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FWD Champions: The Peugeot 405 Mi16

September 20, 2011 by Matt

1989 1990 1991 Peugeot 405 Mi16 Mi 16

I really wish I’d driven this one. I guess I still can, assuming I can find one of the astronomically small number imported to the US from its native France during the car’s brief ’89-’91 model run here. My chances are decreased even further by the car’s appalling build quality, even when new. I had a subscription to Popular Science in ’91, and remember reading a four-way comparo that included the Peugeot, in which the magazine remarked:

The one mark against the interior was a set of squeaks and rattles that came free with the car at only 3,500 miles on the odometer.

So the 405 Mi16 is poorly-made, incredibly hard to find, FWD and French. Is there anything to like about this car?

1989 1990 1991 Peugeot 405 Mi16 Mi 16 Interior Inside Cockpit

Frankly, yes. From the same article:

The Mi16 is a lot of fun to push around, simply because it doesn’t misbehave.

And the Orlando Sentinel adds:

The car’s road manners are like those of BMW. The suspension is firm in a sporty way. There’s very little body roll, and if the 405 has a tendency to oversteer or understeer, I couldn’t detect it.

If there’s anything cars could use more of on this continent, it’s the Europeans’ proficiency in tuning their cars’ suspensions to be “firm in a sporty way.” That, and a dollop of the personality our neighbors from the other side of the pond are so adept an infusing into even their small cars. After all, it’s the continent that gave us the original VW Beetle and Golf GTI, the Mini and the BMW 2002. Who knows; perhaps some of the passion Pininfarina demonstrated when they penned the clean, taut lines trickled into the 405 Mi16’s road manners, or it could just be the combination of independent rear suspension, 5-speed manual, a 2,800 lb curb weight and an all-aluminum 1.9l, 160 hp 4-cyl. Whatever the case, I’d love experience one and add my own accolades to the pile.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series highlighting FWD cars I think highly of, in spite of my overwhelming RWD bias. Read the other installments here:

Filed under: FWD Champions, Peugeot


  1. Luca says:

    You must try to find, via import, a 306 GTi6 2.0 16v
    A hot hatch that put golf in the shame as for driving pleasure.

  2. bangernomic Gav says:

    Strangely 405s were renowned for being reliable on this side of the pond. Bits fell off, they rattled and the diesels clattered but they kept going. Rust and lack of interest eventually killed them in Britain, but many still earn a living as taxis in Africa, where they are now heading to astronomical mileages (although not approaching Morroco’s huge fleet of Merc W123s). They’re still produced in Iran as the Peugeot Pars and are everywhere.

    Luca’s right about the 306 GTi-6 they’re phenomenal. Getting hard to find in unmolested condition unfortunately. I’ll go out on line and say that since Peugeot stopped making the 206, everything they make has been a poor copy of a German car full of dodgy electrics diesels that go bang, ugly and generally dog slow. Peugeot-Citroen today is like Chrysler in 1980, lost and losing sight of it’s purpose.

  3. Civvic says:

    I’m from Africa and can confirm what Gav has stated about the 405. They were rock hard reliable except for phase 1 models dashboard which shattered catastrophically. Many were brought in ex Europe and some were bought brand new with more tropicallised specifications. Many of the problems facing these cars had to do with use of incompetent mechanics who tinkered and messed these cars into submission. Those that were handled by dealers and dealer trained mechanics have been pushed to 500k plus kms and many are still on the road.

  4. Civvic says:

    Common problems include water ingress through rear lights (ph1 models). Torsion bar splines shearing due to incorrect torquing often after raising suspension (import models), torsion bar bearings wear due to age and rough roads, carburettor messed up by incompetence (import models), electric sunroof misalignment leading to rainwater into cabin (import version). The fuel injected versions only suffered occasional failure in ignition module in high mileage ones.

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