Value for money load carrier

Automotive conent
Load carrier: still considered a comfortable, main-road distance eater

Peugeot 406 break 115

Back in the mid-1990s, the Peugeot 406 Break was widely welcomed as offering almost executive levels of automotive refinement. It was ahead of many of its competitors at the time, and although it has fallen back in the pack since it still can be considered a comfortable, main road distance eater – especially for the money for which they can be bought and maintained.

It’s not the greatest handler but it still stays calm even when being driven over rough surfaces, and altogether delivers a composed drive. The engines may be considered gutless but they are strong, smooth, and relaxed. Slick is the word aficionados use to describe the gearbox.

Not unexpectedly, the dashboard has that tired look of the 1990s, but its dials are simple and clear to see and the switches and other controls are easy to use. The room for the front passenger is very adequate and comfortable.

The back is not particularly roomy, but there is an ample amount of space in the load bay. And because the seat at the back splits and folds, this break offers even more versatility for anyone who has loads to carry.

The driver’s seat doesn’t appeal to everyone, with some drivers reporting  it doesn’t support them adequately.

It’s a reasonable car as far as costs are concerned. Servicing is comparatively cheap and when repairs are needed unexpectedly, which is unusual, these can be fixed inexpensively.

As with many French cars, it is the electrics that attract the largest volume of criticisms. Particular bugbears are problems with the central locking mechanism that sometimes misses out the boot, and the indicator stalks can be problematic.

The transmissions also attract more than their fair share of complaints. The brakes can be questionable and not always easy or cheap to sort out. If the car has been used for lugging heavy loads – which is often the case thanks to the roomy load bay – it has probably challenged the suspension.

With a full service history the engine tends to be a robust part of this car, but beware if there are any gaps in the service record, especially if there are signs of excessive wear and tear inside the car and too many tell-tale scuffs and chips on the bodywork.

If it is a modern estate/brake car you are hunting for, especially if you want more than  average refinement and to project a distinctively mature image, the Peugeot 406 break 115 would be hard to beat.

Among the strengths that this car has are good standards of comfort, handling, and ride that come encased in an attractive and very spacious bodywork.

All round, and for the money, the Peugeot 406 break 115 is a sound choice.

The flagship that hasn’t stood the test of time

Automotive content
Rare beast:  harmony of form and function?

Alfa Romeo 166 2.4 JTD 10V

The Alfa Romeo 166 2.4 JTD 10V, like other versions of the 166, has always been praised for its alternative, sleek styling, with super dynamics and a large cabin.

The model, which was only ever available in left-hand drive, was only constructed between October 2003 to January 2007 and the 2.4 JTD diesel engine has always been regarded by Alfa enthusiasts as one of the most successful of the car manufacturer’s engines.

It was created by the Alfa Romeo Style Centre with the aim of expressing the harmony of form and function while combining the sports traits of a coupé with the elegance of a great saloon.

If cared for, it is said the engine is capable of running for as many as a million kilometres (620,000 miles) without problems. It generates 100 kW (136 PS) at 4000 rpm,  and the car has a huge pulling power of 304 Nm (224 lb/ft) from 2000 rpm.

When you slide into the comfortable but hardly supportive driver’s seat you will find that any rumours about the ergonomics being compromised are no more than tittle-tattle. This is a car that was built for long journeys and as a result, its levels of comfort do not disappoint.

However, if you are expecting build quality and high-class materials you will feel let down. But Alfa Romeo’s always have a sporting heart – and this model is no different. The 166’s engine note sounds fantastic, and if you are an enthusiastic driver you will want to keep it in gear just for the enjoyment of it.

Unfortunately, however, the 166, like a lot of Alfa Romeos has been exposed by time to be a fragile specimen. Its interiors don’t wear well, so be careful if you really are thinking of buying one of these.

It is a far cry from when this model was launched. Then Alfa’s boasts were many: the car came fitted with an advanced climate control system. There was plenty of sound-proofing. The in-car technology had supposedly been designed to make life feel that bit easier. There was an electronic interface, with Cruise Control, a smart radio which dynamically adjusted the volume in conjunction with surrounding noises, and a satellite navigation system.

Having said that, this Alfa is rare among executive cars in that it puts the pleasure of driving above efficiency and comfort and efficiency. It’s Twin Spark engine gives a lively performance, which is enhanced by a well-balanced chassis and firm ride firm. The steering is noticeably precise and adequately weighted.

The only big gripe is that this is a gas guzzler – even in the calmest driver’s hands.