New LCV review

Peugeot Expert test drive

When it comes to panel vans, you’re spoiled for choice – but is the Peugeot Expert worth your consideration over rivals such as the Ford Transit Custom and VW Transporter?

What is it?

Look across the scores of compact panel vans on the market and you might think you’re seeing double. That’s a Vauxhall Vivaro – no, wait, it’s a Renault Trafic… or a Nissan NV300. Or a Fiat Talento. Platform-sharing and badge engineering is rife in this market sector, making it tricky to choose between virtually identical vehicles.

The Peugeot Expert shares this problem, as it’s fundamentally the same vehicle as the Citroen Dispatch and Toyota Proace. However, Peugeot’s pitching it as the upmarket option of the three. It retains the practical and spacious load area, but with a plusher interior and classier looks.

What’s new?

This Expert is all-new compared to the previous model and brings a more conventional upright silhouette, rather than the old van’s pointed outline. It shares just about everything short of frontal styling and interior trim with the Citroen Dispatch and Toyota Proace, and the underlying platform is actually fairly similar to the Citroen C4 Picasso people carrier.

Those car-like underpinnings give the Expert access to the latest safety and entertainment tech, but they’ve been beefed up to cope with the extra payload a working life brings.

Also new is the addition of a separate, Expert-based MPV model – the Peugeot Traveller. Offering far more luxury than the old Expert Teepee, it’s pitched as executive transport to rival the likes of the Mercedes-Benz V-Class or Volkswagen Caravelle, but at a lower price.

How does it look?

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From the front doors back, the Expert is very much a generic van. The front offers more visual interest, with Peugeot’s ‘family face’ reconfigured onto the upright profile. That means a chrome-ringed grille, narrow headlamps and distinctive LED daytime running lights. The result is smart and a little less brash than the latest Ford Transit Custom with its gaping grille.

The rest of the van is pretty much just a box, though the proportions do conspire to make it look rather tall and narrow – a bit less appealing than the wide, planted look of a VW Transporter.

Overall, the Expert is a more mature and upmarket offering than its sister vans from Citroen and Toyota and one that will likely appeal to businesses that can’t quite afford a Mercedes or VW van.

What’s the spec like?

Even the basic S model offers cruise control, central locking, electric windows and a stereo with Bluetooth and DAB connectivity.

Step up to Professional and you gain air-conditioning, rear parking sensors, heated and electrically adjustable door mirrors, an alarm, automatic headlights and wipers and Peugeot’s seven-inch infotainment display, which is slick and easy to use, if lacking in features.

Top-spec Professional Plus adds a rear parking camera and front parking sensors, plus alloy wheels and navigation.

Other luxurious kit, such as radar-guided cruise control and dual-zone climate control, can be added as optional extras.

On the more workmanlike side of things, the van can be outfitted in preparation for a towbar, additional heating and air conditioning for the rear compartment, or fitted with an upgraded battery and alternator.

What’s it like inside?

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To go along with the car-like drive, the Expert has a fairly car-like interior. The neatly-styled dashboard can be specified with luxurious kit, while the smart dials and gauges are all easy to read.

There’s room for three across the front bench, though it’s possible to spec two individual captain’s chairs if you prefer. The only issue is a lack of storage – the few covered compartments are rather small, while there are only two shallow cupholders atop the dashboard.

The load area suffers no such problems as it’s big, square, and easy to access via sliding doors on both sides. It’s also lined with tough plastic rather than ply – so it’s more resistant to water damage, and makes it easy to slide goods around inside.

What’s under the bonnet?

There are a few engine options available for the Peugeot Expert. All are diesel and range from an entry-level 1.6-litre with just 95hp to a 2.0-litre with 180hp.

Our van was the latter, mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox. It felt like overkill in a commercial vehicle, and the powerful engine overwhelmed the front wheels easily – not aided by the relatively clunky automatic ‘box.

We’d plump for one of the mid-spec 2.0-litre units, with 120hp or 150hp, mated to manual gearboxes, as the best compromise between price and performance.

All of the engines are very economical, though. Even our powerful unit offers an official economy figure of 49.6mpg, while the most economical 1.6-litre is capable of 54.3mpg.

What’s it like to drive?

Though the Expert has an unashamedly upright van-like driving position, it’s remarkably like a big people carrier to drive. The engine is refined and the ride is excellent, while wind and road noise are remarkably well contained.

In fact, it vies with far more expensive rivals such as the Mercedes Vito or VW Transporter for overall refinement – an impressive accolade.

Driver enjoyment takes a backseat, but that’s unsurprising. The steering is fairly lightweight and lifeless and the gearshift on manual models is rather loose and baggy. Our automatic ‘box was smooth on the go, but hesitant to set off and irritating in traffic.

The engines are audible under load, but impressively smooth and feel as though they’re lifted directly from the brand’s passenger cars – which in a way, they are.

Summary

The Peugeot Expert is actually fairly remarkable as vans go, bringing car-like comfort and equipment to a reasonably priced sector.

For ultimate van prestige, you’ll still need a Mercedes Vito or Volkswagen Transporter, and the Ford Transit remains a better drive and a more accomplished all-round package, but as a classy and comfortable workhorse, the Expert takes some beating.

Tom Wiltshire
Tom Wiltshire
Articles by Tom Wiltshire are provided for The Van Expert by PA Media (formerly the Press Association), including news, new LCV reviews and other automotive features.

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