Most of the cars that AutoSpeed tests are provided
free of charge by the car manufacturer or importer. In each state a dealer is
given the task of looking after the press cars, with this process orchestrated
by the PR department of the manufacturer or importer – they tell the dealer that
a particular journalist is to pick up a car on a certain date. The cars are
owned by the manufacturer or importer (not the dealer) but the dealer maintains
In the case of Peugeot, the importer is Sime Darby
Automobiles Australia Pty Ltd, trading as Peugeot Automobiles Australia. Mathew
McAuley is that company’s Public and Customer Relations Manager. In my home
state of Queensland, the press car dealer is City Peugeot.
With the increasing public interest in diesels, I
thought it was time we at AutoSpeed drove some more cars equipped with these
engines so I contacted Peugeot to arrange some press cars. They duly made
available a 407 HDi and then, subsequently, a 307 HDi. I picked up the 407 HDi
from City Peugeot (or actually, from that company’s pre-delivery centre) and
drove off for the week.
In 1999 we tested a 406 HDi on a South Australian
country drive and raved about that car’s fuel economy and long distance prowess.
Seven years later – now with a wife, 20 month old toddler and living just inland
from the Gold Coast – I decide to do something similar. So we loaded the car up
with baby seat, pram - and all the other gear that’s now an apparent necessity -
and headed off. We intended being away two nights and pointed the Peugeot’s very
reclined windscreen towards Toowoomba. We arrived there at lunchtime and then
headed northwards to Kingaroy.
The roads we traversed are absolutely typical of
Australia – a stretch of freeway, good four lane road, then two lane bitumen
with bumps and dips and patches. And the 407 HDi wagon simply didn’t impress.
(You’ll read why in a moment.) In fact, the car was so irritating that we
decided to stay away only one night, on the second day driving from Kingaroy to
the Sunshine Coast and then back home to the Gold Coast.
The rest of the week flew past and then it was
time to return the car – a 100km drive. I was running late that morning so after
removing the baby seat and oddments that still remained from the trip, I had
time only to sweep out some crumbs by hand and then return the car.
It’s always interesting returning a press car
because the dealer’s salesman will often ask: “How was it?” Normally, there’s a
mix of good and bad points that can be made but in the case of the 407 HDi, the
points I strongly made to the young salesman were all negative. As part of that
discussion I physically showed him many of the car’s deficiencies to which he
replied something along the lines of: “We’re so close to the cars that we don’t
see a lot of these points.”
As I left I said with a slightly ironic grin:
“Good luck selling these things!”
Late that afternoon, the following email arrived
from Mathew McAuley, Public and Customer Relations Manager, Peugeot Automobiles
I am sorry to say that the 407
you recently returned is not in a condition that we find
The car has been damaged as you can see from
the photos attached, and while we expect you to treat the car as your own, this
courtesy does not extend quite as far as you obviously expect it to.
No doubt you didn't like the car judging by
your comments to the staff at City Peugeot, but you may like to keep in mind
that just about every motoring journalist in Australia has had very good things
to say about the car. And as the 407 is one of the most popular European
cars in its segment, we are indeed having plenty of luck selling these
It is clearly no longer in our interests to
provide you with access to our press fleet given the treatment you have shown
our cars over a period of time.
Public and Customer Relations Manager
Sime Darby Automobiles Australia Pty
t/as Peugeot Automobiles Australia
ABN 26 000 426 282
The attached photos were:
A detached rubber strip along the bottom edge of
the front bumper...
..and some marks around where the baby seat had
.. a mark left by – I suspect – a tiny spill from
a drink consumed on the trip...
...and a scrape under a corner of the
This is my emailed reply:
I am disappointed that you have chosen to take
With regard to the condition of the car,
I am prepared to accept the scrape on the underside of the front
bumper is of my doing - I don't recall that occurring but in any long
country Australian drive on secondary roads (just under 800 km) such an outcome
is certainly possible. The slightly misplaced under-bumper strip I
noticed as soon as I reached home after picking up the car.
However, that in itself is a 100km drive - including bumpy country roads -
so again that may have occurred while I had the car.
As I may have caused these defects, I am happy
to pay to have them remedied.
However, the mark around the gearshift
indicator and the mark on the back seat (where a baby seat had been installed)
will both wipe off with a damp cloth. I apologize that I did not clean the car
prior to its return.
With regard to your comment about other
journalists' views of the car, I cannot comment on their observations. However,
I can list some of the negatives I found in the car. I am quite happy
to publish in the review a specific Peugeot response to each of these
The A-pillars badly
obstruct the driver's vision
The auto rain sensor is well within the
driver's field of vision and therefore obstructs driver vision
The LCD panel is unreadable when the driver is
wearing polarising sunglasses
The increments on the oil temperature and water
temperature gauges are extremely difficult to interpret, as for example on the
oil temp gauge, the increments are (according to my calculations) 8.3 degrees C
The passenger side front window electric switch
cannot be reached by the passenger when seated normally
The glovebox is tiny, being half filled
with a large box
Rear space is poor, in fact with the passenger
seat in its rearwards position, it is impossible for an adult to sit there
The interior fan speed lags behind the rotation
of the knob so the driver has to adjust the fan speed knob multiple times
to achieve the desired speed
There is no simple way of turning off the air
The rear blinds have sharp edges, so much so
that an occupant of the car cut a finger when operating the blind
The 407 returned clearly inferior fuel
consumption to the 406 HDi manual sedan that we drove in 1999
More subjectively, I'd also suggest the
- The ride is poor
- The handling lacks the fluid
understeer/oversteer balance that in the past Peugeots were known
- In some situations the NVH is inferior
to diesel competitors
I think that the car's good points include the
equipment level provided at the price, the steering (especially the feel around
centre), the aerodynamic stability, the auto headlights, the excellent crash
test results, and the matching of the transmission and engine.
I reiterate: I am willing to pay to have the
scrape repaired and I welcome a Peugeot response to the points 1-11 listed
It is your prerogative to provide or not
provide cars for tests as you wish. However, I am pleased to continue to work as
an utterly independent journalist who is prepared to call the shots exactly as I
see them, highlighting the good and bad points of cars that I drive and then
drawing an overall conclusion from them. I think that impartiality and
bluntness show very clearly in the nine new car tests we
have previously done on Peugeots:
The Parsimonious Peugeot
New Car Test - Peugeot 206 GTi
New Car Test - Peugeot 406 ST Automatic
New Car Test - Peugeot 306 Style
New Car Test - Peugeot 206CC 2.0-litre
Peugeot 206 GTi 180 Road Test
Peugeot 307 CC Dynamic Test
Peugeot 407 SV
Peugeot 307 XSE
These include tests that were very favourable
and others that were unfavourable.
You are right: I didn't much like the 407 HDi
wagon; the points listed above show clearly my justifications for that opinion.
On the other hand, I thought the original Peugeot 206 GTi a very good car
indeed; similarly, the reasons for that judgment are clearly outlined in that
To imply that all models from a car company are
wonderful is to defy rationality: no one in their right mind would suggest that
all the products of any company in the world are without fault, or in fact are
even of equal merit. In fact, in the case of the 407 HDi, one can be quite
certain that subsequent updates will be billed as having improvements over this
car: how can that be the case if this car is in fact without negatives?
My job is to critically assess the cars that I
drive and express that opinion without fear or favour.
Make Up Your Own Mind
We’ve covered the deficiencies of the 407 HDi
wagon in our test (see Peugeot 407 HDi Touring ) but in case you
missed that, here they are again:
The front pillars....
...and the sensor for the auto windscreen
The LCD screen normally...
...and what it looks like when you’re wearing
polarising sunglasses. (This photo was actually taken through a pair of
sunglasses with the screen unchanged from the above pic.) In addition to the
trip computer, this screen is also used for the climate control and audio
The increments on the oil temperature gauge (try
to work out by eye what they mean!)...
...the passenger side electric window switch that
can’t be reached ...
...and a real world result of using the lift-up rear
blinds. (This happened to my wife on the trip and I pulled over to take this
photograph immediately after it occurred.)
...the glovebox (complete with its big black
...and the rear space with child seat in place. In
fact, I wish I’d taken a pic of an adult sitting in there with the front seats
set for adults.
You’ll have to take my word for the weird (and
very driver distracting) lag in the action of the fan speed control knob, but
you can see for yourself the lack of an air-conditioning on/off button. Instead
you need to enter a menu structure to turn off the air con – almost impossible
for the driver to achieve without taking multiple glances away from the road.
(Not to mention completely impossible if the driver is wearing polarising
sunglasses and so can’t read the LCD...)
With regard to fuel economy, in 1999 we pushed the
manual transmission 406 HDi sedan quite hard. That drive was also conducted on
typical Australian roads, from main highway to secondary road bumpy bitumen.
Over 1030 kilometres we averaged an astonishingly good 5.9 litres/100km – see
The Parsimonious Peugeot.
In the drive of the 407 HDi 6-speed auto wagon,
where I pedalled far more gently over similar types of roads, we averaged 6.6
litres/100, or 12 per cent worse fuel economy than the 406. Peugeot list the
city fuel consumption of the 407 diesel wagon as 10.1 litres/100km; in 1999 in
the 406 we achieved 6.7 litres/100 in city conditions – some 33 per cent better.
Whichever way you play it, it seems unambiguous that the 407 diesel gets poorer
fuel economy than its predecessor.
And, given that the absolute dominant reason that
people in Australia buy diesel engine cars is fuel economy, that’s a major
The ride and handling of the 407 HDi wagon were
also disappointing. In the weeks before the 407 I had a number of Mitsubishi 380
press cars – both with and without sports suspension. The 380 is a slightly
larger front-wheel drive that’s quite a lot cheaper than the 407. The 380 with
standard suspension rode better than the 407 and handled better, despite not
having stability control. The sports suspension 380 had a similar ride to the
407 but handled far better. (In fact with its fantastic throttle control
of the oversteer/understeer balance, the sports suspension 5-speed manual 380 is
actually reminiscent of old Peugeot handling philosophy...) I haven’t driven a BF
Falcon on my local roads (I’ve only driven them interstate) but I believe the
Falcon rides much better than the Peugeot. The VZ Commodore wagon I tested
locally definitely rode better than the Peugeot and had very impressive handling
– on a dry road, at least.
Once – say back in 1999 with the 406 – such ride
and handling comparisons of the Peugeot with locally manufactured cars would
have been laughable. Simply, the old Peugeot suspension characteristics of a
fluid ride mixed with great handling have been lost.
So, interior design, ride and handling, fuel
economy – all have major negatives.
But what would Peugeot representative Mathew
McAuley have to say about my email? Well, you can read that for yourself.
I am not seeking reimbursement for
the damage, it was a courtesy to let you know it had occurred.
Obviously we would expect damage to
be pointed out to us when the car is returned or preferably when it actually
occurs. As you would appreciate we often have tight turn around on press cars,
and as such as much notice as possible is required in order to take steps to
honor ongoing bookings. I also reiterate that while we expect cars to be used
during the week long loan, we also expect them to be returned in a reasonable
think I questioned or
referred to your right to make an independent assessment of the cars you drive.
That is a given, but I do believe you have been particularly hard on our
product, and while I respect your right to do so I do not have to like
I have no interest in responding to your list
of negatives, or positives in fact of the car. Other than to say some
fair comment, but most I disagree with - and just for interests
sake my company car which I live with day in and day out with a family of 5 is
usually a 407 diesel Touring.
You have a booking for the 307
Touring HDi for June 22 to 29 which we will fulfill, however I would seek an
undertaking that the vehicle will be well cared for.
So, one day “It is clearly no longer in our
interests to provide you with access to our press fleet” yet a few days
later access will be granted to a previously booked press car.
One day a very strong implication that withdrawal
of press cars is being premised around negative published tests and my comments
to the salesman (the trivial damage to the car is clearly a red herring), to a
few days later an acknowledgement of my right to make and publish an independent
A car company “that has no interest” in responding
to specific, listed criticisms of one of their models but then says an
unspecified number are “fair comment” - does the latter mean Mr McAuley agrees
Then there’s the throwaway line from Mr McAuley
that he drives a 407 diesel wagon – but there’s no mention of the enormous
vested interest he has in driving a Peugeot product. One of the salesmen at City
Peugeot drives a Peugeot 307 and another drives a Peugeot 406. When the latter
salesman previously sold Land Rovers, he told me he drove a Land Rover. Hell,
what a surprise.
I will treat the 307 HDi as I have the many
dozens of press cars I have driven in the last fifteen years: that is, using the
car as widely and industriously as possible for the week in which I have it
while at the same time taking of it greater care than I would one of my own
However, I am rather confused. You stated in a
previous email that: “It is clearly no longer in our interests to provide you
with access to our press fleet given the treatment you have shown our cars over
a period of time”. Without any discussion ever having previously occurred with
regard to vehicle damage, I could only assume that “the treatment you have shown
our cars over a period of time” referred to previously published negative road
If this is not the case, and I have offered to
pay for any damage that you have found on the 407 HDi, I an unsure of what the
On that basis, in addition to the 307 HDi, I’d
like to request access to the 407 HDi twin turbo V6 that City Peugeot has told
me is now available in Brisbane as a press car.
Back came the response:
The Coupe is a low volume car for us
and is only available for a limited time on my fleet.
Unfortunately this will preclude me
from making it available to you, as due to the buyer profile I am only targeting
specific outlets given the time frame I am working with.
At this point I thought we may as well quit
beating around the bush:
Can you specifically state what the
situation is with regard to Peugeot press cars being made available to me in the
And back came PR gobblygook:
That, as always, is to be determined
on a case by case basis.
If we have a new model and we feel
that a loan is appropriate for your outlets then we will be in
As Public and Customer Relations Manager for
Peugeot Automobiles Australia, Mathew McAuley’s job revolves around generating
positive public perceptions of Peugeots. City Peugeot’s reason for existence is
to profitably sell Peugeots. Clearly, both have a vested interest in seeing the
production of media road tests that endorse the vehicles with which they are
On the other hand, it is of no benefit to me
whether a road test is positive or negative – I have absolutely no financial
interest in the tone of the assessment.
Minor damage of road test vehicles – windscreen
stone chips, small under-bumper scrapes, parking door dings – is common. More
major damage is certainly not unknown – fact, while we at AutoSpeed have never
done so, many a car has been written-off during a road test. Never in my
experience have press cars been withdrawn from a journalist for these reasons
Perhaps then you’d like to draw your own
conclusions as to why “It is clearly no longer in our interests to provide you
with access to our press fleet given the treatment you have shown our cars over
a period of time” – and why this then subsequently got watered-down to the
availability of Peugeot press cars being “...determined on a case by case basis”
.... which you can be sure means the same thing.
At the moment Peugeot has lost its way, producing
cars with clear and obvious design deficiencies and not progressing in the
manner that the debut of the HDi diesel would have led one to expect. But
perhaps the new 207 will be the car to re-establish Peugeot’s credibility? I’ve
been driving cars for long enough to know that could easily be the case – or,
alternatively, the new model could be a stinker.
But here at AutoSpeed I don’t think we’ll be
finding that out for quite a while...
Edgar, 42, has been writing for automotive publications for 17 years. He has
owned cars with two, three, four, five, six and eight cylinders; single turbo,
twin turbo, supercharged and hybrid electric drivelines. He test-drives about 30
different cars a year, mostly newly released models. In 2000 he authored the
automotive DIY book 21st Century Performance and in 2004 he
co-authored High Performance Electronics for Cars. A former secondary
school humanities teacher, he has a Graduate Diploma in Journalism and is
currently studying for an Associate Degree in Mechanical Engineering.
Cars and Journalism
in 2000 Alfa released the awful 166 – see
New Car Test - Alfa 166 Sportronic.
At the time I remember reading some positive road tests on the car – and I knew
that the journalists were either being less than careful with the truth or
incompetent. (Less than truthful? Well, you see, if you want to stay on the
gravy train of free press cars, it’s a strong incentive to not express negative
opinions, isn’t it?) The manner in which the Alfa 166 has since sunk like a
stone is, in a way, gratifying – we were right. But since the Alfa 166 test
appeared in 2000 we’ve not received another press car from the Alfa importer
(which also handles Kia and Citroen, so ditto for those makes as well.)
interesting test we conducted was on the 2002 Subaru Impreza STi –
New Car Test - Subaru Impreza STi. In the test we criticised
the dreadful turbo lag and lack of bottom-end torque – aspects now universally
acknowledged as major defects of that car and specifically addressed by the
company in subsequent STi models. After the test appeared, the Australian Subaru
importer decided we’d receive no more press cars – a policy that continues to
those companies aren’t the only ones. Ford stopped providing this writer with
press cars (and in fact cancelled those already booked) after my 2001 column
From the Editor
on the Tickford TS50 and my
comments on the workmanship we saw occurring at the Tickford factory. HSV hasn’t
made available a press car since the publication of
The Spin Circuit.
the other hand, Honda, Mitsubishi and Holden and others have continued to fairly
provide press cars, even though some of the stories on their products have been