Peugeot makes many things. Some might know them for their vintage bicycles, others their wooden pepper mills. While I own the former and aspire to own the latter, I most associate the company with its lightweight performance cars from the ’80s and early ’90s, arguably a heyday for the brand. Peugeot was making big waves in rally and endurance racing at the time, and the carmaker’s 205 GTi is widely regarded as one of the greatest hot hatchbacks ever made.
The 405 Mi16 was made in very much the same mold as the 205 GTi but was a bigger, more comfortable machine (it has heated seats for goodness sake) with sleek Pininfarina styling. Even the base 405 was a lauded machine in its day, winning the European Car of the Year award in 1988 by the largest margin in the award’s history to date. It was also the last car Peugeot sold in the US before it pulled out of the market in 1991.
And what a way to go out. The car was powered by a 1.9-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinder that would, eventually, form the basis for the mill used in the indomitable 206 Rally Car. It put out a mind-blowing…150 horsepower in the US market. Which is not a lot, but was enough to propel the car to 60 mph in under eight seconds. Again, that doesn’t seem like a lot, but in the context of the time, it was quick. Hell, that’s lukewarm hatchback territory today.
More importantly, that engine had a redline of about 7,000 rpm, which lent itself to the peppy, drive-it-like-you-stole-it driving dynamics. The car was also front-wheel-drive, but by all accounts was one of the best-handling FWD cars of its time; Peugeot went to pains to create a stiff body and a nimble chassis. What you ultimately get is a car with the lightweight, tossable attitude of a classic hot hatch but the practicality and styling of a sedan. Like a Golf GTi or a Mazda Miata, it’s fun because you need to use all of the performance just to get to work. When you arrive, you’ll be the only one to punch in with a smile on your face.
American car buyers some 30 years ago probably did not see things this way, and the 405 Mi16 didn’t sell particularly well making it a rarity here. Which makes this particular example special. It has fewer than 50,000 miles and a body and interior that look nearly pristine. Classic cars that are this well-preserved generally fetch a mighty sum but given the Peugeot’s lack of recognition here, this might sell fairly low. Which is why I implore you to consider it as a fun, oddball daily driver — the best kind of daily driver. And this is to say nothing about those glorious multi-colored stripes on the grille, the only real indicator of how special this car actually is. Magnifique
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