The first right-hand drive versions of Peugeot's delectable new 407 coupe go on sale in the company's key RHD market - the UK - this month.

The swoopy-looking coupe is the first Peugeot to use the 2.7-litre V6 turbodiesel jointly developed by Ford and PSA Peugeot-Citroen. It's already in some Jaguar and Land Rover Discovery models and, in this twin-turbo application, it develops 205bhp. The UK-spec diesel coupe has a particle filter with a lifespan of 140,000 miles and six-speed automatic transmission with selectable sequential manual shift mode as standard.

There are three trim levels - S, SE, and GT - with four powertrain configurations. 'Base' model is the GBP21,900 ($US38,600) petrol 2.2-litre S and there is also a GBP24,200 SE with the same engine. Next up is a three-litre petrol V6 in SE and GT trims with manual or automatic transmission (GBP£26,700-29,400) while the range-topping 2.7V6 HDi diesel auto is £29,200 with SE trim and £30,900 as a GT.

S model spec includes seven airbags, cruise control, Bluetooth phone kit, auto lights and wipers, tyre pressure sensor, dual-zone climate control and rear parking sensors on top of everything else expected in a £21,000-plus car. SE adds leather seat trim, JBL sound, six-disc CD stacker, heated seats, front park aid and directional b-xenon headlamps and the GT also gets leather dash and door finish, colour sat-nav with integrated phone and upgraded audio. The only absence of note is keyless start.

A new door 'retention' system prevents intrusion of the doors into the passenger compartment; two brackets welded onto reinforcements under the door locate into special apertures in the lower sill panel.

Though the Pininfarina-styled 406 coupe launched in 406 was acclaimed for its 'Ferrari-like' styling it was always intended to be a niche product, compared to its sedan and wagon siblings. Nonetheless, the Pininfarina plant in Turin cranked out 107,659 units over the years until production ended in May 2003.

The UK took almost exactly 10% of those - 10,716 - and 86% had manual gearboxes. The two-litre petrol model accounted for the bulk of sales at 40% but it's interesting to note that the 2.2 HDi diesel manual - launched only in 2002 - accounted for 10%. Peak year for sales, unsurprisingly, was the first full year, 1998, when 2,816 found homes.

If you need further proof that diesel is now king in this sector in the UK - most 407 sedans and wagons sold here have diesel engines - consider that Peugeot expects the latest V6 diesel coupe, now built in Rennes, France, to account for 65% of first-year 407 coupe sales. Peugeot expects three-quarters of buyers will be men, average age 45, most with no children.

Key competitors include the doomed Toyota Celica (the Japanese automaker is axing most niche models from Europe), BMW 3-series coupe, Mercedes CLK, Audi TT, Chrysler Crossfire, Nissan 350Z, Mazda RX-8 and Alfa Romeo GT.

Peugeot claims the 407 Coupe can comfortably accommodate four adults and their luggage.

After a test ride around the Wiltshire countryside, we don't dispute this quiet and comfortable cars's genuine '2+2' passenger-carrying credentials as just-auto's portly five-foot-six deputy editor slotted comfortably into the back behind a six-foot colleague, enjoying amenities such as two-way JBL speakers, cup holder, knick-knack storage cubbies and centre armrest, but the boot seemed rather small and its golf club-carrying ability seemed doubtful, according to our taller colleague.

The V6 diesel pulls like a train yet is quiet and refined and the transmission shifts almost unnoticed. We averaged 26.9mpg on mostly minor roads. Handling and ride, as you'd expect from a French car, are softer than more overtly sporty models like BMW's 3-series but well in keeping with the 'Grand Tourer' image of the top GT version we tried.

Graeme Roberts

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