But for Peugeot, the 407 seems to be a 'back to basics' exercise, in trying to produce a distinctive large saloon that is comfortable and good to drive.
It certainly stands out from the crowd, particularly up against cars like the Vectra, Mondeo and Passat with its enormous headlamps and gaping grille, and is more at home with the sector's oddities like the Citroen C5 and Renault Laguna.
It has an imposing appearance and the front three-quarter view is the best. I saw the car from the rear-view mirror of another and it did look rather strange when viewed directly from the front. And the rear portion of the car, perhaps unbalanced by the pronounced front overhang, has none of the impact of the front.
However, from many angles the 407 has a degree of elegance unmatched by most of its rivals, and its imposing appearance gives it far more presence than the typical mainstream repmobile.
The version we have on test is the SE which is a step up from the entry level car and comes with most of the kit you would expect of a car approaching £18,000 as tested.
It has 17-inch alloys, four electric windows, dual-zone climate control, complex traction control, safety and braking systems.
It is powered by the latest 2.0-litre HDi engine, offering 136bhp and a healthy 240lb-ft. As a product of the Ford-PSA diesel engine partnership, Ford know-how has given it a handy overboost facility under hard acceleration, temporarily increasing maximum torque for that extra burst of speed when overtaking.
The engine is compliant with Euro IV emissions rules, putting company car drivers in the 17% bracket for BIK tax for the remainder of this year, rising to 18% next year with a monthly bill of £54 rising to £57 for the following two years – quite acceptable.
The first 2,000 or so miles have shown the 407 to be a comfortable cruiser, near silent on the motorway as it gobbles up the miles without complaint.
Power delivery is smooth and progressive, and the six-speed manual transmission is far slicker than the manual transmissions I remember from the old 406.
The volume upper-medium sector is a relatively easy target for those who say the cars on offer lack sparkle and inspiration. It will always be asking a lot of user-choosers, with a relatively free choice in the type of car they drive, to select a 407 when they could have a premium car whose better residual value brings the monthly leasing rate within reach.
The 407 is one of three volume upper-medium cars – the others being the Mazda6 and the Ford Mondeo – I would actually look forward to driving every day.
Company car tax bill 2004/05 (22% tax-payer): £54 per month Power (bhp/rpm): 136/4,000
Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 240/2,000
Figures based on three-years/60,000-miles
The manufacturer's view: Engineering fleet interest
THE 407 is a key fleet contender for Peugeot and its choice of Euro IV diesel engines should be a major factor in winning business.
Peugeot fleet director Steve Harris said: 'The new Peugeot 407 is a tremendously important car for both Peugeot and, we believe, the fleet market as a whole.
'The new range brings to the traditional upper-medium sector a dramatically different style of car but one that offers class leading safety and driveability coupled with aggressive pricing and low wholelife costs.
'Initial response to the range from both fleet managers and user-chooser drivers has been tremendous and the desirability of the range will widen further with the launch of the superb 407 SW models later this summer.'
What we expect: Perfect for a B-road blast
THE 407's unusual looks make it stand out in its sector but equally they could be divisive.
However, the 407 is good to drive and came close to winning a Fleet News group test recently with strong performance and driver appeal. It missed out on victory because its predicted residual value was some way off the class leader.
But it should excel on motorways and be enjoyable when blasting across B-roads.