What with the new Bipper subcompact van on its way and a new Partner just over the horizon, Peugeot dealers are on course for a busy time. They are already occupied with selling and supporting the latest Boxer and Expert. The latter won What Van?'s 2007 Small Panel Van of the Year award alongside Citroën's Dispatch and Fiat's Scudo; all three models share the same basic design. With all this going on there's a danger that Peugeot outlets will neglect another newcomer; the 207 Van. They might even be inclined to question its usefulness in today's light commercial market given the advent of the, arguably more practical, Bipper.
That would be an error because vehicles like 207 and Ford's Fiesta Van and Vauxhall's Corsavan still have a role to play. Not all drivers need to shift heavy or bulky items. All some require is the ability to transport a toolbox, or some small packages, or an Alsatian if they happen to be mobile security guards.
Others — construction site foremen, for example — need a runabout that has enough room for hard hats and high-visibility jackets. Meter readers are sometimes issued with small vans too. One of the big advantages of hatchback-based vans is that they don't look too embarrassing on a domestic driveway, even when signwritten. And if they are a cause of embarrassment, they'll fit easily into even the smallest domestic garage.
Based on the three-door version of the 207 car, 207 Van is up for grabs with three different engines. You can opt for a 75hp 1.4-litre petrol lump although we suspect the only reason why you would do so is if you were proposing to have it converted to run on liquefied petroleum gas or maybe compressed natural gas. A 1.4-litre HDi diesel generating 68hp is available too.
We went for the third engine on the menu however; a 1.6-litre HDi diesel pumping out 90hp at 4,000rpm. Peak torque of 215Nm bites at 1,750rpm and the 16-valve power plant is married to a five-speed manual gearbox. Carbon dioxide emissions? We're talking 120g/km.
Independent suspension with MacPherson-type struts helps support the front of the vehicle while torsion beams take care of the rear. Boasting smart plastic trims, our demonstrator's 15in steel wheels were shod with 185/65 R15 Pirelli P6 tyres.
ABS complete with Emergency Brake Assist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution is a standard feature. Disc brakes are fitted all round — ventilated at the front, solid at the back — whereas the other two models in the 207 range have to make do with rear drums. Electric power-assisted steering offers a 10.6m kerb-to-kerb turning circle with 5.2 turns lock-to-lock.
Grossing at 1,630kg, the 90hp 207 Van can handle a 450kg gross payload. It can haul an unbraked trailer grossing at 600kg and a braked trailer grossing at 1,020kg.
Access to the 1.1m3 load box is by means of a top-hinged rear door supported by gas-filled struts. It comes with a window heater plus a wash/wipe system with a wiper that comes on automatically if reverse is engaged while the windscreen wipers are on.
The cargo bay is well protected to half its height from minor scratches by a mixture of carpet and plastic mouldings while a tailored rubber mat covers the floor. No fewer than six load tie-down points are provided; four set into the cargo bed plus one above each wheel box. Anything that isn't lashed down and slides forward should be stopped in its tracks by the heftily-built half-height bulkhead.
You'll find the spare nestling in a well beneath the floor. While that's good news from the security viewpoint, it also means that you may have to unload part of your cargo if you get a flat tyre and need to change the wheel.
Maximum load length is 1,335mm. Maximum width is 1,043mm narrowing to 1,015mm between the wheel boxes, while maximum height is 804mm. Rear loading height is 681mm. The rear door aperture is 910mm wide and 650mm high.
For such a small van it's got a roomy cab, but the storage facilities for all the oddments that drivers need to carry around with them are meagre. There's a bin with a soft drink can holder in each of the doors, but the big glovebox lid conceals a compartment that is so disappointingly small as to be virtually useless. The cup-holders on the inside of the lid are well-nigh useless too, but at least the lid is lockable. You'll find a useable cup-holder to the rear of the handbrake lever.
In addition you'll find another, narrow, shelf above the glovebox, one beneath the radio and CD player — operated using remote controls on the steering column — and a deep cubby-hole to the right of the height-and-reach-adjustable steering wheel.
Driver, passenger and side airbags and electric windows come as standard, so does height-adjustment for both seats, and the exterior mirrors can be adjusted manually from within the cab using small toggles. That's fine for the driver's mirror but slightly awkward when it comes to adjusting the mirror on the passenger side.
With 90hp on tap our demonstrator wasn't lacking in performance and a decent gearchange made it easier to exploit the horsepower on offer. The most powerful 207 Van nips away smartly from rest, accelerates strongly through the gears and finishes up as a more-than-respectable dual carriageway/motorway express. It rides well too.
On the downside noise could stand to be better suppressed and while the steering's electric power-assistance is supposed to be speed-related, in our view it doesn't tighten up sufficiently when you're hammering through a bend. As a consequence you don't get enough feedback from the road — a criticism we've regularly levelled at electric systems — and that spoils the handling.
We can forgive these drawbacks given the engine's frugality. We averaged 60mpg; just the sort of figure you need to achieve given the high price of diesel thanks to the ruinously high tax burden imposed on it by the government.
All the doors are secured by deadlocks triggered by a remote plip key and can be locked from inside the van by hitting a button prominently positioned on the dashboard. They lock automatically anyway once the van picks up speed.
It's a shame that the baby of the Peugeot line-up is on offer solely in white but at least its plain paint finish is protected by side rubbing strips.
With a 4E insurance group rating, 207 Van is protected by a three-year/60,000-mile warranty with no mileage limit for the first two years plus a roadside rescue and recovery service for the first 12 months of ownership. Bear in mind that you won't be able to call on it if you've accidentally put the wrong fuel in or need help changing the wheel. Service intervals are set at a rather frequent 12,000 miles.
An attractive-looking little package, the 90hp version of Peugeot's 207 Van offers just the right combination of performance and impressive fuel economy. Solidly-constructed, it boasts a roomy, well-equipped comfortable cab and a practical, if small, cargo area. On the downside the handling is spoilt by the over-assisted steering, noise levels could stand to be better suppressed and the in-cab storage facilities for all the oddments drivers need to carry around with them are inadequate. Check it out by all means, but do not forget to investigate Vauxhall's award-winning Corsavan and Ford's Fiesta Van too.