Peugeot 406 ST Sport

AutoTrader NZ
Published 3 September 2020

There’s a Sport this, a Sport that. We used to run a 1300cc Nissan Sentra here at Auto Trader that was called – very optimistically – a Sportwagon.

Late 1980s Sentras handled well enough but the 1300 wagon could never be called a sporting car by even the most elastic of imaginations.

Sport seems to be used to give the car an extra cachet, a suggestion of the exotic.

Ford used the Sport tag on the image model in the early 1980s Laser range. That car, though, merited the tag with its stiffer suspension, twin carburettors and fine, if a little rough, road manners. There were the usual Sport cosmetics, like striping, mini-spoiler, vestigial front air dam, loudly-patterned upholstery, sports steering wheel – and, a little way into the model’s life, alloy wheels.

The car earned its spurs in the ultra-competitive Laser Sport race series. Yes the Laser was worthy of the marketing department’s Sport tag.

Less deserving was its contemporary the Nissan Pulsar SSS which amounted to little more than a wild paint job and other cosmetic touches. It certainly had little in common with such Nissan (or Datsun as they were called then) sports sedan greats such as the 1200 and 1600 SSS.

And as for the Sport pack versions of the passenger vans Japanese manufacturers call coaches!

Which brings us to the test car, the Peugeot 406 ST Sport.

It gets a bigger engine – 2.2-litre – in place of the 2.0-litre found in the standard 406 ST.

It is available only with a five-speed manual gearbox – also uprated and shared with the 406 V6 model.

It gets spoked, 16-inch diameter alloy wheels and 205/55 R16W tyres in place of the standard ST’s 15-inch wheels and 195/65 R15V tyres.

Peugeot says the car will accelerate to 100km/h in 10 seconds – eight-tenths faster than the 2.0-litre 406. Top speed rises 10km/h to 218km/h.

So, on paper, there’s plenty to suggest a Sport tag might be justified.

Once you’ve driven it briskly at open road speeds on demanding roads you’re left in no doubt that the Sport appellation is justified.

The double overhead camshaft, 16-valve, in-line 2230cc four cylinder is free-revving and lively.

It produces a healthy 116kW of maximum power at 5650rpm. Peak toque of 217Nm is delivered at 3900rpm, though a good chunk of that is on stream much lower in the rev range.

The car has punch enough, though its acceleration doesn’t put it in the vanguard of modern small-capacity sporting sedans.

Where the 406 Sport scores is with its brilliant chassis which has the grip, poise, balance and agility to make every ounce of power and torque useable.

The engine speed-sensitive power steering offers good feel and the car turns-in to corners accurately and instantly.

Roadholding is unshakeable on dry roads – we didn’t encounter rain during the open road test, and yes we were driving in the Auckland region.

The car simply goes where it’s pointed, the long travel suspension treating mid-corner bumps with absolute disdain.

That suspension also delivers an excellent, absorbent ride in typically French fashion, making the 406 Sport comfortable for both driver and passenger.

Our only real quibble about the 406 Sport’s road behaviour was a degree of torque steer under hard acceleration in first, second and third gears.

The engine is commendably smooth, thanks to the presence of two crankshaft-driven balancing shafts.

The five-speed manual shifts quickly and precisely and the gear ratios are well-matched to the engine.

There’s excellent punch out of tight corners in second gear and the combination of good torque – 200Nm is produced at 2600rpm – and the chassis’ excellent grip mean some corners we’d usually taken in second gear could be comfortably rounded in third.

The braking system – discs on all four wheels – is the same as the V6’s and ABS anti-skid is standard. Front discs are ventilated and 283mm in diameter. The rears are solid and 290mm.

The brakes deliver strong performance and stop the car quickly and efficiently.

Safety equipment includes driver’s and passenger’s front airbags which deploy at two levels depending on the severity of an accident. The car also has side airbags, and all occupants get lap and sash seatbelts.

In common with some other Peugeot models the 406 Sport has sensors that turn on the windscreen wipers automatically when it starts to rain and switch on the headlights when the light gets dim – for instance the lights come on automatically when you drive out of the sunlight and into a carpark building.

Frankly we can take or leave either of those features; we’re happy enough with them, but we wouldn’t miss them if they weren’t there.

Items we would miss, though, are the standard remote-control central door-locking and the power windows and exterior mirrors (the latter also heated).

The electrically-adjustable front seats have individual fold-down armrests. The upholstery is a combination of leather and cloth and the seats provided excellent comfort and good lateral support in rapid cornering.

Other standard equipment includes a good quality sound system with dash-loaded Compact Disc player; temperature, date, time and radio data display screen; digital trip computer; front and rear foglights; retractable rear window blind; and height-adjustable steering column.

The boot offers a spacious 430 litres of cargo space, and the fuel tank will hold 70 litres. Kerb weight is 1370kg, and the car will tow a 1500kg braked trailer.

Peugeot quotes fuel consumption of 12.8 litres per 100 kilometres on the urban cycle and 6.5 on the highway.

The 406 is 4736mm long, 1765mm wide and 1412mm high. Front track is 1500mm, rear is 1482mm and the wheelbase is 2700mm.

We wouldn’t expect a company with Peugeot’s sporting pedigree – world rally champions, sports car racers, Formula 1 engine makers – to hand out the sport tag lightly.

The $47,990 is a well-bred, refined sporting sedan with good accommodation, high refinement, excellent ride and inspiring handling that makes you want to keep on driving. It’s a very good package indeed.

AutoPoint Road Test team.