It's easy to forget, in the illustrious back catalogue of fabulous fast Peugeots, about the 405 Mi16. After all, thought immediately goes to the hatchbacks, where you're spoilt for choice: 205 in GTI, Rallye and XS form, GTI-6, Rallye, S16 and XSI 306s, the 106s in all its performance iterations. Heck, those wanting something a bit more left-field could opt for a 309. So it's usually a little while before the Mi16 is even mentioned in a Peugeot discussion, leave alone a fan is discovered.
Its case is made worse by its depressing rarity. Typically that's attributed to the recent scrappage schemes, but fact is Mi16s were on the decline a long time before then. Affordable, quick saloons have never been as covetable in the UK as hot hatches; with the 205 denied the racier, 16v XU9 J4 found in the 405, many Mi16s were sacrificed when cheap enough to donate their engine as a replacement for the 205 GTI's eight-valve XU9 JA. Way back then nobody cared much for conservation or originality, only seeking to make a faster and more exciting 205 because the parts were there and affordable. Nowadays, with factory specification seemingly in more demand than ever, that harvesting of the 405's vital organ seems like more of a shame than at any point before.
Because the Mi16 was good - really, really good. It was heavier than the hatchbacks but still light at a little over 1,100kg, and boasted that uncanny (and once uniquely Peugeot) blend of supple ride and agile handling that beguiled all who experienced it. There was seemingly no compromise for this dynamic utopia, an achievement that built Peugeot's reputation amongst enthusiasts for a long time. That this chassis witchcraft was combined with an explosive powerplant, and resided in such a handsome saloon, meant the 405 very swiftly became a cult hero. Then, as mentioned, a brilliant donor car almost just as quickly.
Want to guess how many Mi16s still live in Britain? Chances are your guess is wrong. Across three models - the 1.9-litre original, the facelifted 2.0-litre car and the 4x4 - there were 10 registered in the UK last year. 10. One 1.9, six 2.0-litres and three 4x4s - seriously. A decade before the number was 77 - still rare, sure, but a significant amount more.
Thank goodness, then, that at least one of those survivors is still being well looked after. Better even that, it's a cared for Mi16 that's available for the next enthusiast to buy. Given the stats above it won't surprise anyone to learn this is one of the iron-blocked 2.0-litres; the reputation was built on the ally-blocked 1.9, but this XU10 was also used in the 306 S16, and in tweaked form as the GTI-6's powerplant. And nobody whinges about that now, do they?While the pictures don't tell us a great deal, there's much to be encouraged by in this Mi16 advert: a mileage that's yet to tick over into six figures, recent remedial work including a cambelt, waterpump, cat and clutch, a nicely preserved interior and lustrous paintwork (what can be see of it). And it's five grand!
There are UK-spec 205 Rallyes for sale at £15,000, and CTIs at similar money. For a car of such famed status, this money for a 405 Mi16 looks eminently sensible. Like the current owner, it could be one saved and used sparingly on nice days - perhaps not the conventional weekend car, but those who get it will understand exactly the thought process. In a similar vain, as and when sale time comes around to sell, the right buyer - once they've been found - must only be tremendously keen. There's not going to be many to choose from, after all. The Mi16 is a piece of Peugeot history that deserves more than any other to be preserved - PistonHeads, over to you...
SPECIFICATION - PEUGEOT 405 MI16
Engine: 1,998cc, 4-cyl
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 155@6,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 135@3,500rpm
MPG: 30 (est.)
First registered: 1993
Recorded mileage: 97,000
Price new: £14,300 (1987)
Yours for: £4,995
See the original advert here.