EXPERT OPINION | Van Review

 Is this the best-kept secret in the medium-sized van market? Warren Caves investigates

A renewed focus on the Australian market prompted Peugeot Australia to release a trio of light-commercial vehicles onto the local market in 2019.

The Expert mid-sized van sits nicely between the smaller Partner and larger Boxer offered by Peugeot to compete with the likes of the Hyundai iLoad, Ford Transit, Volkswagen Transporter, Renault Trafic and Toyota Hiace.

Interestingly in Europe, where product sharing across brands is rife, the Peugeot Expert is also marketed as a Toyota Pro Ace, Citroen Jumpy and Opel/Vauxhall Vivaro.

Offering 5.8 cu m of cargo space accessed by dual sliding side doors or double rear barn doors which open out to 180-degrees, the Expert can swallow a generous load and can handle a weight burden of up to 1300 kg.

The 1250 mm of space between the wheel arches means pallet loading from a forklift is a breeze via the rear doors. Lengths of 2500 mm can be accommodated at floor level, dropping slightly to around 2300 mm as the bulkhead slopes back further towards the top. The rear door opening measures around 1200 mm in height.

Items up to around 3500 mm in length can be positioned into the cabin space through the drop-down access panel in the lower left side of the bulkhead.

Twin interior cargo-space lights help with after dark work schedules and there are six secure tie-down points located at floor level. A 12-volt accessory socket is included in the cargo space. Disappointingly there are no securing points further up the walls which is an often-omitted feature of delivery vans. The semi-regular need to tie off bulky, lighter items to a wall could benefit from this small but significant addition.

The previously mentioned bulkhead offers increased safety to occupants, staving off wayward cargo in the event of sudden braking or collision. In addition to that the bulkhead provides for a much quieter driving experience by eliminating the effects of echoing and drumming entering the cabin space.

The cabin offers a modern workspace with a basic manually adjusted, cloth-inlaid, leather-look driver’s seat which was good for short trips but a bit flat in the base for my liking for longer journeys. There is also no lumbar adjustment or inboard armrest.

Rearward seat travel is great and headroom is generous even for the vertically enhanced.

The Expert offers a three-seat capacity but as is often the case the centre seat position is quite cramped.

The steering wheel has adjustment for tilt and rake which allows for greater driving position flexibility. Frontal visibility is great and side vision is reasonable from the convex wing mirrors, aided by blind-spot monitoring affording clear vision to the side of the van.

Various stowage options are located throughout the cabin. Very large door pockets, a small glovebox and smaller cubbies are situated throughout. Only two cup holders are provided and they are on the top of the dash. This positioning does not appeal to me at all because to access drinks involves a generous stretch forward and if they are cold drinks, the sun is almost continually beating down on the contents. There is, however, a small insulated storage bin under the middle seat to store sealed cold beverages.

The plastic dash construction provides a hard-wearing, working-class surface material but does nothing to add opulence.

Two 12-volt sockets and a USB provision are provided to occupants and a fold-down centre seat cushion reveals a small flat surface with a lift-off work board.

Down in the engine room is a perky 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine producing 110 kW of power and 370 Nm of torque. The engine is mounted transversely and drives the front wheels via an eight-speed automatic transaxle.

On the road, the little diesel propels the Expert effortlessly and with the aid of the intelligent shift parameters of the transmission, makes excellent use of the low rev band torque curve, rarely needing to exceed 2500 rpm under light to moderate throttle (when unladen). In fact, to boost fuel efficiency the Expert is geared to sit at just 1800 rpm at 100 km/h in seventh gear. The transmission won’t select top cog (eighth) until a speed of 110 km/h is reached, at which time it then sits at an engine speed of 1700-1750 rpm. This reduced engine speed undoubtably impacts fuel economy in a positive way.

Strong, confident and quiet, the 2.0-litre engine performed admirably throughout the test period and was never found wanting.

The automatic transmission is well-married to the engine, performing slick shifts at appropriate times.

A rotary-dial selector on the lower dash panel in front of the centre seat provides gear position choices and a manual button is provided to use in conjunction with the steering column-mounted paddles, if you’re a bit sporty at heart.

Handling, ride and comfort are quite good for a mid-sized van. The coil spring rear suspension and coil-over strut front suspension provide an almost car-like experience (partly due to the Expert sharing its underpinnings with Peugeot’s passenger-car platform) and four-wheeled disc braking offers surety in stopping.

The Expert also ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to advanced safety and technology features.

Driver and outside passenger airbags, as well as side airbags, provide a last line of defence in a collision while active safety features do their utmost to prevent these situations in the first place.

Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) comes standard, as does adaptive cruise control (ACC) and selectable speed limiting. Similar to the smaller Partner, the cruise control lever is awkwardly positioned and difficult to view when driving, albeit a little more visible in the Expert over the Partner.

Interestingly, our test vehicle didn’t include a lane-departure warning in its safety suite which is included in the smaller Partner.

A 7.0-inch multi-media system provides for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity as well as Bluetooth audio and phone pairing and voice control. Phone pairing is simple and painless affair and conversation quality is good with no echoing. Audio quality from the sound system is a little on the mediocre side and could probably benefit from better quality speakers.

Manoeuvring the Expert on busy delivery runs is made safer by way of front and rear parking sensors and a reverse camera with directional projection lines to aid reversing and a two-dimensional overhead 360-degree view.

A solid, feature-packed contender for your mid-sized van dollar, the Expert may well surprise.

At test end the fuel economy numbers looked good. Over a drive distance of 519 km, at an average speed of 51 km/h, the Expert consumed 6.5-l/100 km of fuel.

Prices start from $42,490 for the standard wheelbase automatic version ($44,190 for the long wheelbase) and the Expert is covered by a five-year, 200,000 km warranty. Servicing intervals are every 12 months or 20,000 km.  manual transmission models start from $36,490.

The safety and tech-laden Peugeot Expert may well offer the expert assistance needed to drive your business further.

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