Motoring: Looking good for a lot less dosh

The new Peugeot 406 Coupe passes the most important test of any coupe: it feels fast and looks glamourous. John Simister gives the 2.0- litre version the road-test lowdown, and finds a good-value, good-quality ride; peugot 406 coupe
A colleague of mine took a Peugeot 406 Coupe home on trial a few nights ago. She parked it outside her house as usual, but kept sneaking to the window to steal another look. She was smitten.

The Peugeot, then, passed the test to which every coupe, by virtue of what it is, must take. A coupe which looks like a frump has missed the point. If you buy a coupe you are paying more for less, in quantitative terms, but you are gaining in style. A coupe should look like an extravagance.

The Peugeot does it well. It didn't matter that this 406 Coupe had the humbler, 2.0-litre engine of the two on offer, rather than the more muscular 3.0-litre V6. The two cars have little more than wheel and tyre size differences to distinguish them otherwise. The shape is subtle, with no sharp edges but enough tension to make it seem to be moving. Now, it would be sad if it proved a pudding to drive, but I'm pleased to report that the Peugeot passes this test, too. I've always liked the way 406s move along.

That said, it doesn't cushion its occupants from bumps quite as well as its saloon sibling. The wider wheels and lower-profile tyres are to blame, but they prove their worth when the road twists. Vigorous grip, crisper steering than the saloon, and a fluid stringing-together of bends proves quite delightful. The experience may be less interactive than you'd get from a BMW 3-series Coupe, say, as the Peugeot is pulled by its front wheels, but ultimately it will corner faster and feel more secure.

The V6, in particular, has rather good brakes as well - large Brembo units which bring this 406 to a halt more smoothly and less snatchily than those of lesser versions. And it is genuinely fast, its 194bhp rising from a deep growl to a refined but slightly beaty blare. The 2.0-litre version can't compete, but is still no visual charlatan.

Unlike some coupes, the 406 is a feasible four-seater thanks to rear seats recessed to give sensible headroom. Leather trim comes only with the Executive version of the V6 (pounds 26,420 against the regular V6's pounds 23,620, which also gets you a few other luxuries), but even so it's a plush, well- wrought cabin. The dashboard is standard apart from some added brightwork, however, and it breaks the beauty spell a bit.

In coupe terms, the 406 is a bargain. It costs about pounds 3,000 more than a 406 saloon, but it's a lot cheaper than a comparable Mercedes-Benz. Maybe there's no such thing as sensible money for coupes. But if there is, the Peugeot is where you'd put it.

Peugeot 406 V6 Coupe


Price: pounds 23,620. Engine: 2,946cc V6, 24 valves, 194bhp at 6,250rpm. Five- speed gearbox, front-wheel drive. Performance: top speed 143mph, 0-60 in 7.5sec. Fuel consumption: 21-26mpg, but still a car of honed perfection.