Euro NCAP first tested a 406 in 1997. Back then, the car gained two stars for its front- and side-impact protection.The 2001 model gains an extra star, mainly for its improved restraint systems, but also for its stronger structure. A key-operated switch turns off the frontal passenger airbag to allow a rear-facing child restraint to be installed Also, the airbag can be turned off while the engine is running, by using a second key. However the warning on the instrument panel is always correct, thus providing a safety check.
The body failed to maintain a safety cell for its occupants and the driver’s head was not held safely by the airbag. There were also hard areas under the fascia that could injure his driver’s knees and upper legs. What’s more, the footwell ruptured and this can pose a threat to the driver’s feet. However, the three-point centre rear belt provides much more protection than a two-point, lap-only belt would.
The car’s performance was poor and gave concerns for head and chest protection. Although the 406’s seat-mounted side airbags feature head extensions, the driver’s failed to protect his head and chest effectively. The airbag also did not deploy fully, reducing the cushioning it provides to prevent the driver’s abdomen from striking the inner door panel.
A passenger frontal airbag is standard on all 406s, so there is a risk of serious injury or death to any child placed in a rear-facing restraints on the front seat. There were no in-car warnings to explain this, despite there being a switch to turn off the airbag when necessary. The restraints chosen were forward-facing. Generally, they protected the children, although the three-year-old was exposed to risks of head injury in the side impact test.
The front of the 406 proved particularly unforgiving to pedestrians in the leg impact areas, although some areas of the bonnet gave protection to head impacts. Peugeot needs to pay more attention to pedestrian protection.