in Australia that the 205gti Peugeots after years of use often developed cracks in the sills under the doors.Cars with plastic radiators and modern electrics/electronics do not seem to be as reliable as Peugeots of earlier times.
It is certainly interesting how an everyday car on one continent is a unique exotic on the other. Although nowadays it is also getting rare to see here on the roads.
I ran a quick search on two used cars sites, one Hungarian and a German, certainly a low number 55 and 61 are for sale.
We have the same here with US cars… a Ford Crown Vic or a Taurus is about as rare here as the 405 on the other side of the pond.
*nods* They’re certainly getting rarer here in Europe. A quick search shows that on UK roads they peaked at roughly 293,000 registered examples in ’96 and have been falling steadily since. We’re at currently around 11,000 remaining examples (c.8,000 of which are still in use on public roads).
The last one I saw here in Scotland was a venerable ’88 diesel estate (wagon) converted for biodiesel and hauling an unfeasible load off the ferry from Eigg this summer.
“The last one I saw here in Scotland was a venerable ’88 diesel estate (wagon) converted for biodiesel…”
Pssst: Don’t tell anyone about this small, diesel, manual tranny (I’m assuming) wagon over on TTAC – you’ll get mobbed!
😀 good point
… though these really aren’t that small (I know the terms are relative but still…) Parkers has the wagon at about 4.4m long (173″) & they’ve plenty of room in them
Its only a 4/5 of the way to the Uber-Valhalla-Wagen, it still needs AWD.
We will soon be able to purchase the same cars that are available in Europe, but only because many of these marques will likely go under or be merged in the coming years.
what a depressing thought! I hope you’re wrong.
And also because our middle class is disappearing and rationalized products will be marketed to the middle and upper classes on a global scale.
There is something about that late 80s Pininfarina school of design that never really appealed to me. There is a certain clunkiness to the lines, in my midwestern American eyes.
Peugeot is another car that probably should have made it onto my radar but did not. I would kind of like one now just for the quirkiness factor (at least in the US), but I would prefer one of the older rwd cars.
These cars found themselves in an impossible spot in America at that time. The Japanese cars were expensive for what you got, but were extremely reliable and trouble-free. Domestic cars were less expensive, and while not as reliable, were fairly cheap to fix and keep running (there were exceptions, though). Lower level European brands seemed to provide the worst of both worlds.
One of the problems of this design is the symmetry of the greenhouse: the A and C pillars are much too much alike in terms of their angle. Reminds (too much) me of this, except even worse, because both pillars are slim:
Wow, was I waaaaay off on the Clue!
Interesting article. I had just finished my sophomore year in high school when Peugeot exited the U.S. scene, but I do remember seeing a few of these around Omaha at that time.
Way off but yet so close. It really did look like a late ’90s Altima, but more crudely put together in the close-up shot of the C-pillar. And I suppose that speaks volumes about the popularity and influence of its Pininfarina shape.
I always thought they looked like a more Italianate ’86-’89 Accord and back in the late ’80s, people would have rather had one of those cars, crashy suspensions and all. But Peugeots failure came at a time during which Americans were generally avoiding European cars; Audi and VW sales were abysmal at this time, also. Now we see leased A4s and BMWs everywhere. We also get European Fords. Peugeot might have been able to achieve some marginal success here today if they’d stuck it out.
If anyone is upset about Peugeot’s failure in the US, it’s Peugeot itself. They are going down fast because they can’t sell cars many places outside Europe. The decision to stop importing parts to Iran is a stupid one for a company in such a position and highlights a foreign policy folly on the part of the EU: surely PSA isn’t the only company losing out in such a scenario.
I think you identified a major issue with Peugeot in the US, dealer commitment. It was rarely if ever a stand-alone brand, always tucked in with better-known and better-selling brands. Here in Portland it was with the Mercedes dealer. No prizes for guessing who got the attention (and investment).
Unlike German, English, Swedish or Japanese cars, no French car had ever been a success in America, in sales (like VW) or by reputation (like Jaguar).
European brands in general never really got the importance of the U.S. dealer network other than the Germans. Volkswagen paved the way in the 1950’s when they required their dealerships to adhere to standards including providing after the sale service and availability of parts. When Mercedes took distribution away from Studebaker in the early 1960’s they followed much of the same formula. Meanwhile British, French and Italian cars were sold out of places that never would have met VW or Mercedes standards all the way into the 1990’s. Even BMW had a slightly flaky dealer network until BMW bought back the distribution from Hoffman in 1975.
Peugeot dealers tended to fall into two camps, neither of which provided much volume.
The first type was the foreign car garage which included as many brands as the owner/head mechanic could get and the brands were almost constantly changing. These primarily mechanical shops they didn’t always hit the mark for being customer-service oriented and tended to be small, grimy garages with surly owners who lacked both capital for acquiring inventory and people skills for retaining customers.
The second type was the domestic dealer who wanted to expand his market and dabble with an import. Usually these dealers would have one lonely Peugeot stuck in the corner of the showroom while all of the salesmen walked around it and openly disparaged it and its customers. If the store was lucky they would have someone who would take a liking to the uniqueness and become the Peugeot specialist. Most of these people were not the top salespeople in the store; they usually had to sell used cars to make ends meet and maybe the occasional Oldsmobile, Buick or Pontiac that took up the majority of the showroom space.
While the second store usually looked cleaner than the first they rarely had parts in stock or even mechanics who could care for the cars. As a result while they may have done well with their primary brands only a few Peugeots tricked out of their showrooms.
If I remember correctly Peugeot sales in the U.S. peaked around 1986 at about 20,000 cars at a time when Volvo was selling around 100,000 and even Saab sold around 30,000. Sales dropped quickly and never rebounded leading to their withdrawal in 1991.
There were a handful of 1992 405 wagons that made it in before they pulled the plug.
Indeed, I bought my ’78 504 in 1980 from Cutting Motors in Ithaca, NY, who as I recall was mainly an Olds dealer.
I’ll be danged!
I stayed at that Motel last night! Maybe tonight too if things don’t work out here..
It may be my small screen but I’m seeing a mini-Volvo 850 in that car. Interesting find, Pugs are pretty uncommon out here.
I had 2 of those, white 1995 with 2.0 and auto box, and silver1989 1.9 with 5-speed manual box and LPG conversion (in that order 🙂
White one was my first Peugeot, and it was very nice, excellent , comfortable ride but also holds the road very well. Only this configuration with auto box was slow and thirsty, so I sold it and bought an older one with M/T and put a LPG kit into it. This one served me very well about 4 years. It was convenient for a LPG conversion because of torsion springs at the rear, so you can adjust them to compensate for additional weight in the trunk (if you find a friendly mechanic willing to bother with it 🙂
This cars were mechanically pretty sound, electronics wasn’t so good, that was another reason why I bought an earlier version without much electronics at all. My car also had A/C installed later.
Only problem that I had with this car was that temperature sometimes would rise above normal, but not into the red zone. Until one summer when I was driving my family to summer vacation, and on the coastal road close to Dubrovnik (temperature was about 36 Celsius) temperature indicator went into the red zone and STOP indicator was on.
In the state of panic, i lifted the hood and realized that main cooling fan was off, and that was one connection loosely done when aftermarket A/C was installed. So I secured it, fan was on, engine cooled of, and all was fine with the world again. No blown head gasket, no leaks, not a single drop of coolant missing. And no occasional temperature rise any more :-). Now I am a believer ……
The most desirable model was station wagon with 1.9 turbo diesel and 5-speed manual, I wanted one but couldn’t find any at (dirt-cheap) affordable price.
I had a Renault 21 before, and that WAS a nightmare. Pug was waaay better.
As a kid I had friends whose parents had 403’s and later 504’s, and more recently 505’s weren’t unusual in my area (there was even a 505 taxi running around Palo Alto well into the 2000’s), but I had completely forgotten about the 405 in the US. Not sure I have ever seen the wagon here. My neighbor now has a diesel Citroen CX Break (wagon). Now THAT is a car which doesn’t suffer from A-C pillar symmetry.
I’ve seen these about twice in the US. Both times I thought they were some early Korean car of dubious quality.
I didn’t know the wagon existed at all.
On the other hand, I have ridden in various (newer) Peugeot taxis on trips to Europe, and they seemed like comfortable, well-built cars overall. I don’t know if the reliability has improved at all, though…
Off-topic, but our subject car appears to be on a road-trip from Detroit. Focus Hope (on the license plate frame) was a non-profit started by a priest and nun in an attempt to heal the city after the ’67 riots.
My neighbors across the street from me growing up had a series of Pugs in the 80s, ending with a 405 that they held onto until the mid-nineties. I think there was a Sterling in there somewhere too, so they definitely had a thing for fledgling European brands. In an odd reversal of trends, they went to Caddies from there on out.
In addition to producing localized 405s, the Iranians did something genuinely crazy: they made (still make)? a Peugeot ROA, which is a 405 body sitting atop an ancient Hillman Hunter (rwd!) chassis:
It was labelled the 405RD as well. Looked positively goofy, with the rear end of the car far higher than the front.
This job is done by Iran Khodro factory hotrodders!
they cut out the floor pan and added the transmission tunnel, to pass the prop shaft,
I am not sure if they made any money on the ROA , as the floor pan was manually manufactured and the peugeot body needed extensive modifications to acceprt Hillman drive train.
This is not without precedent in automobile history, Late thirties RWD Grahams used modified chassis and body of FWD 810 Cords.
For all you BMW mugs out there do not try to catch a PUG on a twisty road you havent got a chance these things are awesome to drive if you know how with comfort beyond belief they also have roadholding beyond most drivers skill level and the turbo diesel still get near 50mpg my 98 Citroen has the LAST rendition of that 1,9 engine. Lots of these 405 Pugs in NZ and cheap too.
That 2L turbo petrol had the same torque as the 2.1 turbo diesel in my 406 but was 10kmh faster at top end as is common in euro cars the diesel is often the performance model.
FWD luxury just doesn’t cut it for me, especially if its more expensive than the equivalent Honda. However, Peugeot’s small cars had impressive sound deadening and comfort for the size, so I’m expecting the big Pugs would’ve been better.
Thanks for sharing a car I barely knew and had pretty much forgotten. Great styling! Even though from Pininfarina, it definitely has a period Honda-Acura feel, but even sleeker. Very cool car. I don’t think I’ve seen one in years and years, but I will be on the lookout now!
You may have better luck than me, seeing as I am in the middle of Buick LeSabre Central!
Yes and no. Southern California varies a lot — it’s more Honda/Toyota central here, mostly less than 10 years old and dirty! But there are always interesting cars lurking, and certain neighborhoods have a lot more than others! I’m sure those Peugeots lurked here 20 years ago, but now, not so much!
Agreed, there are some very interesting cars to be found in the sea of appliances and wannabes in their leased european cars. One area in particular is the Belmont Shore area of Long Beach. One trip through the dense neighborhoods there could fill this blog for years!
I wonder why and how Peugeot dropped the ball in Europe, as well. Just as Ford started selling supple, pert handling FWD Focuses, Fiestas and Mondeos, Peugeots became mediocre, and the quality still wasn’t there.
Without getting too deep to the details, Peugeot failed in the US because of three horrific reasons.
1) They came in with the attitude that they knew better than their prospective customers.
Then consider the brutal fact that nearly everything is different on a Peugeot. The turn signal stalk. The controls used to move the seat. The underpowered and not too fuel efficient nature of their ‘near luxury’ vehicle.
To sell Peugeot at the time was to sell an illusion that had no attraction other than it being ‘French’.
2) The ZF automatic transmissions were about as reliable as Chrysler’s first gen Ultradrive transmissions.
Every single Peugeot I ever saw at the auctions during the 1990’s had a bad tranny. Every. Single. One.
For an automaker with fantastic global reach at the time, Peugeot seemed content to keep North America as a peripheral market. BMW, MB, VW… heck… even Suzuki invested more in this market than Peugeot.
Interesting observation about automatic transmission. From what I heard, in Europe, they were quite reliable and cheap to fix, as there were no expensive electronics involved.
Perhaps they were not up to demands of usage in States?
Word of warning the trans in these is so weak the turbo diesels were not offered in auto but consider this the much vaunted BMW Mini diesel uses a Peugeot Powertrain as do all European Ford diesels along with Jaguar andrange Rover so I’d be a bit careful before I said they arent any good
Ten years ago I taught my pastor’s son to drive. He was 10 years younger than me, but he loved cars, so I was happy to talk cars while teaching him to drive (in a 1988 Toyota Corona). I had a company van at the time (Mazda E2000) which was boring (and dangerous!), but I often had loan cars when workmates further up the company-car ladder needed the van for moving stuff. That meant my pastor’s son got to drive (briefly) a wide variety of interesting cars. So what did he buy when he had money of his own a few years later…why a very tidy Peugeot 405 diesel of course. It seemed to me to be the last make/model a teenager would want, but turned out he loved his grandmother’s 405. Sadly penniless young men and diesel French cars don’t make for a great relationship… Something went on the engine, and it was going to cost more than the car was worth to replace. He couldn’t even give it away, and it ended up being scrapped. Nowadays he drives a nice Nissan Primera wagon (I guess he liked the company Primera I let him drive 9 years ago!)
Great car, especially facelifted models, from 1990.
As for pictures, one is inaccurate – car on the picture above Alfa 164 is actually Peugeot 605, in base trim (SL in France), not 405.
Is it a 605? Gee, I had that sneaking suspicion too… I haven’t seen a 605 in the metal for quite a long time now, so I thought I’d give Tom the benefit of the doubt (not to mention how hard it feels for yours truly to criticize any American who openly admits he – sob – likes French cars!). But on close examination, I agree. I’m afraid this really has to be a 605.
Not that the 605 ever was a bestseller to begin with, as opposed to the 405. In my opinion, the 607 that came after the 605 looked better. But it didn’t sell too well either, come to think of it… Both the 605 and the 607 would have made great station wagons, but sadly that never happened (everyone swore by minivans then). Seems like Peugeot never really believed in its big models after the 604 in the 1970s anyway. BTW, now may be the right time to pick up a 607. It was discontinued as late as 2010, it’s in some kind of black hole now, so I’m pretty sure low-mileaged late editions can still be found dirt cheap.
Big Peugeot were never really that successful, or reliable. 604 had all sorts of mechanical troubles and some with injection system, 605 added whole lot of electronic gremlins to that..
But 607 was real nightmare – so-called “multiplexage” (system that connected electronic and electrical components – sort of CAN BUS system, if I am correct) was introduced, with 24 different microprocessors around the car that could (and probably would!) break down! Friend of mine is chief mechanic in one Peugeot garage and he swore that at any given day, for 3-4 years, there were at least 2-3 607s in the parking lot, waiting for some expensive part!
Having driven 205 diesel for 130k (two bulbs in dashboard blew and my mother slightly destroyed the clutch…;) ), 406 SVDT 2.1 for 170k (mechanically very sound, electronics occasionally troublesome…) and on few occasions 405 auto, I would say that last real Peugeot was 405…characterful, top-notch roadholding and confort, and reasonable reliability.
The funny thing is, in France at least Peugeot still retains some of its reputation for making no-nonsense, dependable cars. But clearly that comes from long ago, ie. from cars like the 403 or the 504. They haven’t been able to fully capitalize on that reputation when it comes to their larger models.
Smaller ones like for instance the 205 sold like hot cakes, because Peugeot was wise enough to keep them relatively simple, fun to drive, and free from electronic gizmos and the trouble that comes with them (you can still see quite a few 205s on French roads with very high mileages and just refusing to die). I agree that the 405 retained something of that spirit – definitely. Not so with later models like for instance the 407: good engines for sure, but when it comes to electronics sob stories abound. And that does not come cheap to fix.
I added that picture, and take responsibility for it. But it makes the point, as well as the how similar the two Peugeots were quite effectively.
Peugeots did well in Australia for years, based on the success in the long distance Redex Trials of the 1950’s and local assembly for a time. The 405 marked a turning point towards a different type of vehicle, no longer rugged and suited to poor roads outside the city (Even a lot of CUV’s are poor in this regard unfortunately). It was still quite capable, and as mentioned by Oliver the 405 still retained a lot of the old traits. The 406 was a very elegant car, but the 407 was a poor design in my opinion.
I am the proud owner of a 1992 Peugeot 405 DL Sportwagon — one of the very last vehicles exported to the US from Peugeot. It is my daily driver and still looks like a modern car.
I have over 150K on the odometer and I have enjoyed driving such a good handling car which is also practical to store things in the back, if you put down the rear seats. I have access to a mechanic who had been a Peugeot dealer and he has always found parts for this car. I have no idea why Americans prefer SUVs when a mid sized wagon offers better storage (flat floor !!!), handles like any fine European sedan should, and still gets upper twenties for mileage on regular gas.
What is wrong with these people ???
Audi offers good handling mid sized wagons as well, but for you pay a lot more for the German marque.
I agree Bill. I love my V50 wagon and just can’t imagine buying an SUV. Just not my style.
I’d love to see a photo of your Sportwagon; I don’t recall ever seeing one in person.
Hi Bill, I agree with you as I’m proud of my 405 DS as well.
Based on your posting above, you mentioned that your mechanic was a Peugeot dealer. Would you please help me to get front signal lamp(amber) mounted on the front bumper.
There were only USA and Malaysia model 405,which had the same bumpers.
I agree with you on all counts, Bill. I own three 405’s that are all in perfect running order. I have a ’89 DL manual, I bought new, that now has 200K miles on it. Also a ’91 S automatic with only 23K bought from an estate sale. And a near mint ’91 405 Mi 16 that lived it’s entire previous life in CA. I have so enjoyed these cars and use them year round in all seasons. Superb handling, comfort, agility, supple suspension, reliability, and fuel efficiency (near 30 mpg). I can’t see myself ever stepping out of these into something else. There’s nothing out there, except maybe a VW Golf R, that would provide greater return. These cars serve me so well, and in so many positive ways!
I’m confused…you swapped the interior from an early ’90s Honda Accord into a 405?
Great observation, MT! You’re on top of it. I posted the wrong photo image. I have a ’93 Accord and grabbed an image of that car instead of my 405. Good catch!!
Great review. V. rare in UK / outside France too but a class styling exercise. In UK redefind class ride and handling standards and in my view a far better car than the best seller which was the Ford Sierra.
I never knew how good and reliable these cars where until i purchased my first one last year.
My wifes grandfather purchased the car in 92 when he found out this was the last of the Peugeots sold in the States.
Unfortunately he lost his drivers license. 6 months later,so the car sat in the driveway for the next 10 years.
So last year I found out grandma was looking to sell the 405DL and I needed a daily driver so I picked up the project .
1500 dollars later and some elbow grease the Pug is alive !!
I painted the Pug army green and hotrod black and it has been very faithful to me .
Its cool to see peoples reaction when they see it and ask what kind of car is that ??? Its a Peugot ha ha .
I now own 2 my other one is a M16 …
Please to hear the effort you have made to get the PUG active. The 405 models are generally the best machines ever built by Peugeot until todate, in terms of reliability, comfort and safety.
I own a 405 and 307 here in Malaysia.Do you get the 405 parts easily in USA?I would you need your help to get me the front signal lamp(amber) mounted on the bumper. The production of these parts has been obsolete and the lamp fixed to my 405 had cracked.
The 405 models, bumpers mounted with signal lamp were only sold in USA and Malaysia market.
There seems to be a direct design line from the 405 to 406 and 406 coupe. With the 406 coupe being one of the best looking non-supercars ever made. In my biased opinion.
+1 great colour
hello can you help please i have a peugeot 405 1.9 diesel and an estate rear axle was fitted prior to my purchase i now need to lower can you please tell me how and how easy or difficult it is
Can someone help me to source for the 405 body parts.
I SELL my peugeot 405 T16 in super great condition ! 220hp, 4×4, black, ( very rare car, amasing car thats a must have car!), if intereste can send photos via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Well, here we all are, or rather, were! It’s now July 2016 and what has actually changed. Firstly, there are definitely far fewer 405’s of any type now on most continents roads, and those that are, are in only poor to fair condition. I am personally lucky to be living in Australia where like N.Z. we do not apply salt and other metal munching detergents to our roads. As a result we still have some very good examples, though limited, of 405 SRDT and Mi16’s for example. Even the very rare Phase 2’s. Though both my 205GTI and 405 Mi16 Phase 2 are in top show condition, I am so grateful that the 405 is still in production, allowing me to access supply of body and mechanical components. (See: Khodro). The 405 as of next year will become the second longest auto in production, some 30 years, only behind the V.W Beetle. So well done to Peugeot, Pininfarina and to all those passionate 405 DRIVERS who truly enjoy the thrill of a great drive in a truly great car. Well done one and all!!!
Apparently the Peugeot 405 is still built in Iran.
They do a pickup too
The pick-up is hybrid of Peugeot 405 derived panels up top, but Rootes Arrow underneath (from the old Peykan).
Have I missed the early/mid 1980’s 504 (505??) article?
I don’t recall ANY of these smaller Pug’s in New Orleans.
I remember seeing quite a few of these around town back in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Of course, “town” was San Jose and French cars always seemed to have a good sized fan base in the Bay Area, so it wasn’t too surprising. Also, I’m pretty sure most of the Peugeots in S.J. were sold through the big VW/Audi dealer in town, so parts and service may have been more readily available than they were for other European makes. I still remember seeing one 405 with a great license plate: “ABNT0T” ( à bientôt.)
I last saw a 405 about three years ago in Narragansett, RI…and it was a wagon!
Come to think of it, I might have seen a 405 sedan a few years ago in Pawtucket, RI. For some reason, strange older cars always seem to show up in Pawtucket. Steingold Volvo also used to sell Peugeot and a number of other brands.
They were slashing the prices by the bitter end: https://m.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=602965346532064&id=100004558112166&set=o.152791458071612&source=48
Just a few weeks after I got my first Peugeot, a ’71 gas 504, in 1991, I learned that Peugeot was pulling out of the American market. Talk about not making my day! If not for this, my next Peugeot might have been a 405.
At some point in the next few months, Automobile magazine had an article by Jamie Kitman titled “Letter to Jacques Calvet,” basically a post-mortem on Peugeot in the U.S. market. He quoted someone (whose name escapes me) who’d been with Peugeot’s U.S. organization and then jumped ship to Volvo ca. 1965. The ship-jumper said Peugeot could have been as big as Volvo in the U.S. if they’d played their cards right.
An independent Peugeot mechanic of my acquaintance said Peugeot was arrogant and expected Americans to pay a premium for Peugeots because they were French.
I once heard that had Peugeot stayed in the U.S., the plan had been for all U.S.-market 405s to be AWD, including the wagons. Too bad it didn’t happen!
The headlights on that 405 are awfully clouded. I wouldn’t want to have to source replacements today.
Here’s a 405DL that I shot a few months ago at the Italian car show in Issaquah, Washington:
Nashville had a Peugeot dealer into the late Eighties or early Nineties, and around the time we knew Peugeot was pulling out they were offering their stock of 405s at very attractive prices, with lavish promises of honoring warranties for their full length. My wife’s BMW had been totalled and we were down to my old Falcon, so we went down there and drove an M16. Our drive was with a typical Nashville car salesman, i.e. not really a car guy in any sense of the word, who refused to let us drive on anything but city streets, so we opted for a fairly empty (it was a Sunday) industrial park … and we ran low on gas, which put the car into its automatic Limp Home mode. Despite this we loved everything about the car, but the complexity of the 16-valve engine scared me, and the 8-valve cars were all automatics, so we passed.
Though we then bought an Alfa Milano, and loved it, I was deeply chagrined to read some months later that the 8-valve 405s were piling up warranty claims right and left, while the M16s were almost completely trouble-free!
Very common car in Israel in the 80s-90s. My father had one and I often borrowed it (1.9 110 hp, 4sp auto). Performance with that engine/box combination was adequate at best but you hardly slowed down for corners – it just took them in its stride with hardly any body roll. It was sold after 300,000 km to an Arab gentleman and, whereas you could tell it was no longer a spring chicken, it was still usable and would only needed to have a few things sorted to put back to good condition. With parts and knowledge available in Israel at the time, this was not an expensive or impossible task. Yet another example of how a good car is being let down in the US by lack of manufacturer’s commitment.
Peugeot 405 cars appeared to sell well in Australia.Often saw them on the roads but rarely see one today,although not far from where I live a man owns one of the last series 405 station wagons in superb condition and painted in that rich cherry red colour.I saw him in the supermarket car park one day and complimented him on his car,the best of that model I have seen.He told me he purchased it new and that it had been very reliable.Although have read some horror stories re 405 reliability issues.When the 405 was released I thought it was somewhat bland but as time passes I find them more attractive,perhaps it is modern cars becoming generic that makes the 405 more appealing today.
Got to drive a couple of these as rentals in the UK back in the day. Nice car and I really liked the design.
That 164/605 profile comparo was a revelation. Even though a colleague had a 164, I never realized how wedge-y the profile was until now – maybe because they didn’t kick the base of the C-pillar up like the 33,
To me, the 605 is a much more refined design – notice how the corners of all with window cuts are radius-ed, and how crude the fixed quarter window treatment is on the 164 vs. the 605 – overall the 164 seems less unified, an odd mix of smooth and angular surface changes. And the solid body color of the Pug wears much better than the dusty grey-black cladding of the Alfa – plus, that white stripe where the rear door cladding cuts away for clearance is very unfortunate.
They may have both paid Pininfarina, but Peugeot got the better value. I’m stunned, because the 164 was a car I lusted after back in the day.
I was one of the few Americans who bought one, late in 1988, a lowline DL, which was a bit of a stretch to afford, and I kept it for over 11 years and 130,000 miles. It’s surprising to read about trouble with the ZF automatic above; my experience was that the drivetrain was bulletproof, although the rest of the car was not! Mostly it was niggling little faults like a speedometer cable that constantly clacked and eventually broke (the replacement was just as noisy), and as was mentioned in the 205 CC, lots of cheap little plastic interior bits that snapped off. The Bosch engine control computer also failed and cost $400, as I recall, which seemed like a lot at the time, and the top of clearcoat paint flaked off after a few years, which I decided I could live with.
But it was supremely comfortable, both in seating and in ride over rough roads. I used to amaze passengers by sailing over railroad tracks without slowing down. They would always tense up in anticipation, then their eyes would widen as they realized that it would not be any more noticeable than driving over a popsicle stick.
The last 405 I saw was one that was often idling in front of a Strawberries music store next to the supermarket I worked at in 2003, it belonged to a kid at a local college and was noisy as hell.
I have a friend who has been driving Peugeots as long as I’ve known him, so at least 35 years. Currently he has a 508 wagon, quite a change from the 407 wagon he had before. That was quite visually startling! The 508 is more ‘normal service has resumed’. 🙂
Unfortunately in Australia Peugeot seems to think if they have dealers in the state’s two largest cities that’s good enough; for him a service often means a day trip to another city. Fortunately he’s retired now, so he and his wife can make it a shopping trip. Fortunately also they live closer now; it used to be an overnight trip. But I don’t think he’d ever drive anything but a Peugeot.
It’s not so bad here in NZ. We live in a fairly isolated area but have three dealers within a 2-hour drive. Having said that, we have to use one that’s 3-hours away because they’re the only one certified to service the hybrid system.
We love our 308 and 508 wagons, but won’t replace them with Peugeots as their newest versions aren’t as useful. Our 308 is upright and huge inside; the current 308 wagon is too low and the 3008 isn’t as space-efficient. Our 508 is 4WD (via the electric motor out back), the current 508 isn’t so would be useless on our muddy fields.
Side note: there’s still 1x 1989 Peugeot 405 going strong here in our isolated rural town. Bright red, immaculate, daily-driven during summer.
My friend’s grandmother drove a 1991 Mi16, which she had until at least the early 2000’s. I distinctly remember the “hockeystick” shape of the red sections on the rear lamps. Other than that one, I think I’ve only seen one or two other 405’s over the years… but that was a long time ago.