All new light commercials will have to comply with the, more-demanding, Euro 6 exhaust emission standard from next September onwards. In anticipation manufacturers have been steadily rolling out vehicles that meet Euro 6 in advance of the deadline while continuing to retain models that match the existing Euro 5 standard until the autumn cut-off date approaches.
The changes required to meet Euro 6 have prompted van makers to make a few other alterations to their products at the same time; a styling tweak here, some extra bits and pieces of equipment there, and so on.
Peugeot is no exception. As well as adding Euro 6 power to the Partner line-up, it has re-styled the front of the vehicle to give it more of a family look - and an attractive one at that - and is now marketing it with a reversing camera and Active City Brake as options.
As its name suggests, the latter feature applies the brakes automatically at speeds of up to 20mph if it looks as though you are about to hit something in town centre traffic and are failing to slam on the anchors yourself. It's a device that could be worth having if you spend a lot of your time in the urban jungle although the UK price had yet to be revealed at the time of writing.
As things stand Partner is up for grabs with a Euro 6 100hp 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesel with Stop & Start married to a five-speed manual gearbox. It can be specified with the ETG6 six-speed automated manual box as an alternative, again with S & S.
CO2 emissions are 108g/km in both cases.
Also available are a pair of Euro 5 HDi 1.6-litre diesels at 75hp or 92hp, again with five-speed manual transmissions. They will be on sale until June.
Hopefully Peugeot will decide to launch the 120hp Euro 6 1.6-litre BlueHDi engine in Britain at that stage but it seems unlikely. That is rather a pity because it is the only model in the Partner line-up with a six-speed manual box.
The 92hp diesel is additionally marketed in ATV guise with Grip Control which, though falling short of the capabilities of full four-wheel-drive, should help keep you mobile on snow or sand.
Also on offer is a 1.6-litre VTi 98hp petrol engine. Mention should be made as well of the 67hp electric Partner with a claimed potential range of 105 miles between recharges.
Produced in two different lengths - L1 and L2 - and as a crew cab with rear seating and a cargo bay at the back, Partner is also on offer as a platform cab. Van load areas are either 3.3cu/m or 3.7cu/m while payload capacities range from 625kg to 850kg.
Three specification levels are offered; S, SE and top-of-the-range Professional. S level gets you electric windows and mirrors while SE adds cruise control and Professional gives you air con too and is Bluetooth-enabled.
We sampled a 75hp L1 Euro 5 Partner in Professional trim.
Access to the load area is by means of a sliding nearside door plus twin, asymmetric rear doors. They are opaque which means you cannot see what is directly behind you so it is fortunate that Professional trim includes reversing sensors.
The twin doors can be swung through 90 degrees, or through 180 degrees if you undo the easy-to-release stays.
Six load tie-down rings are provided. A half-height steel bulkhead topped off with a full-height mesh grille should prevent anything that is inadequately restrained from sliding forwards and finishing up in the three-seater cab.
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 1200mm; handy if you happen to be carrying a ladder, pipes or planks.
Flattening the seat also gives you the ability to transport an extra carton or two in the cab itself.
There is a 12v socket in the cargo bay and you'll find another one in the cab close to the gear stick.
Cab and equipment
Our big criticism of the Professional's cab is that it is a three-seater; because in reality it isn't.
The middle seat is way too narrow and the almost complete absence of legroom makes it unfit to accommodate anyone taller than a hobbit. Nobody should be asked to use it, even if they're only travelling a short distance.
If somebody is then you will not be able to get at the two cup-holders positioned on the floor close to the base because their feet will be in the way.
The seat brings one benefit though. You can fold down its back and turn it into a desk which can be used to complete paperwork - an elasticated band helps keep it in place -or accommodate your sandwiches and coffee while you're having your break.
Another plus-point is a compartment hidden under the seat cushion that can be used to conceal a smartphone; the sort of thing that might get stolen if you leave it lying around in the cab.
Our other gripe concerns the touch-screen DAB radio.
Two of the key controls - volume and menu - aren't on the 7ins colour screen, but are instead conventional switches mounted just above it. Surely they should be on the screen too?
On the plus side the package includes a MirrorScreen function that works with compatible smart phones and a USB port. TomTom GO 5000 satellite navigation with a removable screen is included in the Professional deal as well.
Turning to storage space, for your money you get a full-width shelf above the athermic windscreen, two bins in each of the doors - one big, one small - a lidded glove-box with an upper shelf, two shelves on top of the dashboard and a shallow lidded compartment just above the instrument panel. To all this can be added a drawer under the driver's seat plus a, frankly somewhat pointless, round cubby-hole on each side of the radio that looks for all the world like an extra air-vent.
Net result is that you have got plenty of places to put small items but finding somewhere to stow a big sandwich box or a large torch is a struggle.
The main reason why the centre passenger has to endure zero legroom is the moulding that bulges out from the dashboard and accommodates the gearstick. It also boasts a slot for small change for parking meters plus a hook on which to hang your Friday night takeaway.
The steering wheel is height- and reach-adjustable.
Buttons in the cab allow you to lock and unlock all the doors - they lock automatically at speeds above 7mph - or the rear doors only or you can use the remote. The Thatcham Category 1 alarm enables you to leave your pet in the cab with the windows partly wound down without having to worry that it will go off.
Our solidly-constructed Partner's transversely-mounted eight-valve four-cylinder common-rail direct-injection diesel produces maximum power at 4,000rpm. Top torque of 185Nm bites at 1,500rpm.
Euro 6 diesel Partners promise to be more frugal than their Euro 5 equivalents but will need periodic replenishment with AdBlue. You'll find the AdBlue top-up point close to the fuel filler pipe.
Chassis and steering
The front suspension is what Peugeot describes as pseudo-MacPherson-type, with lower wishbone struts, coil springs and telescopic hydraulic shock-absorbers. The same springs and shockers are to be found at the rear along with a torsion-beam axle.
Anti-roll bars are fitted front and back.
Our demonstrator sat on 15ins steel wheels with plastic trim and shod - somewhat surprisingly - with unfamiliar GT Radial Champiro VP1 195/65 R15 tyres. Good to see a full-size spare wheel and that a tyre pressure monitoring system is installed.
Power-assisted steering offers an 11m turning circle between kerbs.
Disc brakes - ventilated at the front, solid at the back - are fitted all round. Safety systems include ABS, Electronic Stability Programme with Traction Control, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Emergency Braking Assist and Hill Start Assist and the driver is protected by an airbag if things get seriously out of shape.
Even though it only had 75hp on tap our Partner turned out to be a lively performer with a slick gear-change allowing us to make the most of the available torque and horsepower.
Sharp handling and a reasonably-smooth ride were among the Peugeot's other virtues but in neither case was it up to the high standard set by Fiat Professional's Doblo Cargo. That said, it offers a far gentler ride than VW's latest Caddy.
More work needs to be done on reducing in-cab noise levels. There was too much tyre noise at speed and an excessive amount of wind noise and road roar emanating from the rear of the vehicle.
On motorways the constant droning began to give the regular driver a headache. The situation was scarcely helped by the lack of a sixth gear although we're prepared to concede that the extra cog may be an unnecessary expense given that the 75hp Partner is designed for congested urban streets rather than intercity dashes.
Once again the quoted fuel economy figures were a little on the optimistic side. We averaged 50mpg compared with the official combined figure of 56.5mpg, admittedly in atrocious weather.
All vans sold in the UK of whatever shape or size ultimately get compared with Fords.
The nearest competitor to our demonstrator in the Big Blue Oval's line-up is the Transit Connect L1 200 with a 1.6-litre Euro 5 TDCi diesel with 75hp on tap plus a, very meaty, 220Nm of torque; 35Nm more than the Peugeot can muster.
With a combined official figure of 58.9mpg Connect's fuel economy is better and at 124kg/km, CO2 emissions are lower. However at 2.9cu/m the cargo area is smaller and gross payload is less, at 598kg.
At 1200kg the braked trailer towing weight is higher, but reduces to 900kg if you are making maximum use of the van's gross payload because of the limit imposed by the 2905kg gross train mass.
It should be noted that the Connect we are referring to is in Trend trim which equates to Partner's SE. Limited is Ford's equivalent to Professional but is not available with the 75hp engine.
Buying and running
The three-year/100,000-mile warranty with no mileage limit in the first two years is generous but it is a shame that breakdown assistance is only provided for the first 12 months. With VW's Caddy for example you are supported for three years.
Service intervals are set at 12 months/12,500 miles which will hopefully coincide with the AdBlue top-up cycle so far as Euro 6 models are concerned.
Side rubbing strips help defend Caddy's exterior and our demonstrator's load bay was comprehensively-protected by a ply-lining kit.
We can't pretend Partner is outstanding in any significant way but it's a good all-rounder that should tick most boxes.
|Peugeot Partner L1 HDi 75 Professional|
|Price (ex VAT) – £14,760|
|Price range (ex VAT) – £13,215-£21,300|
|Gross payload – 641kg|
|Load length – 1800mm|
|Load width – (min/max) 1230mm/1500mm|
|Load bay height – 1250mm|
|Load volume – 3.3cu/m|
|Loading height – 584mm|
|Rear door aperture – 1250mm x 1148mm|
|Side door aperture – 737mm x 1192mm|
|Gross vehicle weight – 1945kg|
|Braked trailer towing weight – 985kg|
|Residual value – 15.98% *|
|Cost per mile – 32.5p*|
|Engine size/power – 1560cc, 75hp @ 4000rpm|
|Torque – 185Nm @ 1500rpm|
|Gearbox – 5sp|
|Fuel economy – 56.5mpg|
|Fuel tank – 60 litres|
|CO2 – 131g/km|
|Warranty – 3yrs/100,000 miles|
|Service intervals – 1yr/12,500 miles|
|Insurance group – 2E/T2|
|Price as tested – £14,760|
|* after four years/80,000 miles - source = KeeResources.com|
Debuting in the UK in 1996 alongside fellow PSA Group member Citroen's Berlingo - the two vans were virtually identical bar their badges, as are their successors - Partner turned Peugeot into a much more significant player in the light van market.
Sold with one length and height and with a 2.7cu m load area, it had a sturdy, dependable look about it thanks in part to its one-box body style. The driver's seat was set at just the right height for anybody who spent their working life jumping in and out of the cab collecting and delivering parcels.
Generation Two broke cover in 2002 with its successor appearing in 2008. It got its first revamp in 2012 and has now received revamp number two.
Partner has grown over the years and is now sold in two lengths and with a more sophisticated package of equipment than was on offer 20 years ago. It builds on a Peugeot light commercial heritage that goes back to the twin-cylinder chain-driven Type 13 Delivery Omnibus; launched in France as long ago as 1895.