Car reviews - Peugeot - Expert - range
Practical load solutions, surprisingly low NVH levels, punchy engines, comfortable unladen ride, light steering, advanced driver-assist systems
Room for improvement
No built-in satellite navigation, shiny cabin plastics, awkward rearward visibility, indecisive automatic, tight manual shift gate
Peugeot proves it is an LCV expert with welcome return of Expert mid-size van
26 Apr 2019
JUST when you thought Peugeot Citroen Australia’s next-generation vans were going to wear Citroen badges, it pulled a fast one.
The Berlingo is (likely) a goner and the Dispatch and Jumper never made it into showrooms. Instead the mechanically related Partner, Expert and Boxer are in wearing Peugeot badges.
Why the change in strategy? Well, Peugeot is the best-selling van brand in Europe and PCA is looking to capitalise on this success.
So, did PCA make the right choice? We’ve put the first Peugeot van, the mid-size Expert, to test to find out if it can make an impact in one of Australia’s most hotly contested segments.
Perhaps the best indication that the Expert is going to be good is its name. It quite literally spells it out for you – and backs it up.
Practicality is the name of the game here and the Expert delivers in spades. For one, dual-side sliding doors and 180-degree rear barn doors make loading it up easy.
And with standard (4959mm) and long (5309mm) variants available, both with a 3725mm wheelbase, it’s most things to most people.
Maximum load length is 2512mm and 2862mm for the standard and long body respectively, but both feature Peugeot’s ingenious Moduwork bulkhead as standard, which increases it by 116mm via a removable panel underneath the passenger seat.
As a result, Moduwork adds an extra 0.5 cubic-metres to the standard and long body’s maximum load volume, which without it is 5.3 and 6.1 cubic-metres respectively. For reference, maximum load height is 1397mm.
Maximum load length between the wheelarches is 1258mm, while an additional 378mm is found in front of and behind them. Needless to say, the Expert can carry three Euro pallets with ease to punctuate its credentials.
In the three-seat cabin, the Expert is unashamedly rough and ready, with hard plastics used for most surfaces. We just wish that some of them weren’t so shiny. A better sheen would be better suited to a European brand.
Just like the cargo area, the cabin is littered with smart storage solutions, both small and large and some of which are exceptionally deep. There’s even an under-seat compartment that doubles as an esky! Perfect for a hot summer’s day.
Being a van, though, rearward visibility is poor through the bulkhead’s letterbox window and further hampered by the aforementioned barn doors. And all of that’s after you remove the middle headrest that forces you to look out of just one window.
Nonetheless, the Expert’s driving position is commanding, giving the driver an otherwise great view of their surroundings. This is helped by the 180-degree reversing camera that while useful, is short a few too many pixels to be truly effective.
Being a next-generation model, the Expert comes armed with a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It’s just a shame that it misses out on in-built satellite navigation, even if it does support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The cabin’s best party trick, though, is its Noise, Vibration and Harshness (NVH) levels. As far as vans go, this is an outstanding effort, with conversations able to be had easily, even when cruising at highway speeds – a notoriously difficult feat for others in the segment.
Speaking of surprises, the Expert astounds with its comfortable unladen ride. Whereas others lack rear-end composure when making contact with a bump, it excels. Even with a 500kg payload in the back, you almost can’t tell the difference.
We’re not suggesting that the Expert doesn’t get jittery over uneven surfaces, because it does but not to the same degree as some of its rivals.
Thanks to the standard and long body sharing their wheelbase length, both handle around town almost identically.
Either way, the front-wheel-drive Expert shrinks around the driver and proves this point with its tight 12.4m turning circle.
Maneuverability is further added by the light steering, while its weight increases as more lock is added. It’s not sportscar quick or communicative, but it does the job admirably for this application.
Three turbo-diesel four-cylinder engines are available with the Expert, with the 85kW/300Nm 1.6-litre we’re yet to test kicking off proceedings, while the 2.0-litre is available in two states of tune – 110kW/370Nm and 130kW/400Nm (long body only).
When it comes to the latter, you really can’t go wrong. Both versions of it develop peak power at 4000rpm, while maximum torque is produced at 2000rpm, which is frankly where you want it.
The 2.0-litre just pulls off the line effortlessly, so much so that it’s hard to pick the difference between its two tunes, even when driving them back to back.
As pleasing as acceleration is off the line, it is the sharp throttle response encountered when overtaking that puts a smile on your face. Of course, the vast majority of our driving has been unladen, so we’ll reserve full judgement for another day.
All three engines can get down and dirty, too, with maximum payload for the 85kW, 110kW and 130kW units rated at 1000kg, 1300kg and 1250kg respectively, while braked towing capacity is 1800kg, 1500kg and 2200kg.
For reference, the 85kW engine’s claimed fuel consumption on the combined cycle test is 5.2 litres per 100 kilometres and carbon dioxide emissions are 137 grams per kilometre.
The 110kW and 130kW units manage 6.2-6.4L/100km and 162-168g/km, and 6.2L/100km and 163g/km respectively.
Transmission options are straight forward, with the choice between a six-speed manual or an Aisin-sourced six-speed torque-converter automatic.
The latter is a smooth operator, although it proves to be indecisive when cruising at highway speeds, shuffling between fifth and sixth when there is no gradient in sight.
The former is also a sweet shifter thanks its well-weighted clutch pedal, but its tight shift gate can spell trouble, as it’s easy to shift from first into fourth when you actually want second.
As far as vans are concerned, advanced driver-assist systems in the Expert are numerous, with its standard video-based autonomous emergency braking (up to 30km/h), blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, speed sign recognition, driver attention alert and high-beam assist the obvious highlights.
So, with five variants available between $36,490 and $45,890 plus on-road costs, there is no doubting that PCA is trying to make a fist of its Peugeot LCV strategy.
And it’s all backed by a five-year/200,000km warranty, while the Expert’s service intervals of every 12 months or 20,000km, whichever comes first, are nice and long.
If this is a taste of what’s to come, we can’t help but feel PCA’s onto a much-needed winner. The Partner and Boxer have a lot to live up; the Expert is clinically good.
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Model release date: 1 April 2019
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