Peugeot Expert and Partner van reviews

By: Gary Worrall


French manufacturer Peugeot is taking on the established names in the light commercial market with its new Partner and Expert vans. Gary Worrall writes

Peugeot Expert and Partner van reviews
Peugeot Expert.

 

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, the original Lion King was content to rule over a vast empire, and all was good in its world.

In its infinite wisdom the Lion King encouraged diversity, and so passenger cars, sports cars, racing cars and even commercial vehicles prospered, and the people were happy.

Fast forward to the present day, and move the setting to Australia, and Peugeot is looking to conquer the local market for light commercials, with the release of its Partner and Expert vans.

While it is well known in Australia as a manufacturer of passenger cars, what many people do not realise is Peugeot’s long history of supplying commercial vehicles here.

In the 1950s the Interstate Parcel Express Company (the forerunner to IPEC) used Peugeot 203s to carry its first loads between Victoria and South Australia, laying the foundations for interstate transport as we know it.

In Europe the heritage stretches back even further, with the evergreen 5CV in production from the 1920s to the 1960s.

Capitalising on its work to increase the acceptance of diesel vehicles in the private sector, Peugeot has launched six models in its Partner and Expert ranges, with all but one, a Partner model, using diesel power.

In what is clearly a push for the owner-operator market, the new models offer a high level of specification, in both creature comforts and safety, with equipment such as height and reach adjustable steering, driver’s airbag, ABS brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution, and Emergency Brake Assist all standard, while the options list includes Electronic Stability Program and a full steel cargo bulkhead.

The Australian release of the new models comes just a few months after they went on sale in Europe, with the Expert voted the International Van of the Year 2008 by a panel of European journalists.

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Rather than establish a new dealer network (although this was considered) Peugeot has opted to sell the Expert and Partner through its existing 44 dealers, to ensure the availability of parts and servicing for operators.

Peugeot has followed the new design trend for commercial vehicles with both the Expert and the Partner by including a ‘semi-bonnet’, for a combination of aerodynamic, aesthetic and safety reasons.

Other safety features include pre-tensioner seatbelts, collapsible steering columns and automatic door unlocking after an accident, as well as a ladder frame to protect the back of the driver’s seat from wayward cargo.

Models offer plenty of accessories, including hands-free phone kits, Bluetooth phone kit, cargo racking systems and rear proximity sensors.

Engine, Transmission and Pricing

Ken Thomas, National Sales Manager for Peugeot, says the commercial range starts with the Partner, which begins at $21,990 for a short wheelbase model with a 1.6-litre petrol engine and a five-speed manual transmission, running out to $25,490 for a 1.6-litre diesel long wheelbase version.

The larger Expert is on sale from $36,990 for the 88kW diesel short wheelbase, while the range-topping long wheelbase Expert ‘Professional’ with 100kW diesel and rear air suspension retails for $41,590, plus on-road-costs.

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Cab and Controls

Although missing from the launch cars the switchgear for cruise control and speed limiters, as well as the separate controls for the audio system (which all mount in behind the steering wheel) are identical to the controls used in other Peugeot models, which are simple to use.

Unlike some other light commercials, the Expert has car-like seats, although offset to the left. But after even a short drive the seating position began to feel natural.

There is a writing table to make the job easier for drivers, while street directories and consignment notes can be stored in any of the plentiful storage spaces.

Deep holders in the doors fit up to a 1.5 litre bottle, depending on its shape, while smaller drinks sit well in either of the dash mounted holders.

While I prefer my seat as close to the floor as possible (due to a need for leg room) virtually any shape of operator can be accommodated in the height adjustable driver’s seat.

With a total frontal glass area of 1.68sqm, front and side vision is good, combined with the seating position it means there is not much an Expert driver can not see.

Possibly the biggest selling point could well prove to be the biggest obstacle, at least initially, which is the slickness of the gearshift.

For drivers not used to such a precision change, they could well find themselves going from second to fifth in their first few drives, and are likely to complain vocally about it.

However, given a couple of weeks to become acquainted with just how well it shifts through the gears, and how effortless it is, when asked if they would like to return to their previous answer, it is a fair bet the answer will be a resounding ‘No!’.

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Performance

The test drive on the launch day was brief, and carried out with the vans empty, however in terms of general driving dynamics, it was typically European, with short gearing for quick take-offs, impossibly short braking distances, and, thanks to a low centre of gravity, superb handling.

The smaller Partner is equally as welcoming, and manages to create seating for three when needed, otherwise the Multi Flex passenger seat can be folded down for additional cabin storage, including cupholders.

Like its bigger sibling, the Partner abounds with storage spaces: including one behind the centre console and a sliding tray under the driver’s seat.

The console mounted gearshift creates more room, yet still falls to hand for effortless driving, providing precise, short throws for rapid getaways in heavy traffic.

Unlike the Expert, the Partner does not get the 100kW diesel option, however the 66kW 1.6 litre diesel, with 215Nm of torque, is a more than adequate performer.

While the barn doors are standard, Peugeot offers optional side sliding doors for even greater loading flexibility, with either a single door on the left or both left and right doors.

All can be locked via the remote central locking.

Towing capacity of the Partner varies between 750 and 1,000kg, depending on the model, on top of an internal payload of either 750 or 850kg.

Like the Expert, the handling and ride in the Partner appear well-sorted, with plenty of bump absorption and a low centre of gravity that makes the vehicle easy to push around when needed.

Recent advances in engine and oil technology have also played into Peugeot’s hands, with service intervals now 15,000km, which is expected to add to the attraction for owner-operators.

An added incentive is the use of ‘menu’ pricing for services, which allow owners to factor in the cost of servicing as part of their operating costs, with a major service only required every 45,000 kilometres.

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Verdict

Although it is still early days for the new models, Peugeot predicts it will sell 200 Partners between September and December of this year, as well as 140 Experts, and then expects to double these figures for the full year in 2009.

 

Expert Likes:

  • Comfortable seats
  • Precision gear shift
  • ‘Snap off’ headlights in low speed collisions

Partner Likes:

  • Car like seating
  • Slick gearshift
  • Rear barn doors and low loading height

 

Specifications

Make/Model: Peugeot Expert

Type: Light Commercial van, choice of standard 3000mm wheelbase or 3122mm long wheelbase

Engine/Gearbox: 2.0-litre HDi or 2.0-litre HDi FAP turbo diesel engines / six-speed manual

Power/Torque: 88kW / 300Nm or 100kW / 320Nm (FAP engine)

Payload: 1188kg plus up to 2000kg trailer weight

Features:

  • Driver’s airbag plus optional passenger airbag
  • ABS/EBFD
  • Emergency Brake
  • Assist as standard
  • Cargo barrier
  • Power windows
  • Radio/CD stereo with optional Bluetooth
  • Air conditioning (incl glovebox)
  • Overhead storage in cabin
  • Rear barn doors and twin sliding doors

 

Make/Model: Peugeot Partner

Type: Two door light commercial van, optional twin sliding doors

Engine/Gearbox:

1.6 litre 16v 66 kW petrol / five speed manual

1.6 litre HDi 55 kW diesel / five speed manual

1.6 litre HDi 66 kW diesel / five speed manual

1.6 litre HDi 66 kW diesel / five speed manual

Payload: Up to 850kg, plus maximum trailer weight up to 1000kg, depending on version.

Features:

  • Four wheel disc brakes
  • Driver’s airbag (optional passenger)
  • ABS/EBFD braking
  • Height and reach adjustable steering
  • Radio/CD stereo – optional Bluetooth
  • Standard air conditioning

 

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