The 80’s were prosperous years for the Peugeot brand, despite the dramatic situation in which the group had landed after purchasing the Chrysler Europe in 1979. Thanks to the two iconic models, the Lion could get past the rut and revive lastingly. First of all the, 205 allowed the latter to increase in volume and get the brand image back on an even keel, mainly through its sporty versions (205 Rally, 205 GTI) or the convertible (205 CJ or CTI). Last but not least, in 1987 the 405 rubbed it in further on the sedan market, which was still major. By applying the same recipe like with the 205, Peugeot offered a sporty version of its sedan, the 405 Mi16 which not only made kids dream but also its rival Renault 21 2 liters Turbo.
Of course, the German manufacturers already had a flattering image of sports cars or big engines, but it was still possible for an amateur those days, to imagine that a French could play their cards right, while facing Teutonic competition. A little lower in terms of range, the 205 GTI turned out to be a serious rival for Volkswagen Golf GTI. Moreover, it wasn’t silly to imagine that a 405 Mi16 could compete with a BMW 325i (E30) for example. True, one was facing an inline-six but the 405 retorted with a modern 4 cylinders (XU9J4), along with 16 valves and a frame with the greatest of care (despite an idle reverse).
The 405 Mi16, Peugeot’s « flagship »
Those days, this 405 Mi16 was a genuine “flagship” (as the manufacturers say today), making the kids dream, let’s imagine the 405 SR 1.9 fuel pod of my father, wasn’t so different, despite the Mi16 logos, 14 inches alloy wheels and rods. Being present in the sporty range, made the most ordinary paternal version almost desirable, especially since the Mi6 offered sportiness but remain stingy in terms of equipment. Yet, marketing is simple.
This first version of the Mi16 was presented by the press department as the first 16 valves realized by Peugeot, while forgetting about the recent Peugeot 205 Turbo 16. Perhaps, it was fairer saying, « first atmospheric 16S ». The Sochalienne brand answered the Renault turbo through a 16-valve technology, and tried to broadcast this: a discreet way of showing the difference of philosophy between two brands. For the record, this engine wasn’t really anything new as a few months earlier, its cousin Citroën BX GTI 16 valves was the first.
With 160 horsepower under the hood and 1150 kg in weight, along with a frame, something Peugeot is good at, the 405 Mi16 turned out to be quite efficient (a little in the background compared to the Renault 21 2 liters Tubo) but mostly great fun to drive: too much in fact, despite its remarkable drivability, its rearward at times decided to have a life of her own, without any notice. This is surely the reason that in 1990, Peugeot decided to launch a Mi16x4 version, with a more secure all-wheel drive and in keeping with the Rally Raid image, obtained by the 205 then 405 T16 at Paris-Dakar. However, the latter didn’t sell well, the clientele wasn’t convinced about the use of such a system, while it put on a few pounds (130 kg more).
The Mi16 was also the spearhead of Peugeot while (failing) to conquer USA: with a catalyst, it lost 10 horsepower (to top out 150 horsepower) while its additional equipment made it put on 140 additional kilos, to be in keeping with the drastic American norms. Its sporty condition took a shot. However, its over-equipped 405 Mi16 US had a certain appeal to it, with leather, air conditioner and prominent bumpers, and gave it a different look. One can find some models in France, repatriated by fans.
Re-styling and a new ACAV engine
In 1992, the 405 underwent a major upgrade: interior and exterior re-styling but also mechanical improvements. The 405 Mi16, like the rest of the range had to move onto a catalyst. Therefore, Peugeot decided to offer the latter a new 2-liter engine (XU10J4) with an innovative system, called ACAV. One found this engine on the “little” Peugeot 306 S16 and Citroën ZX 16V sportives.
Although 155 horsepower, this engine gave the impression of offering much less and lost its raging and high-in-the-revolution personality, of the previous Mi16 engine. Despite this, the 405 Mi6 remained an efficient car and retained all the qualities of its framework. In addition, it gained in perceived quality, in soundproofing (this wasn’t amiss on the 405) and in equipment.
405 T16 to complete the range
Despite its background performances, Mi16 wasn’t the only one in the aging 405 range, to pull it upwards. A more powerful and efficient sister joined the catalog in 1993: the 405 T16, which retrieved the 2 liters of Mi16, saddled with Turbo and cut off the ACAV system. On top of everything, 200 horsepower (even 220 for 45 seconds during the over boost, a full-time all-wheel drive and an inordinate rate (only 1 046 models were actually produced).
As for the Mi16, it was tough to obtain the exact sales figures. Some sources evoke almost 25 000 models produced (all stages combined). The species isn’t extinct today, there are still several models on sale but watch out for the general state and/or the modifications that have been carried out. Finding a perfect model with few kilometers, is a challenge. With average popularity (for a fine specimen) of 4 500 euros (LVA 2018), she definitely offers reasonable performance for a nominal fee: a beautiful alternative to its sister, 205 GTI which has become absurdly expensive.