By contrast, Peugeot's new 406 is a solidly constructed car with an air of quality and robustness, making the cabin quieter as a consequence. It's a pity the interior isn't more daring - it could as easily have come from Japan or Korea - but it's pleasing enough in a predictable way. Passenger space is slightly better: roomier than a Ford Mondeo, but still less capacious in the cabin than a Citroen Xantia.
The new Peugeot has 16-valve petrol engines, diesels and turbodiesels. They come with either 1.8 or 2.0 litre capacity and a smooth, willing nature, but neither gives the 406 the eager edge found in even the humbler 405s. This said, the top-of-the-range 2.0-litre version is lively enough to deliver an entertaining drive without demanding an excess of effort. The real pleasure comes in the way the 406 flows through bends and over bumps. No rival has a better blend of roadholding, handling prowess and ride comfort.
With the 406, Peugeot has built on the best bits of the 405 and banished the worst. Unlike its predecessor, it is not assembled in Britain, but don't let your fleet manager use that against it if you're in for a new company car. The 406 is too good to miss. Prices start at pounds 12,595 for the 1.8L.
Peugeot 406 2.0 GLX pounds 15,595 approx.
Engine: 1998cc, four cylinders, 135bhp at 5,500rpm. Five-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive. Top speed 126mph, 0-60 in 10.3 seconds. Fuel consumption 28-33mpg.
Citroen Xantia 2.0 SX pounds 14,960
Ford Mondeo 2 .0 Ghia, pounds 15,160
Renault Laguna 2.0 RTi 16V, pounds 15,665
Vauxhall Vectra 2.0 GLS pounds 15,630