Peugeot Expert van review

By: Gary Worrall


It may well be the newest kid on the block, but the Peugeot Expert is certainly worth looking at if your business is about volume over mass. Gary Worrall test drives

Peugeot Expert van review
Peugeot Expert.

 

The Peugeot Expert is the latest release into a very crowded marketplace.

It seems the rest of the world is finally realising Australia is actually as much an urban market as it is a line-haul one, and is sending products to meet that demand.

Based on its new 308 Touring Wagon, certainly for the mechanicals and a number of key front end components, the Expert is a revelation for those raised on a diet of forward control vans that left the driver hanging out over the front axles and sitting on the engine — great in summer, just in case it has been a while.

Light vans have come a long way since this tester drove his first, a Suzuki Carry, working for a brother on an Australia Post mail contract in Brisbane. The Expert is about as far as you can get from the Suzuki and still be in the same category.

That is not to say the Suzuki was bad, just that the Expert is good, in fact very good.

For a start there is the layout, which offers an engine, trans-axle and steering all ahead of the driver. Not only does it look good, but it makes for a more comfortable ride, and your knee caps are not the crumple zone if things get nasty.

The downside is the sloping nose drops out of sight; the more you drive it the more you become intuitive about where the front bumper is, but still, parking by Braille is always a possibility.

Engine

Power for the Expert comes from the tried and true 2.0 litre HDi FAP or, in our speak, two-litre common rail injection turbo diesel with particulate filter.

Transmission

The Peugeot’s engine is backed up by a six-speed manual transmission, driving through the front wheels.

Cab and Controls

There is the cabin, big and roomy, with plenty of headroom, height adjustable driver’s seat and seatbelt, height and reach adjustment on the steering wheel, and the dash layout straight out of the wife’s car.

In standard trim the Expert is configured with three full size seats, each with a three point seatbelt, another thoughtful inclusion, and each seat can hold a fully sized adult, rather than the kiddy seats sometimes found in these applications.

There are plenty of storage spaces, including two overhead lockers, the glove box and a ‘bucket’ in the top of the dash, probably where the passenger airbag sits in the station wagon, as well as door pockets.

The headlights, while they light up the road well, are identical to the passenger car’s and are not cheap to replace if you do make a mistake.

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Despite my gushing praise, all is not beer and skittles. Or tall butterscotch latte, as the case may be, which gets bumped by the knee sitting in the cup holder on moving between the accelerator and brake. I always felt at risk of wearing my Rainforest Alliance coffee beans all over my inside thigh.

Still on the subject of pedals, they are another item lifted straight from the Peugeot’s passenger cars.

Now in Mrs Worrall’s wagon this is not a bad thing, because a) it is not mine, therefore I am not allowed to drive it, and b) when I am allowed behind the wheel, I am not wearing boots and heel and toe driving is always a chance (yeah right).

But in the Expert, the heavy Colorados mean no heel and toe driving and plenty of accidental acceleration under braking.

Performance

Our test car was the ‘barn door’ version — six doors, including the two side sliders — and Peugeot cleverly wires the central locking so there are two separate unlock functions for the cabin and the cargo bay, but only one lock for all six doors.

It means you can unlock the fronts to hop in and drive away without risking your cargo going missing, or you can lock your wallet and lunch in the cab while you unload from the rear doors. Clever that.

On the subject of doors, they all open wide, which makes entry and exit a treat, even if you are taller than 180cm. And the barn doors open wide enough for a forklift to drop a loaded CHEP pallet between the wheel arches.

The Peugeot Expert is a combination Peugeot passenger car drivers will be familiar with. In the right hands — a mother picking up three kids from school and day car, for example — it trips the ESP with frightening regularity and leaves hordes of very embarrassed Commodores and Falcons in its wake courtesy of an outstanding torque curve.

In the Expert, however, it stops being a little fire breather and becomes a smooth and refined powertrain with plenty of urge.

We loaded the van to almost its weight limit of 750kg, and there was virtually no difference in performance.

The Expert did a passable impersonation of the Little Engine That Could, cruising up hill and down dale, not leaving a trail of cars in its wake but certainly making sure it was one of the first to get to where we were going.

This is possibly the biggest letdown about the Expert: it offers plenty of space in the cargo area, and could probably hold two pallets, but it simply runs out of payload.

Instead, this is the van you drive if you are carrying cubic over mass. One Peugeot dealer says the Expert is popular with a commercial florist, who fills them with cartons of cut flowers to be delivered to retail outlets across south-east Queensland.

There is even a neat ventilated cargo barrier stopping freight from joining the driver in the cabin, which confirms expectations the Expert will carry large items rather than tonnes of cargo.

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In terms of general driving dynamics, forget overloaded barge.

Here you are behind the wheel of a van with decent road manners; it goes where you point the large rimmed steering wheel, the clutch, although a little heavy, is predictable, and the balance point is easy to find.

Brakes, as you would expect from four-wheel discs, are above average, and even when we were loaded up they had no problems with fade. Even when stopping at the bottom of a long hill they were nice and consistent, with plenty of pedal under your foot.

Ride and handling were also better than the class average, thanks in part to the nice meaty Continentals on each corner.

With plenty of sidewall they soaked up the bumps with aplomb and, because it is a van, you don’t notice there is a bit of sidewall flex when cornering hard (mainly because it is a delivery van and you should not be cornering that hard anyway).

Having said that, the suspension is stiff enough to cope with the extra 750kg of freight that can be loaded into the rear without being so harsh that the Expert bunny hops from pothole to speed bump.

And just like the family wagon, it barely sips diesel and was on course to average in the vicinity of 1000km for the tank. And that was not being gentle or sitting on the highway, but pulling freight and sitting in urban traffic, which puts it pretty close to the predicted 7.4 litres per 100km.

Verdict

So, is it worth $41,590 plus on roads, plus accessories?

Well, it is if operator comfort and safety is paramount. This van is the operator’s office, and a decent office is the key to employee productivity after all.

The standard equipment list is healthily long, including air conditioning, AM/FM/CD stereo (but sadly no iPod input), ABS and EBA braking, driver’s airbag, cruise control, speed limiter and remote audio controls, as well as auto up/down power windows on the front doors, plus plenty more.

Among the raft of options available our test car had the Bluetooth kit, but not the towbar or roof racks, either of which would make it even more attractive to users, especially when you add the Thule roof pod for aero efficiency, as well as the rear Park Assist parking sensors.

Or, for a sportier look, 17" alloy wheels.

Style, after all, can be just as important as substance for some.

 

Likes:

  • Stunning fuel economy, even when pushed
  • Occupant comfort levels
  • Ride and handling

Dislikes:

  • None

 

Specifications

Body Style: Cargo van

Seats: Three

Doors: Six, including standard rear barn doors and twin sliders

Engine: 2.0-litre HDi FAP four cylinder Common rail injection turbo diesel, Four valves per cylinder

Power/Torque: 100kW @ 4000rpm / 320Nm @ 2000rpm

Payload: 750kg

 

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