A bit slow away from rest, the diesel Bipper accelerates briskly through the gears once it is rolling and has little trouble maintaining the maximum legal motorway speed even with some weight in the back. A smooth, glitch-free gear-change helps progress, and following the prompts of the shift indicator on the dashboard should aid fuel economy.
Unfortunately, it is all accompanied by way too much wind, road and engine noise, and we cannot help but think that some of the measures that should have been taken to control noise, vibration and harshness have been sacrificed to keep the little van’s price down.
More worrying is the ride.
No matter whether the vehicle is empty or laden, it is choppy to say the least, so much so that on some stretches of road we had to drop some way below the speed limit to stop our fillings from being shaken out. We are talking about roads we have travelled down in certain other vans without suffering from the same problem. This drawback has to be set against the exemplary handling.
It is sharp and responsive, with plenty of feedback through the steering, and Bipper’s high level of manoeuvrability and compact dimensions – overall length is less than 3.9m – allow it to nip into kerbside slots that would be barred to many other light commercials. That is a key advantage if you are on urban delivery work, and the mean streets of Britain’s big cities represent the Bipper’s natural habitat.
Big cities are plagued by traffic congestion, and this is where Stop & Start comes into its own. As well as cutting fuel usage it reduces CO2 emissions and we believe there is a strong case for fitting such systems as standard on all light commercial vehicles.
Average diesel consumption was a very creditable 63mpg.
Opt for Professional trim and you get a manually operated air-conditioning system plus Bluetooth, not to mention the electric windows and electrically adjustable and heated exterior mirrors that are also found on SE models. The mirrors are large but lack a separate wide- angle section.
You get an MP3-compatible radio/CD player too, with steering-wheel-based remote controls, but the tone is so poor that most drivers will soon be hollering for an upgrade. A 12V power point is fitted between the seats.
A three-year/100,000-mile warranty is provided, with Peugeot Assistance roadside rescue and recovery available free for the first year. It only responds if your vehicle has suffered “a warranty-based fault” (how can you tell if it is or if it isn’t when you’re stranded miles from anywhere?), not if you’ve run out of fuel or lost your keys.
Service intervals for the van are set at two years/20,000 miles and all 260 of Peugeot’s dealers can maintain Bippers.
ABS comes as standard as do ventilated disc brakes at the front and – surprisingly – drums at the back. A driver’s airbag is included in the deal too, as are deep side-rubbing strips that preserve the Bipper’s body from minor dings and scrapes.
If you want to lock all the doors, then hit a button on the dashboard. They all lock automatically at speeds above 12mph anyway.
Remote central locking is provided along with deadlocks and allows you to lock and unlock the cab and load area doors separately.
Along with Fiat’s Fiorino and Citroen’s Nemo, the Peugeot Bipper broke cover in early 2008. All three are the fruits of a joint venture between Fiat and PSA Peugeot Citroen, and effectively created a new segment of tiny urban vans. Prior to the trio’s arrival, microvans such as the Suzuki Carry, Bedford Rascal and, more recently, Piaggio’s Porter were the main options for urban operators such as florists and sandwich-delivery companies.
The Euro5 changes, mainly concerning the arrival of new more efficient engines, represent the first significant alterations to the Bipper since its launch.
While Renault has pitched in with the Kangoo Compact, it is interesting to note that other key players have yet to challenge Citroen, Peugeot and Fiat in this sector of the market. The nearest we have are car-derived vans such as the Vauxhall Corsavan and Ford Fiesta Van, plus Fiat and Peugeot’s own commercial vehicle versions of the Punto and 207 respectively. VW could be the first, as it’s known to be looking at the possibility of a sub-Caddy model.
In many respects the ideal city delivery van thanks to its compact dimensions.