Peugeot Expert van review
Peugeot's Expert is a fine new contender in the mid-size van sector, bringing a wealth of new features and class-leading efficiency
The Peugeot Expert van may be an all-new contender in a busy market sector, but it's one with a big reputation to live up to. The Expert and its Citroen Dispatch sister model have sold in huge quantities across Europe over two generations – the first being introduced in 1994 – and now the models have been re-launched with an all-new platform that the PSA group claims is the only ‘ground-up’ new model in its class.
Look under the skin of rivals such as the Renault Trafic, Transit Custom and Volkswagen Transporter and you’ll see that all are based on older generation technology. By contrast, the new Expert, Dispatch and Toyota Proace are built around the PSA group’s latest Efficient Modular Platform 2 (EMP2), which also underpins passenger cars like the Peugeot 308 and Citroen C4 Picasso.
The platform is only common at the front of the vehicle, where there are shared internal hard-points for the body structure and a similar (but more heavily constructed) front suspension. You also get electrically assisted power steering. The rear suspension is via an oblique wishbone set-up with variable stiffness springs and shocks that respond to different loadings.
The new Peugeot Expert comes in three different sizes, starting with a compact model that uniquely accommodates two pallets in a vehicle with an overall length of just 4,600mm. PSA is justifiably proud of the achievement, which it attributes to the EMP2 architecture and the high, forward driving position this allows.
There’s a standard van at 4,950mm and a long version measuring 5,300mm. Peugeot offers all sizes as a basic van, or a combi minibus with three rows and room for up to nine passengers. You can get a six-seater crew van with the standard and long bodies, and there’s also a platform cab in case you want to put your own specialist body on the vehicle. The maximum load capacity is 1,400kgs across the range.
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Efficiency is a big part of the new Expert story, thanks to a range of BlueHDi engine options that meet Euro VI standards while offering particularly good economy. There’s a 1.6-litre 94bhp entry-model available with standard manual gears or a robotised auto gearbox plus stop and start, and a higher-powered 114bhp version of the same engine that’s a manual-only, and likely to be the most popular seller. A 2.0-litre engine comes in 119bhp, 148bhp, and 178bhp outputs, with the latter featuring an automatic gearbox and steering wheel paddle-shifters. Torque figures range from 210Nm to 370Nm.
Advanced technology is also a feature of the Expert range, which is not only offered with the PSA Group’s very latest 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system with voice-control and smartphone mirroring, but also a head-up display that puts vital info in the driver’s line of sight. There’s a raft of welcome new safety tech, too.
The whole lot is wrapped-up in a new and eye-catching and modern design that emphasises the cab height, and has a practical wheel-at-each-corner feel with short overhangs. There’s a high, wide bonnet that gives the van a powerful presence on the road, and you can specify an optional Look Pack for body-coloured bumpers, mirrors and side-strips, and a chrome grille surround.
MPG and Running Costs
The new Expert is reasonably well equipped even in basic S version, with twin sliding side doors, electric windows, cruise control, DAB radio and Bluetooth.
The Professional model will attract owner-drivers with its extra perks like the 7-inch touchscreen system, aircon and the Moduwork load-through bulkhead and seat, while the Professional Plus adds body-colour bumpers and mirrors, LED DRLs, 17-inch alloys, metallic paint and rear parking camera. Prices start from around £17,500 +VAT so look pretty competitive, as you’d expect. Unfortunately most of the Expert’s high-tech safety kit comes as part of various option packs, and you could easily add a couple of grand to the list prices if you want it all. Adding sat-nav to the touchscreen system will cost you a couple of hundred quid, too.
Fleet managers and owner-drivers are likely to be impressed with the class-leading economy. The new Expert’s enviable efficiency is, in part, down to its relatively lightweight construction. On a like-for-like model basis, PSA engineers reckon the new van is anything between 100 and 150kgs lighter than it’s predecessor, and between 100kgs and 300kgs lighter than the competition (the worst offender being the hefty VW Transporter). Off the record, they also reckon that on like-for-like comparison tests with varying loads in the real world, their van is at least 5mpg more efficient than anything else in the class.
But it’s the official figures that count, and the most efficient engine is the 114bhp 1.6-litre that can return 55.3mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions of just 133g/km. The 94bhp version with auto gear changing can muster 54.3mpg and 135g/km, while the basic 94bhp engine with five-speed manual will do 51.3mpg. With the 119bhp and 148bhp models both achieving 53.2mpg, and even the range-topping 178bhp engine returning 46.3mpg, Peugeot is able to claim an admirable average for the entire range of 52.3mpg.
The BlueHDI engines also sip AdBlue at lesser rates than rivals, thanks to the advanced Selective Catalytic Reduction system that treats exhaust upstream of the particulate filter. The 22.4-litre AdBlue tank should last over 9,000 miles, which is more than 400 miles per litre. The VW Transporter and Mercedes Sprinter run up to 250 miles per litre, so the Peugeot should offer savings.
It’s not all about the Expert’s efficiency though, as urban and rural operators are also likely to be drawn to the excellent load characteristics of the relatively small and nimble Expert Compact, which can swallow two Euro pallets whole. If your loads are palletised, that might halve the number of trips required on a given job, and it’s something that no other van in the Expert Compact’s class can do.
Maintenance costs should be manageable too, with a 25,000-mile or two-year service interval. The Expert’s security is taken care of with a proximity key fob to open the deadlocking doors, and a standard immobilizer, with added alarm on Professional and Pro Plus models. On some versions you can also operate the sliding side doors remotely from the cab or via a gesture control beneath the rear bumper if your hands are full.
Load Space and Practicality
All versions of the Peugeot Expert share a 1,400kg maximum payload, but the Compact stands out for its excellent loading length of 3,320m in a vehicle that’s only 4,600m long. The Standard van has a 3,670m load length, and the Long version 4,020m. Width between the wheel arches is 1,260m, and the three vans have a load volume of 5.1, 5.8 and 6.6 cubic metres respectively. The Compact and Standard models both stand 1,900mm tall so they can fit under most overhead barriers, and the Long is only 40mm taller.
Peugeot also offers additional practical touches like the excellent Moduwork bulkhead with triple-seat front bench. The outer passenger seat cushion can be lifted and folded away, revealing a large hatch in the bulkhead and a flat floor connected to the main load area that adds an extra 1,160mm of load length. You can still carry a passenger up front in the middle seat, or fold that one up as well to create a table for a laptop or paperwork.
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Other practical features include the option of twin sliding doors for the load area with electric hands-free operation, and Peugeot also makes much of the Expert’s relatively small turning circle. The Compact is able to make 11.1m diameter turns, which isn't quite in black cab territory but is decent for a mid-size van – the Transit Custom beats it with an 11.0m turning circle, but the VW Transporter’s needs 11.9m between kerbs.
Latest regulations mean all Experts come with a fixed metal bulkhead, while an optional insulated bulkhead with glazed window not only improves noise refinement up front, but is also set back a few cms at the top compared to the standard item, allowing significantly more reclining room for the driver. We’d recommend it on both counts, and of course it’s essential for anyone fitting a fridge.
If your cargo is people, then the crew van and combi versions are pretty versatile too. The six-seater crew van comes with either a fixed or folding bulkhead allowing up to 5.5 cubic metres of load space in the Long version. The Combi offers multiple seat configurations between two and nine passengers with easily removable rows of seats, and in Long guise can carry up to 1,300-litres of luggage with a full load of people.
Reliability and Safety
The Citroen C4 Picasso and Peugeot 308 share key platform elements with the Peugeot Expert van, but they’re so loosely related it would be unwise to take anything more than mild encouragement from the two passenger cars’ 5 star crash safety ratings. Still, it will be interesting to see how NCAP judges the new PSA commercial vehicle, particularly as there’s a full MPV version called the SpaceTourer too. The second-generation Expert managed just three stars but the new one ought to fare much better.
Aside from a hopefully robustly engineered sub-structure, there’s an absolute array of safety kit available on the new van – some of which hasn’t even appeared on the Peugeot road car range yet. Unfortunately though, most of the good stuff is non-standard. If you want to splash out, aside from the Head-Up Display on the dash, there’s a radar-controlled Active Safety Brake system which can prevent rear-end shunts at speeds of up to 18mph, and mitigate their impact at higher speeds.
You can also specify Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning and a rear-facing parking camera with 180-degree vision. A Road Sign Reading and Speed Limit Recommendation system uses a camera to pick up speed signs and alert the driver, who can alter the cruise control or speed limiter to match the signed limit with two clicks of a slightly awkwardly placed button under the cruise control switch.
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Driver Attention Alert uses the same camera and a steering angle sensor to determine if the driver is straying out of a lane, and a Driving Time Warning alerts the driver it’s time for a break after two hours of continuous higher speeds behind the wheel.
You can also specify Grip Control, which is an enhanced traction control system that boosts the chances of making progress on slippery or icy tracks. Left-hand-drive markets are also being offered a full 4x4 option, but a right-hand-drive version isn't in the business plan.
While some of the technology and electrical systems are new to the Peugeot commercial range, most of it has been tested elsewhere on production versions of passenger cars. The BlueHDi diesel engines are familiar too, so we wouldn’t anticipate many problems on the reliability front.
Driving and Performance
There’s no doubt the Peugeot Expert is extremely refined and comfortable on the road, and we reckon it vies with the Mercedes Vito for class-leading driver comfort. In the Peugeot’s case, it’s thanks to the car-derived underpinnings, and the fact that PSA engineers designed the Expert knowing they had to make the full MPV version – the SpaceTourer - ride convincingly on the same running gear.
So the van offers a pleasantly supple ride, and cabin noise is well controlled too. There’s a bit of boom transmitted through the standard van bulkhead, but sitting in front of the insulated/comfort bulkhead is almost as refined as an SUV. It helps that the seats offer loads of adjustment and are very comfortable too – and while we’re on the subject, the high driving position offers a great view of the road ahead, although there’s an unusual ‘letterbox’ feel to the cabin thanks to the low roof and relatively small windscreen area.
The engines are audible and sometimes gruff under load, but never unpleasantly thrashy or grating, and respectably quiet while idling.
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We’ve only driven the 114bhp and 148bhp versions so far, both unladen, but the lower-powered van feels nippy and responsive to the throttle, and well matched to its six gear ratios selected smoothly via a stubby but slick shifter. As you’d expect, the 148bhp motor offers immediately noticeable – and welcome – extra punch, which will make for brisker overtaking and/or stronger performance when loaded up.
We do have a couple of gripes though. The brakes work fine, but are a bit sudden in their response to light pressure on the pedal. We’d prefer a more progressive action. The steering isn’t much fun either. The electrically assisted wheel is over-light, and while the Expert does go where you point it, there isn’t any sort of feedback to help you place the vehicle in corners.
Still, as long as you’re not specifying a support vehicle for your world rally team, the lack of driver engagement shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The Expert feels stable and secure in corners, and for commercial buyers it’s much more important that it’s easy and relaxing to drive.
Cab and Interior
Step up into the Expert’s comfortable cabin, and the first thing you notice is the relatively low glass area, which gives a letterbox view out across the high bonnet. The effect is carried through to the rear of the vehicle in passenger carrying versions, with the glass area reduced by curtain airbags mounted above the side glass. It’s more of an interesting feature than an issue, as the view out of the road ahead is absolutely fine.
On first impressions the interior has a real look of quality too, although prying fingers will reveal plastic trim that gives a little under pressure, and less than perfect fit for some components. If it was a car you'd be a little more critical, but for a van the overall effect is stylish and desirable – particularly if you’ve specified a high-end fit-out with luxuries like sat-nav, climate control and the head-up display.
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As well as having an upmarket feel, the Expert also benefits from a range of practical touches in the cabin. The vans have 49-litres of storage space around the cabin, including two glove boxes on the passenger side, an A4-sized compartment atop the dash, a pair of cupholders, a luggage compartment beneath the bench seat, and large door bins on both sides.
There is a 12V plug, plus jack and USB connectors in the lower glove box, so no shortage of connectivity options.
(Width is body without side mirrors, overall width including mirrors is 2,204mm)
Load area dimensions
|Compact van||1,397mm||1,628mm||2,162mm||4.6cu m|
|Standard van||1,397mm||1,628mm||2,512mm||5.3cu m|
|Long van||1,397mm||1,628mm||2,862mm||6.1cu m|
(Load volume is without Moduwork option – add 0.5cu m if Moduwork is fitted)