Love it or hate it, you can't have helped but notice the Peugeot 407 saloon. It's a car that looks utterly stunning from some angles and decidedly odd from others. Much of this is due to the perceived imbalance between the long front end and the abbreviated tail. Imagine getting shot of the notchback rear and instead stretching the 407 back as if it had been squeezed out of a very big tube of toothpaste. That's the effect you get with the SW version (which was priced from new at an £1,100 premium and started from around £16,500) and it looks nothing less than sensational. For those of you accustomed to medium range estates being saloon cars with a hunched fenestration on the back and all the aesthetic elegance of a conservatory mounting your vehicle, it comes as a welcome change.
It's not all about good looks either. As Alfa Romeo and Lexus have shown, it's quite easy to build a great looking 'sportshatch'-style estate but end up with little or no space advantage over the saloon it was based on. The 407 SW tacks another 87mm onto the rear overhang and features a tailgate with a very low and practical load height. Lift the fifth door and there's a respectable amount of room, Peugeot's designers concentrating on sheer utility. The load bay is never less than 1,100mm wide and the front passenger seat can fold forwards, allowing items up to 2,700mm to be carried. Two side storage pods in the load bay also allow gear to be stowed well out of harm's way. A solid carpeted cover aids security by keeping what's in the load bay out of sight of prying eyes.
The rear seats split in a 66:33 fashion and fold virtually flat to the floor without the tedious necessity to remove the head restraints. Thus equipped, there's a 1,700mm load length. A full five seater, the 407SW features a number of thoughtful features deigned to make the car easy to live with. As touched upon before, the rear loading lip is only 61cm from ground level and shorter drivers will appreciate the strap that dangles from the tailgate. The luggage bay incorporates a soundproof membrane to isolate road and suspension noise and includes four support bars so that heavy suitcases can easily be slid in and out without risking a herniated disc. Options from new included a ski flap, luggage nets and a six CD autochanger and JBL bass box which are mounted adjacent to one of the side luggage bins.
Peugeot have really upped their game when it comes to build quality and there are aspects of the 407 SW that would put many premium rivals to shame. The mechanicals are largely tried and tested units and the interior trim is hardwearing. The good news for used buyers is that the 407 SW doesn't attract the sort of buyer who tends to flog their car to death, instead attracting a more genteel clientele. Sophisticated traction control helps preserve front tyre life on more powerful models. No significant problems have yet raised their heads but insist on a properly stamped up service book and if in doubt, opt for an HPI check.
(Based on a 2004 407 SW 2.0) A new exhaust will set you back about £475, while a replacement headlamp should be around £165. A new clutch is about £155. As for front brake pads, expect to pay about £45 front and £40 rear.
Four petrol engines and three diesel units are available, the diesels including a particulate emission filter. Those with manual gearboxes are compliant with Euro4 standards, thus neatly sidestepping the three per cent benefit in kind surcharge. These HDi diesels consist of a 1.6-litre unit that cranks out 110bhp and 240Nm of torque (260Nm of temporary 'overboost') and a 2.0-litre powerplant that develops 136bhp and 320Nm of torque (340Nm on overboost). Through a strategic link with Ford, Peugeot also offer a gutsy 2.7-litre V6 HDi engine which is by far the most desirable pick for most customers.
Petrol buyers are well catered for with a range that opens with a 16-valve 1.8-litre unit with 117bhp, mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. Step up to the 2.0-litre engine and you'll have access to 136bhp and the choice of either a conventional five-speed manual 'box or a four-speed automatic 'autoadaptive' gearbox with Porsche's Tiptronic System control. If you do fancy the automatic gearbox, the 160bhp 2.2-litre engine is probably a better candidate, although if you prefer a manual gearbox, this model boasts a six-speeder. The range-topping 211bhp 3.0-litre V6 also offers the choice between the six-speed manual and the automatic and features variable valve timing (VVT) to ensure that power and torque are evenly distributed across a wide rev range.
Peugeot have set something of a precedent to follow with some very good previous Euro NCAP crash test results but the 407 SW again takes a big step forward. Active safety in the form of brake discs with a diameter of up to 330mm and next-generation ESP stability control which is standard on every model. As well as marshalling the anti-skid function, ESP also acts as a controller for the anti lock braking system, the emergency brake assist and the electronic brakeforce distribution to each individual wheel. Up to nine air bags can be specified - twin fronts, side, curtain and steering column units offer optimum protection.
One of the worries about buying a used car is that you're often getting old technology and a shape that could date very rapidly. Rest assured that's not the case with the Peugeot 407 SW. Here is a modern car that combines style and practicality at surprisingly affordable prices. Recommended.