“The engine is superb, the handling sporty, and there are enough quality touches to make it feel fun and special”
The Laguna GT has exclusive chassis settings to handle this sporty output. Opinions divided among the testers on this. I thought it was the sharpest and 40 sportiest of the three, but the Editor was less impressed suggesting that the Peugeot drove better. Some of the Laguna’s cornering ability I’d put down to the exclusive low-profile Michelin Pilots on 17-inch alloys. But the rest is due to a 10mm lower rideheight, spring rates increased by 24 per cent, and beefed-up dampers.
The 407 is no slouch either. It’s a very fast car, only just overshadowed by the Laguna. Handling for me was almost the Renault’s equal, its chassis tuned very slightly softer for comfort. Overall economy was close to the Laguna too – at 43mpg.
The C5 is set up even further towards comfort and less towards precision. And performance doesn’t feel quite as urgent as the other two. The 407’s engine seems noisier and less zippy in the C5, while handling is sloppier too. The Citroën’s gearchange is especially slovenly. I lost count of the number of times I found fifth instead of third. But again, fuel economy was close to the other two at 42mpg. All of which are impressive results from what is a very lively trio.
Living with the cars: The Laguna falls flat here. The troubles we had with the intelligent key, my aching legs from the poor driver’s seat, the horrid hand-operated parking brake on the dash, and the wobbly trim around the steering column, all suggest life with the Laguna could be more trouble than it’s worth. Note also in the small print the dismal 9,000- mile service interval.
In contrast, the PSA-engined cars survive on a 20,000-mile interval.
And it’s here that the C5 should be applauded for being a great family car with its space and comfort. The boot is big, and, with the back seats folded down, it becomes cavernous. The self-levelling suspension makes it a popular tow-car, and the sheer size gives it a grandeur the other two lack.
The 407 has one annoying quirk that could drive an owner delinquent within weeks – the boot can only be opened from a button on the keyfob. Leave the key in the ignition and you simply can’t get into it.
Verdict: At first we struggled to choose between this French collection… but once we asked “which one would you like to take home and keep?” the answer was easy.
On long motorway trips or towing, the C5 would be the most relaxed and comfortable companion. A family would appreciate its cosy space and low price. But that cheapness and inferior dynamic abilitiesmean it wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice. For mad dashes through the bends the Laguna would be number one. The engine is superb, the handling sporty, and there are enough quality touches to make it feel fun and special. But as a long-term proposition it lets itself down with details like the key system, parking brake, uncomfortable seats and tiny service interval. There are too many compromises for the sake of performance. The 407 may fall somewhere between the extremes of cosy comfort and quirky sportiness, but that’s exactly where I want a car to be. It’s simply the best all-rounder here. Performance is only slightly behind the Laguna, but we all felt that it would be by far, the easiest to live with… and for keeping up with the neighbours, you’d be happy to have it on your drive: both inside and out, it looks and feels the best quality car of our ménage-a trios!
Thanks to P&O Ferries for their help transporting the cars and testers to France and back. Visit www.poferries.com or call 08705 980 333 for more details of their cross-Channel ferry services.
- Price: £22,550
- Engine: 4-cyl, common rail 16v turbodiesel
- Max Power: 175bhp at 3750rpm
- Max Torque: 266lbs ft at 1750rpm
- Max tow (kg): 1550
- Combined Consumption: 47.1mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 159g/km (Group D – £135pa)
- 0-62mph: 8.4s
- Top speed: 140mph
Six-speed manual gearbox – automatic unavailable
Remote central locking
Intelligent key start system
Climate control – electric sunroof £500
Electric windows and mirrors
Rear parking sensor £250
Part leather seats
CD/RDS radio – DVD player unavailable
Split/fold rear seat
Boot 430 litres
Service interval 9000m
Warranty 3 yrs