Peugeot hopes to lower the 806's handicap by capitalising on Ford's lavish promotion of the rival Galaxy, hyped as a new breed of mainstream saloon, not an MPV.
The 806 is the first of three new joint-venture MPVs to go on sale in Britain. Clones from Citroen and Fiat follow soon. The Peugeot comes with a choice of three equipment packages - even the cheapest SL gets two airbags, powered windows, eight-speaker stereo, deadlocks and an immobiliser - and two engines. The petrol 2.0 gives adequate pep and reasonable refinement but performance freaks will have to wait for the potent V6; Ford and VW offer one in the Galaxy/Sharan twins, as does Renault in the pioneering Espace, so Peugeot must follow suit. Alternatively, there's a frugal 1.9- litre diesel that pulls sluggishly until its turbo-charger is working effectively in the mid-speed ranges.
Like the Galaxy/Sharan, the 806 passes muster as a car. Despite the lofty stance which gives a commanding view out, there's no impression of top-heavy insecurity. Steering is easy and precise, cornering stable and free from lurching. The 806 will hustle through roundabouts just about as smartly as low-slung saloons, and I could name several estate cars - Ford's Mondeo, for a start - that ride less smoothly.
Peugeot 806 2.0SL, from pounds 16,500 Engine 1998cc, four cylinders, 123bhp at 5,750rpm. Five-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive. Top speed 110mph. 0-60mph in 13 seconds, average fuel consumption 29.3mpg.
Ford Galaxy 2.0i Aspen, pounds 16,495 Sleeker, more stylish than 806, not quite so versatile. Drives like a car, rides and handles well. The MPV benchmark.
Nissan Serena 2.0SLX, pounds 15,660 Keenly priced mid-engined seven-seater made in Spain. Looks and drives like a small minibus.
Renault Espace 2.0RN, pounds 16,490 Despite a makeover, this precursor of the MPV breed is beginning to look and feel its age. New model due next year.