Vans that we enjoy driving as much (or more than) cars: that’s actually a decent-sized list for some of us here at DRIVEN. And here’s another one to add, the new Peugeot Partner.
The Partner is a small van that actually is a car, really; it’s based on the latest EMP2 passenger-vehicle platform and the sole engine choice for now is the 1.2-litre turbo triple which has won lots of awards and is already used right across the Peugeot, Citroen and now Opel ranges in New Zealand.
The Partner even gets one up on the 208 and 2008 SUV models: they all have the same triple-pot engine, but the Partner gets the latest eight-speed automatic transmission. That’s on the way for the SUVs (and it’s in the all-new 308), but it’s not here yet.
The techy Euro6-compliant powertrain helps the Partner to a fuel consumption figure of 6.7l/100km under NZ’s Clean Car 3P-WLTP standard, with a CO2 output of 151g/km – just a few tantalising grams off a rebate, although it’s still in the neutral band (no fine) of course.
The space out back is arguably more important than any of this, of course. Partner is very much a vam in the urban mould, just 4.4m long and super-easy to park – a complete lack of rear windows in our test vehicle (yes, we know proper vans don’t always have those) was balanced out by a reversing camera.
The wheels are pushed right out to the corners in this Standard model (there’s also a Long), allowing you to really maximize that 3.8 cubic metres of load volume. Payload is 1000kg – as good as any “one tonne” ute and the asymmetrical rear barn doors can be double-folded right out of the way.
Even more impressive is how the Multiflex system allows the loadspace to extend into the cabin. There’s a fixed bulkhead, but behind the front passenger seat is a hatch that lines up with the fold-flat backrest, meaning you can carry items up to 3090mm long. If they are dirty items, there’s even a special canvas cover to protect the upholstery.
The offside-front chair squab can also be folded straight upwards (like Magic Seat in a Honda Jazz) to carry taller items up front. Finally, the middle Multiflex seat (yes, it’s a three-seater) can be folded down to form a laptop/paperwork table. See the gallery below for images of all the clever foldy stuff.
The Partner has Peugeot’s quirky “i-Cockpit” architecture, with the instruments up high and the tiny steering wheel down low. It actually feels less quirky in the more upright seating position of a van.
One quirk that doesn’t sit well with a van is the minuscule size of all cupholders and door bins. None of the former will hold anything larger than the shortest of short blacks – certainly not a larger coffee or water bottle. Just when you think the French have gone all global, they slap you in the face for wanting to drink anything other than a gourmet coffee in your LCV.
It’s a hoot to drive, though. The triple-pot engine is grumpy at low revs and impossibly slow to get moving once you factor in the fussy gearbox. But the whole powertrain is truly fizzy once you’re under way and revels in hard work. Just like a van should.
Don’t come expecting driver aids like adaptive cruise and steering assistance, but you do get autonomous braking, collision warning, blind spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition and lane departure alert. More airbags than you might be expecting in a small van, too: six of them.
The Partner is a brilliant thing and not just for fashion-conscious businesses who are attracted to a European badge. Although it does look pretty swish, especially with our model’s aptly named $2500 Look Pack: body-colour rear bumper/door handles/rubbing strips, gloss black wing mirrors and 16-inch “Taranaki” (yes, that’s the factory name) alloy wheels.
Next year we’ll also see a battery electric vehicle (BEV) version, which will join a select market segment with the LDV eDeliver3 and Renault Kangoo E-Tech. You’ll definitely get a rebate on that one.
PEUGEOT PARTNER STANDARD
ENGINE: 1.2-litre turbo-petrol three-cylinder
GEARBOX: 8-speed automatic, FWD
0-100KM/H: 9.8 seconds
CONSUMPTION: 6.7 l/100km, CO2 151g/km (3P-WLTP)