This generation of Peugeot’s popular light van, the Partner, came to market in June 2008 and has since undergone facelifts in 2012 and again in June 2015.
Its best sales year was 2014 when it led the light van sector with 16,636 models finding homes. As it has got longer in the tooth it has slipped back a bit, in particular falling behind the all-conquering Ford with its Transit Connect, but is still holding its own.
Last year, Peugeot sold 14,038 Partners, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, putting it just behind its fellow PSA brand Citroen’s equivalent model, the Berlingo, on 14,625, and the Connect on 15,495.
It will have to hang in there a little longer as the next-generation Partner (and Berlingo) is not due until 2018 when the platform is also set to host the new light van from Vauxhall. But now that PSA has bought the Luton-based brand from GM we shall await developments on that score.
The Partner is available with 1.6-litre 75 and 100hp diesel engines, a 1.6 98hp petrol and also as an electric van. It was formerly up for grabs with a 92hp diesel unit as well but this went out when Peugeot switched the full Partner range to the Euro6 emissions standard in June last year.
Driven here is the Blue HDi 100 Partner panel van L1 (short-wheelbase) in the top Professional trim level that sits above S and SE in the hierarchy. Opting for this spec gets you aircon and an athermic windscreen, which cuts down the glare from UV sunrays but can also reduce GPS satnav signals. These two features are bundled into a £600 option (all prices here exclude VAT) on the lower-spec vans.
Professional trim is adorned with 15-inch trimmed wheels, but more usefully it also comes with rear parking sensors, which will otherwise set you back £200 as an add-on.
Other extras are a half-height bulkhead with a mesh grille, an alarm and a colour touchscreen with DAB radio, Bluetooth and USB socket, and TomTom semi-integrated satnav, which can be discreetly hidden in a compartment under the middle seat cushion when not in use.
Cruise control and a speed limiter are included from the mid-level SE trim. The price ladder for the Blue HDi 100 steps up from £15,120 in S to £15,500 in SE to £16,665 in Professional.
The 100hp drivetrain was the first to get Euro6 back at the start of 2016. We drove the five-speed manual but customers can also specify the van with the ETG6 six-speed automated manual ’box as an alternative.
The manual has official consumption of 65.7mpg and CO2 of 112g/km and requires the addition of AdBlue to meet the Euro6 standard, as does the VW Caddy Bluemotion, which manages 65.7mpg and 114g/km, officially. Ford claims the greenest Transit Connect, the 1.5-litre Econetic, achieves 70.6mpg and 105g/km. The Connect is also the only light van on the market that does not need AdBlue.
The Blue HDi wins when it comes to payload, being able to shoulder 854kg compared with the Connect Econetic’s 619g/km. The Caddy Bluemotion can lug a comparatively modest 549kg.
The 100hp Partner offers responsive performance, and the five-speed gearbox is slick enough, although an extra gear would come in handy for dual-carriageway and motorway journeys. Build quality is also respectable, but the doors do not slam shut with quite the satisfying clunk you get with a Caddy.
Access to the load area is by means of a sliding nearside door plus twin, opaque asymmetric rear doors. The twin doors can be swung through 90°, or through 180° if you undo the easy-to-release stays, and it was good to see ply-lining throughout the load area.
Fold down the outboard passenger seat then undo a catch and flip the section of steel bulkhead behind it backwards into the cargo bay and you can extend the load bed length by an impressive 1,200mm; handy if you happen to be carrying a ladder, pipes or planks.
Nominally, the cabin has three seats but in reality nobody could use the middle one on even the shortest trips. It is way too narrow and there is no legroom due to the gear stick and a pair of cup holders positioned on the floor. On the plus side, the middle seat back folds down to form a useful desk and there is plenty of storage space throughout the cabin, including an overhead shelf.
The Partner is now starting to show its age compared with the competition but is still a competent, frugal and practical light van.