Pumping out maximum power at 4,000rpm, the Expert’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder 16-valve diesel generates top torque of 370Nm at 2,000rpm and is married to a six-speed manual gearbox. Meeting the Euro6 exhaust emission rules means that the van will have to be replenished with AdBlue every so often. The reservoir’s filler point is concealed by the passenger door.
With 150hp on tap the Expert delivers ample performance, and with six speeds to play with it is pretty much an ideal motorway cruiser. It’s no slouch on A- and B-roads either and its ability to dart away quickly from rest gives it an advantage in urban traffic. That said, it’s a shame that the gear change isn’t a bit slicker. Executing a really fast cog swap is such a challenge that the driver can sometimes struggle to make the most of what the engine has to offer.
The electric power steering tightens up sufficiently to allow you to tackle sweeping motorway bends with aplomb while offering sufficient assistance to enable you to park easily. It delivers a 12.4m turning circle between kerbs expanding to 12.9m between walls.
More feedback would be appreciated when you are scurrying along twisting rural roads, however. Those rural roads are invariably peppered with potholes of varying sizes and depths along with numerous other imperfections.
Happily, the Expert copes with it all surprisingly well, and better than the Proace Compact we drove a few months ago. Our Expert sat on 17-inch alloy wheels shod with Michelin Agilis Alpin (for extra grip) 215/60 R17 C tyres.
MacPherson-type suspension is fitted at the front with an anti-roll bar, while wishbone suspension with trailing arms is installed at the back. In-cab noise levels are kept well under control, aided in part by the presence of the sound-insulating acoustic windscreen. If you are proposing to tackle driving conditions that are more demanding than usual then you might want to avail yourself of Grip Control, which is an option.
Turn a knob to the right of the steering column and you can alter the vehicle’s traction control system depending on whether you are tackling mud, sand, snow or ordinary road surfaces. Within its limitations it works well, and makes more sense for operators who do not need to venture onto demanding off-road terrain than shelling out for a light commercial with full-blown four-wheel drive.
Do all those aforementioned extra-cost safety systems bring any benefits? The answer has to be yes, but just how beneficial they are depends on the sort of duty cycle you are on. If you spend most of your working life on the motorway then lane departure warning has to make sense; if you chug around a city centre all day then you should definitely consider active safety brake.
We’re acutely aware that van operators tend not to want to pay for safety, so the only way in which widespread adaption will be achieved will be to make the whole lot standard.