With the launch of the new Peugeot Expert in September 2016 the French brand became a serious challenger in the medium van sector.
It is a hotly contested area of the market, containing such standout models as the Ford Transit Custom, Volkswagen Transporter and Renault Trafic. But we were so impressed by the van that we crowned it (along with the Citroen Dispatch and Toyota Proace that share its platform at the Sevelnord plant in France) our Light Commercial Vehicle of the Year for 2017.
Particularly noteworthy is the breadth of range available, with Euro6 1.6 and 2.0 Blue HDI powertrains with outputs ranging from 95hp to 180hp and both manual and automatic transmissions. The Expert now comes in three lengths – the Compact broke new ground in bridging the gap between the light and medium van segments – and at the start of this year Peugeot added the Expert Long version.
We got behind the wheel of the Expert Long in top Professional Plus trim powered by the 180hp 2.0 engine and with the EAT6 six-speed automatic transmission with stop/start.
The manufacturer claims combined-cycle fuel consumption of 45.6mpg coupled with CO2 of 163g/km. Autos are still thin on the ground in the medium van sector but the new Transit Custom Sport L1 2.0 170hp Automatic has official figures of 40.9mpg and 178g/km of CO2, while the 130hp L2H2, albeit in Kombi mode, comes in with 39.8mpg and 183g/km.
With a load floor length of 2,862mm, the Expert Long provides a 350mm longer load floor than the Standard model and 700mm more load length than the shortest Compact variant. The LWB Vauxhall Vivaro and Renault Trafic derivatives, however, offer a 2,937mm load length, the longest Transporter stretches to 2,975mm, and the Mercedes Vito Extra Long goes on to 3,061mm.
But the Expert’s Moduwork load-through flap in the full steel bulkhead, with folding side passenger seat, which is standard on Professional and Professional Plus models, extends the overall loading length to 4,024mm, which is useful for getting in items such as ladders or piping. It also exceeds the 3,452mm provided by the load-through hatch in the LWB Transit Custom. The Expert Long load volume is extended to 6.1m3, or 6.6m3 with the Moduwork in operation. This compares to the 6.0m3 of loadspace the Trafic and Vivaro offer, the 6.7m3 of the Transporter, and the maximum 6.8m3 in the Transit Custom.
The load bed’s floor and walls were protected with rubber lining and there was comfortably enough space for a sofa measuring over 2,100mm. Access is made easy by twin rear doors and sliding doors on both sides of the van.
Our van’s payload of 1,311kg is also impressive for an automatic model and only beaten in the mid-sized segment (including both manual and automatic transmissions) by the 1,317kg Ford quotes for its Transit Custom 340 L2H1. Across the range, however, the Expert’s top payload is a meaty and class-leading 1,499kg.
Our only complaint would be that the near side rear door (which swings open to 180°) tended to slam shut in strong winds rather than remaining held in place.
While fit and finish in the cabin may not quite match the standards set by the Transporter or Transit Custom, equipment levels are high. Professional trim comes with Connect radio (including a seven-inch touchscreen with DAB, Bluetooth, USB, and an audio jack), Peugeot’s Mirror Link, which we found pairs reasonably simply with smartphones, and 12V sockets in both cab and cargo bay.
Air-conditioning, discreet storage under the middle passenger seat, parking sensors and separate locking for the cab are other useful features added with the mid-spec level.
It is notable, though, that all models get features such as a height, rake- and reach-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support and an arm rest, a pull-down tray in the middle seat, cruise control with speed limiter and a full-size spare wheel.
Leapfrog to the flagship Professional Plus and you get cosmetic enhancements like 17-inch alloy wheels and metallic paint, body-colour bumpers, door handles, side rubbing strips and front fog lights as well as automatic lights and windscreen wipers. Park Assist 180 adds front and rear parking sensors with a rear parking camera and electrically folding heated door mirrors.
The van we drove also got automatic air-conditioning for an additional £500, Connect Nav (navigation) and Head-up Display, which appears on the dash in the driver’s line of vision, lane departure warning (£400) and grip control (£500).
The cabin is roomy – even allowing a daughter in her early teens to sit comfortably enough in the middle seat, which is usually only serviceable for underseat storage and as a pull-down desk in three-seat cabs due to negligible legroom.
In terms of handling and ride quality this model bears comparison with the best-in-class. The six-speed auto transmission works harmoniously in tandem with the 180hp engine that offers ample power and is ideally suited for long-haul assignments, while the steering is nicely weighted and a turning circle of 12.4m compares favourably to its LWB rivals.
Finally, the all-round sensors and reversing camera facilitate excellent manoeuvrability.
|Peugeot Expert Professional Plus Long BlueHDi 180|
|Price (ex VAT) £27,365|
|Price range (ex VAT) £18,315-£27,365|
|Service intervals 25,000mls|
|Load length 4,024mm|
|Load width (min/max) 1,258/1,628mm|
|Load bay height 1,397mm|
|Gross payload 1,311kg|
|Load volume 6.6m3|
|Engine size/power 1,997cc/180hp|
|Combined fuel economy 45.6mpg|
Hard-working drivers will welcome the 180hp van's automatic transmission and the Long version offers even more versatility to the already competent and practical Expert range