The MK3 model Peugeot Partner is a compact van with high aspirations. Jonathan Crouch sees how it measures up.
Peugeot's Partner van has much to offer in this much improved third generation form, with efficiency, technology and practicality to rival class leaders in the compact van segment. It's now smarter looking than before and gets some extra hi-tech, plus it's more spacious and there's the brand's clever 'i-Cockpit' interior design too. On paper at least then, the prospects are promising.
Peugeot knows a thing or two about vans, the brand having built around 2 million LCVs since 1950. This Partner model is the company's biggest seller and it's been revitalised in this third generation guise. The Partner is the kind of model you choose if your business needs a compact LCV that isn't quite as small as a modern cityvan-sector model would be - something like Peugeot's own Bipper. Vehicles like that are based on superminis: Partner-type models, in contrast, sit upon the more spacious platforms originally developed for family hatchbacks or small MPVs. There are certainly plenty of vans of that type - most notably perhaps, this Peugeot's near-identical design stablemates, Citroen's Berlingo and Vauxhall's Combo. Beyond the PSA Group, this Partner must directly take on strong-selling contenders like Ford's Transit Connect, Fiat's Doblo Cargo and Volkswagen's Caddy, along with two further brand-shared designs, the one we know as either the Renault Kangoo or the Mercedes Citan.
The Euro6 engine range is made up of Peugeot's latest generation BlueHDi diesel units, plus the PSA conglomerate's usual Puretech 1.2-litre three cylinder powerplant in 110 or 130hp forms for those that want it. The 1.6-litre diesels will be the big sellers with their 75 and 100hp and 120bhp outputs. More modern though, is the 1.5-litre BlueHDi powerplant, which comes if you're able to stretch up to a 130hp output. The top 130hp engines are offered with the option of EAT8 auto transmission. This MK3 model Partner's new EMP2 platform enables shorter overhangs and a small turning circle for easy manoeuvring: the kerb to kerb turning radius is only 10.82m for the Standard version and 11.43m for the Long version. The neat 'i-Cockpit' dashboard design makes this Peugeot feel quite fun to drive too, with its grippy little wheel allowing for wrist-flick turns. We also like the 'Surround Rear Vision' system that gives drivers optimum exterior visibility from inside the vehicle, with a view of the areas around the van courtesy of a couple of cameras, one located at the base of the passenger side mirror and the other at the top of the rear doors. The images are displayed on a 5-inch screen located where the interior rear mirror normally sits and together provide a closer view of the immediate environment.
This third generation Partner gets sharper styling, particularly at the front, where its familiar lion badge sits in the centre of a vertical grill that aims to enhance the more powerful headlight design. The profile lines see a high waistline matched with shorter overhangs. Even bigger changes are found beneath the panel work, where this MK3 model sits on the PSA Group's latest EMP2 platform. Inside, this Partner model's most unique feature is its 'i-Cockpit' instrument layout, familiar from Peugeot cars but here fitted to a commercial vehicle for the first time. This sees the driver looking at the instrument binnacle over the top of the steering wheel rim, rather than through the spokes of the wheel. The fascia's dominated by an 8-inch capacitive touch screen located in the centre of the dashboard in line with the driver's vision. It provides direct and permanent access to key comfort functions such as radio, navigation, vehicle settings and telephone. As before, Peugeot is offering its so-called 'Multiflex' adaptable bench seat, which allows three people to sit in the front and lets you push longer items through from the load bay. That means 400-litres more load capacity and an effective loading length of up to 3m for the Standard version and 3.35m for the Long version. A writing table is integrated in the fold-down central seat back to convert the vehicle into a mobile office, and this layout features a padlocked storage area underneath the central seat. As you'd expect in this class, a Crew van' body style is also available with a fold-out second row bench.
To meet the differing needs of business users, the Partner van range offers a wide selection of body styles. The main choice is between two lengths (the 'Standard' body shape at 4.4m long and the 'Long' version at 4.75m), plus there's a Crew Van version with a folding bench seat in row two. Spec-wise, Peugeot is offering 'S', 'Grip', 'Professional' and 'Asphalt' trim levels in Standard or Long versions, with prices starting from around £16,000: there's a premium of around £2,000 for the long wheelbase body style. Most sales will be targeted at the so-called 'Asphalt' standard panel van versions. These are available with acoustic enhancements, dual zone air conditioning, seats with lumbar adjustment, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, cruise control with a speed Limiter, an electronic parking brake, Surround Rear Vision camera system and an 8-inch colour touchscreen with a connected 3D navigation system and DAB radio. Plus you get 16" alloy wheels and a body-coloured finish for the bumpers, the mirror housings, the side rubbing strips and the door handles. An alternative for Partner van buyers is the 'Grip' variants which are designed for slightly more arduous delivery terrain like building sites. To better cope with this, the ride height of these derivatives is increased by 30mm and a protective plate under the engine is added. Plus there's a Grip Control with Hill Descent Assist set-up for extra front wheel traction in slippery conditions. This more robust model gets large wheels fitted with Mud and Snow tyres, an extra payload capacity of up to 1,000kg and a Loading Pack with enhanced LED lighting in the load area, plus an overload indicator, 12V and 220V power sockets and mid-height load securing rings.
The dimensions are perfectly in line with the segment, with a length of 4.40m for the Standard version ensuring an optimum effective usable length of 1.81m. With a capacity ranging from 3.30m3 to 3.80m3 depending on the version, this is sufficient to accommodate two Euro pallets. The Long version, which is 4,75m long (an increase of 35cm), provides even greater load capacity. The effective length of this version is 2.16m, providing for a load capacity ranging from 3.90m3 to 4.40m3. Opt for the Multiflex seat with its hatch through to the cargo bay and you can increase those figures using some cab space. Out back, the asymmetric side-hinged rear doors with 180-degree opening make loading particularly easy. The payload is one of the best in the segment, with values of 650kg and up to 1000kg for certain versions, both Standard and Long. The very low fuel consumption versions have a 600kg payload. A neat touch is the 'Overload Alert System' which alerts you should you exceed your Partner's permitted payload. Fleet Managers can choose from 3 different telematics packages from Free2Move Connect Fleet, providing efficiency and optimisation of fleet management. These use true vehicle CAN bus data to provide accurate information to suit a fleet manager's needs - whether that's mileage tracking, hours of use, fuel consumption or real-time monitoring of service intervals and mechanical alerts. Running costs remain competitive. The popular 1.6-litre BlueHDi 100 diesel model manages over 65mpg on the combined cycle and around 112g/km of CO2.
Peugeot's MK3 model Partner van has become cleverer and more sophisticated, whilst still retaining the practicality that has made it an LCV favorite. The latest BlueHDi diesel and PureTech petrol engine technology should make a big difference to running costs and if you get yourself a variant with the clever 8-inch infotainment screen inside, then your little compact van will feel very up to date indeed. The French brand has obviously put plenty of thought into the design of this enhanced Partner and it's backed up the hi-tech stuff with slick features intended to make the working day that little bit straightforward, many of which are packaged up in the Multi-flex modular seating system - a must-have feature on this LCV. You also get very class-competitive payload and carriage capacity figures, along with a comfortable ride and a wide choice of factory-built models. It all adds up to a strong business proposition.
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