Weekend Edition: Getting to grips with the Peugeot 405 Mi16

There are two ways to refer to this car. A simple, non-sugarcoated one is to say I have a French car with peeling paint and leaking coolant. The other, a more sympathetic way is to declare that I drive a 1992 Peugeot 405 Mi16 that isn’t yet as good as it could be. Both sentiments are true, but it’s the latter that drives me forward. As does the Mi16, whenever I need it to.
Does it sound like a motivational Facebook poster image yet?
After the previous, introductory post, the Peugeot spent a couple months at the local vocational school’s auto shop. During that time, it received a new cambelt + waterpump combination, along with the strut mounts getting replaced with new OEM ones, as the old ones were just crumbling rusty discs that resembled Finnish rye bread more than anything holding a strut to anything. The shop also noticed the alternator was way past its prime, and proceeded to order one and fit it. A couple weeks ago, I got the car back and felt tremendous relief to actually be able to use it.

Fifteen minutes after getting the keys, I noticed the coolant warning light was on and the temperature needle hovered at 100°C. Damn.
I drove the car to an another shop immediately, as I had planned to get the motor oil changed. It’s something I always get done soon after getting a car, unless it has literally had it changed the day before. The shop poured in two and half litres of coolant and bled the system properly, making the car blow hot air when asked to.
At first I wondered, if there had been a snafu at the school shop, and whether they had neglected to fill up the system after the water pump work, but after doing some actual driving it’s apparent the radiator leaks quite profusely. Coolant doesn’t exactly come streaming out, but the snow on my parking lot tells a vivid green story. I do think they didn’t bleed it right, as the car didn’t produce hot air from the vents even when warmed up. A new radiator has been ordered, so the matter will be rectified soon enough. Until that time, I will keep my eye on the coolant level and keep pouring more in.
But it’s not all a tall tale of deferred maintenance or towering repair bills. Now that the cambelt has been changed, I’ve been able to use the car like it’s intended: namely, taking it past 5000 rpm every once a while.
And… the prophecy is true. It’s a tremendous engine, one that pulls like a freight train for being a naturally aspirated 150-horse 1.9-litre four. Give it a small gear and it’ll jump forward like an alarmed animal, give it a taller gear and it’ll find you speeds completely unnecessary in wintertime Finland. Especially since the tires on it are absolute garbage and the front will wash wide every time the asphalt isn’t dry. But when the moment is right, the Mi16 will show you what it was built for, and why I ended up buying one.
I’ve contacted some body shops to fix the front bumper at least, and new foglights will get ordered from France after more pressing issues, like actual winter-capable tires have found their way under the car. I’m also adamant I can get correct Mi16 five-spoke wheels for winter use, so I can ditch the two sets of rubbish steelies as soon as possible.
In some ways, the car feels better every time I drive it, not worse. Not all cars manage that, and I hope the development never stalls.

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  1. Sjalabais Avatar

    I once got a clutch changed in an emergency situation (went from slightly-slipping-deferred-maintenance-feel to whoops-hardly-moving over 30-40kms). When the car was ready, a Nissan, I went 50m to a gas station to get myself an ice. Back at the car, it was parked in a puddle of coolant. Turns out, the mechanic had forgotten to put the whole coolant container back in place…no problem to fix it, but that was a close call. Great icy-engine-pic!

  2. nanoop Avatar

    ” I’ve been able to use the car like it’s intended: namely, taking it past 5000 rpm every once a while.”
    Yeah, it’s amazing how alive these ~ 2L 16v feel when allowed to deliver, after thousands of km of ‘shift at 2krpm, that’ll save gas’ chastity. Did the Mi 16v come in station wagon flavour, too?
    Good luck with the leakage, I guess the parts won’t cost an arm an a leg, only time and extraneous shipping?

    1. julkinen Avatar

      No, all wagons were 8-valve. They are probably pretty good, still.
      The new radiator is 85 euros shipped, so not too bad. It might also benefit from some new hoses.

      1. nanoop Avatar

        If your car would suffer the unfortunate event of being rear-ended, the phrase “engine swap into a wagon” (due to your profession: a brown one) would come to my mind.. But I started looking (online only) at the 8v wagons here: Rust-wise the 2001 ones are usually in a better shape than my same-year Focus, and look roomier. Mrs. nanoop won’t approve no ASR, though.

        1. julkinen Avatar

          Don’t jinx it! Anyway, if that were to happen, the engine would probably end up in a 205…

          1. karonetwentyc Avatar

            There have been a few (by which I mean about a half-dozen) Mi16-swapped 405 wagons, at least in the US.
            In a way, I can kind of understand Peugeot’s decision to not put that engine in the car from the factory: 3000rpm is about where it starts to realise there might be power somewhere up there, 4000rpm is where it’s getting closer to actually finding it, and 5000rpm is where it really starts to pick up. The rev limiter kicks in at about 7250rpm, so there’s a reasonable percentage of the rev range open for use.
            The thing is, those last 2000 or so rpm go by *very* quickly. If you keep the car in this band and drive it on the gearbox, it really moves (3rd gear is good for about 80mph with a little room to spare) – but driving it this way is not exactly a sedate experience, which isn’t helped by the fact that all the fun stuff is at the top end of the range. It’s not exactly the experience most customers are typically looking for in their family truckster, so keeping to exclusively the 8-valve engines in the wagons made sense.
            On a semi-related note, the one thing that always puzzled me about the 505 wagons was that they never put the V6 in them. Sure, they had the turbo 4-cylinder – but to my mind the V6 would have been more along the lines of what the customer base would have been looking for. Then again, there are plenty of Volvo and Subaru wagons with blown fours in them, so my perception may be entirely off-base on this one.

  3. Souren Avatar

    Heh they do still build these in Iran

    1. Sjalabais Avatar

      I wonder if that’s going to change now that everyone’s racing to the country to build a modern industry?

      1. Souren Avatar

        Yeah foreigners are racing but that’s not gonna mean anything since sepah pasdaran is the one who decides who will come in, not who has the best offer. And no. It’s not about making a modern industry. It’s about making money for sepah with the least expenses possible. They don’t give a flying duck about development.

        1. Sjalabais Avatar

          Well, yes, but both Renault and Peugeot have long-running connections to the country. So I’m pretty sure we’ll see some version of the Logan running around Iran soon – and a shapily sedan one size up will have to be offered, too. Saw a Samand LX once, very pleasant design:

          1. Manic_King Avatar

            Rear end seems to be Carina E copy.

          2. Sjalabais Avatar

            True, but I think they nailed a certain Audi-like simplicity with good, natural proportions. Still a Peugeot underneath.

          3. Souren Avatar

            Yeah, their price will be twice as they enter our borders and then you should start doing the math since every dollar worth 3600 Iranian rials. Right here, a Renault duster is considered as a luxury car. Things aare messed up.
            Some samand models are nice. i think their best offer yet is Peugeot Persia, a 406 replica. Their new Irankhodro Dena also worth mentioning.
            Anyway we have at least 15 cars based on poor 405 here including all samand models. His dignity is faded here. Lol.

          4. karonetwentyc Avatar

            What I really want from the Iran Khodro stable is the Arisun pickup. I’ve had Peugeot 405s with the 8V, 16V, and diesel engines… But never one in truck form.

          5. Sjalabais Avatar

            If you got the time, maybe you could write a post here one day introducing the market offerings and hierarchy of Iranian cars? I’m sure this would be of interest to many people here.

          6. karonetwentyc Avatar

            One I’d love to see a piece on would be the Iran Khodro ROA / RD – take a Peugeot 405 bodyshell, marry it to the driveline of an Iran Khodro Paykan (itself a Hillman Hunter), and replace the trailing arms and torsion bars at the rear of the 405 with a solid axle and leaf springs.
            I understand that they weren’t in production for very long, but I’m really fascinated by them. They strike me as being sort of a modernised version of the 504 but without the coil-sprung rear.

          7. Souren Avatar

            That would be my pleasure. I’ll try to write one. But I don’t set a date as I have couple of busy weeks ahead. But I’ll do it for sure. Thanks for the offer.

  4. Kiefmo Avatar

    I love an enthusiastic small engine. It’s so gratifying. When you sit behind a big V8 and get thrust toward the horizon at an alarming rate, you tend to think “well, of course it’s fast.” But when you get a nice rush from a small, revvy engine, it’s surprising and delightful.
    Also, though it had slightly less power than your Mi16, your description of the top end rush reminded me of the feel of my Mazda Protege 2.0L after I got the MP3 spec tune on it and fed it high octane. That was a good little motor — just don’t add boost.

    1. Tanshanomi Avatar

      This morning I goosed the Kizashi on an entrance ramp not realizing I was a gear lower than usual. I found myself pleasantly surprised by the suddenness of the oomph.

  5. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    I really must snap up the next BX 16 valve that I see for sale.

    1. duurtlang Avatar

      You must! I test drove one last year (or was it 2014?) and it was great! The car itself was a bit too rough so I didn’t buy it, but I do feel the few BXs that are left should be cherished. Especially the nice ones. I had a BX diesel until half a year ago, and even that was great despite the agricultural engine. A real characterful *car*, not merely a transportation appliance.
      I might be biased though, I’m just an incredible sucker for 80s-90s PSA vehicles. Own 4 at this point (205CTI/205GTI/306cab/406coupe).

      1. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        I should say that I own a BX and CX already but that 16 v would be nice, (and a six speed).
        I envy you for your 406 coupe, my Pininfarina coupe is a Lancia Gamma.The 406 is on my list of ‘cars to get’ but I think I’ll have an Avantime first to backstop my Mk1 Espace.

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