Peugeot 607: Last-chance saloon

Peugeot has a reputation for making unreliable cars that nobody (except the French) would drive. And, says Michael Booth, it's well deserved

Conventional wisdom has it that the Peugeot 607 was designed especially to pander to the peculiar requirements of Jacques Chirac - French chauvinism simply could not permit their senior statesmen to be seen to be driven in and out of the gates of the Elysées Palace in German limousines. Conventional wisdom also states that, if it were not for this statutory requirement, the French simply wouldn't bother building executive saloons. They are great at building cheap, tinny hatchbacks with bouncy suspension and funny, flappy-opening windows, but cobblers at luxo-barges, so the thinking goes.

Sales of the 607 in the UK would seem to confirm this. In 2002 they sold a meagre 1,846 but that had dropped to 1,174 last year and, so far this year, they have only shifted 300 - most, I would imagine, to the fleet buyers of the UK arms of French multinationals. My own experience of the 607 adds fuel to the Peugeot flagship's pyre: I borrowed one when it was launched and it promptly broke down in, of all places, Aston Martin's HQ in Newport Pagnell. It hadn't particularly endeared itself to me up to that point, but having to leave it in the car park there and catch the bus home didn't help.

Then again, conventional wisdom is there to be overturned, isn't it? Of course the French can build great large saloons - they built the greatest of all, the Citroën DS, didn't they? For a while in the 1930s, saloons built by Delage, Delahaye and Voisin were among the most desirable in the world. One of the best-looking four-doors of the 1970s was a French car called the Monica GT, and even the harshest critics of the current Renault Vel Satis would concede it is a brave, albeit only partially well-executed, attempt to reinvent the luxury saloon genre. And which is the most valuable car in the world, ever? That'll be the Bugatti Royale. (It's best not to mention the 1958 Facel Vega Excellence, whose doors were prone to flying open over bumps.)

So, I thought I would give the newly revitalised 607 a second chance. The information pack trumpets the car's re-sculpted front bumper and larger badge, as well as a motorised boot lid. It is, they write, "the executive car to be seen in for rational user choosers," but it's hard to see the rationale behind a car nearly five-metres long that still only seats five and loses over two thirds of its value in three years; harder still to understand how minor cosmetic adjustments could improve the 607's visual impact. In silver it looks like a rather forlorn, beached whale.

With leather seats the price of the 2.2 SE version I borrowed tops £26,000, but there is a V6 for over £30,000. If, in the true spirit of the New EU, I can cast aside diplomatic niceties for a moment, the 607 measures up neither aesthetically, dynamically nor in terms of value to similarly priced Jaguars or BMWs. The interior is pleasant enough, but look more closely and quality is lacking. And, as with Chirac's coiffure, though the engine is supernaturally smooth, it is prone to emotional outbursts.

Is such vitriol justified? Well, if it stops an unwitting innocent from buying a 607, it will have been worth the tarnishing of my soul. Peugeot recently came 34th in Top Gear's reliability survey. That's 34th out of 34 manufacturers, which is worse than Fiat or Chrysler. And it doesn't get any worse than that.

It's a Classic Peugeot 404

The tragedy of Peugeot's current reliability worries is heightened by its track record of building cars like the legendarily rugged 404. Designed by Pininfarina at about the same time he drew the Austin Cambridge (the two are almost identical), the 404's high-riding suspension, simple, unburstable engines, and practicality meant it found loyal buyers around the world. It was ideal for the emerging African nations of the time and even today you can still see dozens of 404s in use from Cairo to Cape Town. So long as the bodywork stayed mostly free of moisture, the 404 would run and run, and was easy to repair. The range grew to incorporate estate and pick-up versions, as well as an even more capacious eight-seater Familiale, and stylish coupé and cabriolet versions - the latter now ultra rare and highly desirable. Production lasted 15 years until the 404 was finally superseded by the equally tough, but more advanced 504 which, though it disappeared from Europe over 20 years ago, is still on sale in some parts of North Africa today.

peoplePolice were acting on arrest warrant after actor fled US in 1977
Apple CEO Tim Cook
Arts and Entertainment
Ukip leader Nigel Farage has been fined £200 by the Electoral Commission
tvNot a nightmare, but the plot of a new TV mockumentary
<p><strong>15. Plas Teg Mansion, Flintshire</strong></p>
<p>Plas Teg, a Jacobean house near the the village of Pontblyddyn, Flintshire between Wrexham and Mold, is said to be one of Wales' most haunted buildings. One of its late owners was the infamous 'hanging' Judge Jeffries, who is thought to have held court in the home and had people convicted and hanged in the dining room. Reports of paranormal activity include heavy breathing in one bedroom and the spirit of a young girl appearing in the Blue Bedroom.</p>
Mock the tweet: Ukip leader Nigel Farage and comedian Frankie Boyle
peopleIt was a polite exchange of words, as you can imagine
Life and Style
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Humanities and Economics Teacher - January 2015 - Malaysia

    £18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

    SEN Teaching Assistant needed for long term assignment

    £45 - £55 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experienc...

    Primary Teachers Required in King's Lynn

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...

    Primary Teachers needed in Ely

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
    Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

    11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

    Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
    Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

    Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

    The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
    Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

    The school that means business

    Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
    10 best tablets

    The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

    They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
    Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

    Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

    The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
    Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

    Pete Jenson's a Different League

    Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
    John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
    The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

    The killer instinct

    Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
    Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

    Clothing the gap

    A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

    The Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain