Having sold in excess of 60,000 Partners in the UK since its launch in 1996, Peugeot has high hopes for the second generation models when they go on sale in July.
Looking remarkably like a scaled-down version of the new Expert launched last year, it's on offer with one wheelbase, but unlike its predecessor ? which remains on sale for the foreseeable future badged as the Origin ? there is the option of two body lengths.
The longer version has an extended overhang behind the rear wheels and should be on sale from September.
There are three 1.6-litre engine options; one petrol and two diesels. The former produces 90hp and develops 132Nm of peak torque at 2,500rpm. We suspect that this is aimed at operators wanting to convert it to run on liquified petroleum gas, but with the differential between the cost of a litre of petrol and diesel widening, to the detriment of the latter, there may be a financial case for using it to power low mileage, low weight urban deliveries.
The two 16-valve,HDi turbodiesels are rated at 70hp and 90hp and develop 185Nm and 215Nm of peak torque respectively; both delivering at 1,750rpm. CO2 emissions are quoted as 153g/km.
Partner remains front-wheel drive and all versions come with a five-speed manual transmission. There is no semi-automatic option available at the time of launch, although one may be offered at a later date.
New Partner is based on PSA Peugeot Citro?n's Platform Two ? as is the 308 car and Citro?n's version, the Berlingo ? and uses a direct development of the same suspension set-up.
A pseudo McPherson strut arrangement is found at the front with drop links, coil springs, dampers and an anti-roll bar. The rear is kept under control by a torsion bar, dampers and and anti-roll bar. The dampers are mounted at an angle to help reduce wheel box intrusion in the load area.
Power steering is standard and is a speed-related hydraulic system. Disc brakes are used all-round with those at the front ventilated. ABS is fitted on all models and includes automatic activation of the hazard warning lights during emergency braking.
Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) is an optional extra across the board. It is coupled with an ASR traction control system and a hill-start assist function.
These second generation Partners are significantly bigger than their namesake predecessors and the result is a bigger and therefore more practical load area.
Maximum load length on the standard length version (L1) is 1,800mm, increasing to 2,050mm for the extended model (L2). Load height and width are the same on both at 1,250mm and 1,620mm respectively. The latter reduces to 1,229mm between the wheel boxes.
The result is a load capacity of 3.3m3 for the L1 and 3.7m3 for the L2. Take up the option of the Multi-Flex folding dual passenger seat and these figures rise by 0.4m3 with load lengths increasing to 3,000mm on the L1 and 3,250mm on the L2.
L1 models offer a choice of 625kg or 850kg gross payloads while the L2 is rated at 750kg. Rear loading heights are 584mm and 612mm respectively.
Access is via twin asymmetric side-hinged, glass-free rear doors and there's the option of one or two sliding side doors on the L1. L2 versions benefit from twin side doors as standard. The load area sides are defended from damage to half their height and a plastic floor covering is standard on SE specification models.
Six load-tie points are provided and the driver is protected by a full-height metal ladder frame as standard. A variety of bulkheads can be specified from the options list.
A secondary load area light, which doubles as a removable 5w torch, is provided on SE models. But as is pointed out in the Berlingo article we wonder how long this will last before it disappears.
There's a useful optional extra for those who regularly carry overlength items in the shape of a rear, hinged roof flap. It's only available on L1 models and comes in tandem with a nearside sliding door.
There's no doubt that a great deal of thought has gone into the design of the new Partner's cab. Storage space is plentiful, including a full width shelf above the windscreen, but we're not really sold on the practicality of the twin Multi-Flex seat; it's only really suitable for a child as it's narrow and legroom is virtually nil thanks to the protrusion of the dash-mounted gearstick.
It does come into its own, however, when the backrest is folded down as it can be used as a work-top. It also hides a deep bin for secure storage of valuable items.
On top of those items already mentioned the base S specification also includes electric front windows, driver's air bag selective cab/load area central locking, radio/CD/MP3 player with satellite controls and a height-adjustable driver's seat with arm rest.
Move up to SE and there's electric/heated door mirrors, one-touch electric windows, lidded glovebox (it's open on S spec), nearside sliding door and the Multi-Flex passenger seat among others.
On the Road
There's a feeling of quality when first climbing aboard the new Partner. High quality plastics are used throughout and the driver's seat is well proportioned with plenty of support.
The combination of seat-height adjustment and a steering column adjustable for rake and reach means that just about any-sized driver should be able to make themselves comfortable.
There seem to be storage bins everywhere, including a lidded bin on top of the facia behind the instrument binnacle and large rigid door bins.
The gearchange is smooth and well positioned in relation to the steering wheel ? and hopefully this will be carried over during the conversion to right-hand drive ? and there is good forward visibility, although the A-pillars are pretty substantial. Rearward vision down the van's flanks is good thanks to sensibly sized door mirrors, which can be folded in against the bodywork automatically when parked using the multi-function central locking remote which is part of the SE package.
We tried both diesel engine derivatives in standard length vehicles and found neither wanting in the torque department. In typical French style the ride quality veers towards soft rather than hard, but bodyroll during cornering seems well under control.
The steering is well weighted and heavies-up nicely as speed rises while remaining light, but positive during low-speed manoeuvres.
Servicing intervals are somewhat frequent at 12,500 miles for the diesels ? the petrol is 20,000 miles ? but the timing belt is said to be good for 150,000 miles or ten years.
The mechanical warranty is three years/60,000 miles, there's six-year anti-perforation and two-year paintwork cover, along with a year of AA-operated breakdown assistance.
? With the continued availability of the old Partner (Origin), the new models neatly fill the gap between it ? and the smaller Nemo ? and the Expert. What remains to be seen is if they will steal sales from the latter. All in all, though, Peugeot has made a good job of bringing Partner bang up-to-date.