Peugeot is hoping that a decent level of facelift will breathe new life into its Boxer large van.
The most obvious change is the re-styled front end, which has made an already-attractive vehicle look even better, and links the big van to the car range, such as the new 308.
From a practical viewpoint the multi-piece front bumper is worthy of note because it should cut repair costs. Only a damaged piece would need replacing in the case of an accident, rather than the whole lot.
Otherwise, the most important alterations are to be found beneath the metal.
The Boxer’s body has been strengthened to give it greater rigidity, and new, higher-strength hinges have been fitted to the rear doors. Modifications to the sliding side cargo area door, including re-designed runners, should make it easier to open and close.
Bigger brakes are installed, and the fuel-injection system fitted to the 2.2-litre HDi diesels has been revised with an eye to better economy. There have been changes to the suspension too.
Step into the cab and if you’re a Boxer fan you will spot the new seat trims and control panel, with a new range of audio systems.
Grossing at 3000–4005kg, with gross payloads ranging from 1115–1885kg and load areas extending from 8m3 to an echoing 17m3, the Boxer can be ordered with two different diesel engines. You can pick the aforementioned 2.2-litre at 110hp, 130hp or 150hp – the 130hp version can be specified with stop-start technology – or the 3.0-litre HDi, which offers a meaty 177hp.
Bear in mind that the front-wheel-drive Boxer is sold as a chassis cab, a platform cab, a chassis double-cab, a tipper, a dropside and as a window van, as well as in straightforward panel van guise.
The vehicle is the product of a long-standing joint-venture between PSA Group, Peugeot and Citroen’s parent company, and Fiat. As a consequence, Citroen sells what is basically the same vehicle as the Relay, while Fiat’s take on it is marketed as the Ducato, but with different engines.
We decided to get to grips with a 3.5-tonne L3H2 Boxer van with a 4035mm wheelbase powered by the 130hp engine and in Professional trim. The less-upmarket Standard trim is the sole alternative offered.
In-cab storage facilities include capacious bins in each of the doors – neither of which feature a flask or bottle holder – plus two glove boxes, one of which is lockable and particularly roomy. There’s a shelf in the lower part of the dashboard on the passenger side of the three-seater cab, a smaller one to the right of the steering column, and a full-width shelf above the windscreen.
Wayward paperwork can be secured by a clip on top of the dashboard. Take a look under the driver’s seat and you will find a useful tray.
Flip down the back of the inboard passenger seat and it turns into a desk with a paperwork clip, two cup-holders – shame there are no cup-holders elsewhere in the cab – and a pen tray.
Complete with an adjustable lumbar support and an armrest, the driver’s seat can be altered for height. The steering column is reach-adjustable so most people should be able to achieve a comfortable driving position with good vision ahead and to either side.
As is traditional with the Boxer, the handbrake lever is mounted between the driver’s seat and door. As a consequence, the unwary may find it catches on their clothing when they step down.
It’s pleasing to see such chunky and easy-to-see heating and ventilation controls, but surprising to see a (shock, horror) cigarette lighter with a naked and unabashed symbol of a lit cigarette on it. The same symbol appears on the removable ashtray.
The quality of the plastic used throughout the cab leaves something to be desired, alas. So does the standard of fit and finish, with the exposed heads of screws scattered about like confetti – not something one associates with a top-notch interior.
Eight floor-mounted load tie-down points are fitted to the 13m3 load bay plus two at the base of the full-height steel bulkhead. Our demonstrator additionally boasted five positioned at waist height: three on the offside and two on the nearside. A shelf above the cab accessible from the cargo area looks like a good place to stow load-restraint straps.
In our case, the rear doors could be swung through 270° – a £250 optional extra. All prices quoted here exclude VAT.
The aforementioned design changes mean that the side door now closes first time with a reassuring clunk – that was rarely the case with the previous Boxer – and all the doors are fitted with vertical handles that are easy to grasp even when wearing thick gloves.
Maximum load length is 3705mm. Maximum width is 1870mm narrowing to 1422mm between the rear wheel boxes, while maximum height is 1932mm. The side door aperture width is 1250mm with a height of 1755mm. The dimensions for the big and unobstructed rear door aperture are 1562mm and 1790mm respectively. Rear loading height is 535mm and our Boxer could handle a healthy 1525kg gross payload. It could haul a braked trailer grossing at 2500kg.
Delivering maximum power at 3500rpm and top torque of 320Nm at 2000rpm, our test van’s four-cylinder 16-valve turbocharged 2.2-litre diesel boasted twin overhead camshafts, a cast-iron block and an aluminium cylinder head. The key differences between the 130hp and 110hp versions of the same lump concern engine mapping and the way in which the former’s pistons are cooled.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard across the range.
Chassis and steering
The Boxer comes with independent front suspension with MacPherson-type struts. Longitudinal leaf springs help support the rear, and our demonstrator rode on 15-inch wheels with fancy trims – an extra £30 – and were shod with Continental Vanco 2 215/70 R15 C tyres.
It’s good to see that a proper, full-size spare wheel is provided. The jack and related items are stowed in a plastic box under the passenger seat.
Power-assisted variable-rate rack-and-pinion steering offers 3.87 turns lock to lock.
Handling better than expected, and taking bends with a reasonable degree of precision rather than floundering through them, the Boxer offers a competent ride too, bar a bit of vibration from the suspension and wheels. There’s no lack of performance either, with strong low- and mid-range acceleration the order of the day, but the gear-change lacks crispness. It certainly doesn’t offer the precision of the new Ford Transit’s gearbox. Nor is the Boxer as quiet as Ford’s big new offering. Peugeot needs to spend a bit more on insulating the cab from engine and road noise.
Opt for Professional trim and you get to enjoy a generous level of specification. Along with an air-conditioning system that keeps the glove box – no more melted Kit-Kats – as well as the cab cool, the deal includes a five-inch touch-screen with integrated satellite navigation, a DAB digital radio/CD player, a USB port and Bluetooth connectivity. Cruise control is provided along with a 12V power point, electric windows and electrically adjustable and heated exterior mirrors with a lower wide-angle section.
Buying and running
The vehicle is protected by a three-year/100,000-mile warranty with no mileage limit in the first two years. Breakdown assistance is provided for the first 12 months.
Service intervals are set at two years/30,000 miles, and the engine’s timing chain does not need to be replaced. A gear-shift indicator that tells you when to swap cogs for maximum fuel economy helps keep consumption low, if you follow its advice.
The official combined fuel consumption figure for our Boxer is 38.2mpg, but we averaged closer to 35mpg.
ABS comes as standard, as do Electronic Stability Programme, Traction Control, Hill-Start Assist, Emergency Braking Assistance and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. Disc brakes – ventilated at the front – are fitted all round. A driver’s airbag is standard and a passenger airbag was fitted for an extra £180.
Beeping rear parking sensors should lessen the risk of damage to your own and other vehicles, not to mention to innocent passers-by.
In our test van, the sensors were supplemented by a reversing camera for an extra £400. A view of what is directly behind the vehicle appears on the in-cab touch-screen when reverse is engaged. It also appears that when the rear doors are opened and the keys are in the ignition regardless of whether reverse is engaged or not, you can see exactly what is being loaded and unloaded without leaving the cab. That’s a superb security feature and Peugeot should be praised for making it available.
An alarm will hopefully scare off thieves who will in any event have to overcome the deadlocks and the transponder immobiliser if they want to steal your vehicle.
Remote central locking is included and allows you to lock the load area doors and the cab doors separately. All the doors can be locked from the driver’s seat by hitting a button on the door.
Front fog lights were present for an additional £95, and if you want LED daytime running lights as opposed to ordinary ones then they will set you back a further £150.
While the changes are to be welcomed, they don't go far enough in a hugely-competitive sector of the market. Fiat and PSA need to do rather more if they are going to keep up with key rivals.
The Boxer’s roots go back to the 1970s when a joint venture between Fiat and PSA, Peugeot and Citroen’s parent, resulted in the 1981 launch of the boxy-looking Fiat Ducato, Citroen C25 and Peugeot J5.
The J5 designation was, in fact, never used on this side of the Channel. Instead, it was sold as the Talbot Express and was one of the last Talbot-badged models to be marketed. Something else that never arrived in the UK was, believe it or not, an Alfa Romeo-badged version called the AR6, which was sold solely in Italy.
All the models were assembled in a vast plant at Val di Sangro in Italy operated by Fiat and were replaced by a completely re-designed range in 1994.
It was at that point that the Boxer badge made its debut, while Citroen’s version was marketed in Britain as the Relay. Elsewhere, it was sold as the Jumper; Citroen, not surprisingly, felt that using the Jumper badge in the UK was more likely to result in hoots of derision rather than sales.
After an interim facelift in 2002 the Boxer and its stablemates were replaced in 2006 by the immediate predecessors of the new models.