The mid-size (2.5-3.5 tonne GVM) commercial van segment is one of the most competitive in Australia’s new vehicle market. In 2019, a new contender has joined the battle in the form of Peugeot’s Expert van.
This is the second attempt by the famous French marque to gain traction in the local LCV battle after struggling under different management in 2013. However, thanks to Inchcape Australasia, which now controls distribution under the PeugeotCitroen Australia (PCA) banner, the Expert is back with a vengeance.
The latest generation of this Euro mid-sizer might be new from the ground up, but it faces a tough task establishing competitive sales volume given the quality and depth of competition. However, after spending a week at work in the Expert, we reckon it has more than a fighting chance of doing just that.
Price and Features – Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
The Expert range starts with three standard body length (4959mm) models with a choice of engines and transmissions. There are also two extended body length (5309mm) variants, which Peugeot confusingly calls ‘long wheelbase’ even though their wheelbases are identical to the standard-length models.
Our test vehicle is the highest priced standard-length model, the Hdi 150 with 2.0-litre turbo-diesel and six-speed automatic, from $42,490 plus ORC. The Expert boasts an impressive list of standard features across the range, particularly in terms of safety headlined by AEB.
Other useful work features include a tough, easy clean rubberised cabin floor, manual air-con, adaptive cruise control, paddle shifters, height-and-reach adjustable steering wheel, folding inboard driver’s armrest, three 12-volt sockets, tinted windows, electric-folding door mirrors, front fog lights and more.
Design – is there anything interesting about its design?
The latest Expert is built on the PSA group’s modular EMP2 platform, which delivers a significant 100kg-plus weight reduction over previous generations. Its 4959mm length and 2010mm width is matched with a practical 1930mm height, which ensures it can access city centre and shopping centre car parks.
Externally, there’s the usual black front bumper common to most workhorse breeds, with matching black door handles, mirrors, hubcaps and side rubbing strips. The cargo bay can be accessed through unglazed sliding doors on both sides and a pair of glazed symmetrical barn doors at the rear with 180-degree opening, wipers and demister function.
The latest Expert features black bumpers with matching black door handles, mirrors, hubcaps and side rubbing strips.
The cabin is separated from the cargo bay by a glazed bulkhead, which insulates the cabin from cargo bay noise and doubles as a load barrier. The cabin design is neat and functional, with seating for up to three adults (at a squeeze, better with two) and large doors that open wide for easy entry and exit.
Our only gripe is that the centre seat headrest, combined with the join of the rear barn doors, blocks most of the vision through the rear-view mirror. Fortunately, the rear-view camera and parking sensors can compensate for this lack of vision when reversing, but it’s difficult to see what’s directly behind you when driving.
Engine and transmission – What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
Our test vehicle is powered by a Euro 6-capable but in this case Euro 5-compliant 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, common rail turbo-diesel engine, producing a class-competitive 110kW at 4000rpm and 370Nm of torque at 2000rpm.
The turbo-diesel engine makes 110kW/370Nm.
It’s coupled to an EAT6 six-speed torque converter automatic, designed and developed in collaboration with OEM transmission specialist Aisin. The Quickshift technology provides fast and seamless shifting, along with the option of manual operation if required (we rarely used it) via the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Peugeot claims a combined figure of 6.4 litres/100km but the dash display was showing 8.3 after our 358km of testing, which included different roads and a variety of payloads up to a snip under one tonne.
However, our figure calculated from actual fuel bowser and tripmeter readings worked out at 7.8 which is not far north of the official figure and excellent economy for a mid-size van.
Based on our figures you could expect an excellent ‘real world’ driving range of around 880km from its 69-litre tank.
PCA advises that Australian-spec Experts are fitted with a heavy-duty suspension package, resulting in a 5mm rise in ride height and increased GVM rating. Therefore, Peugeot claims a 1908kg kerb weight for our test vehicle, with a 3100kg GVM and impressive 1358kg payload rating.
However, the payload rating is not based on the published 1908kg kerb weight but a 166kg lower 'base weight' of 1742kg after fuel, fluids, auto and notional driver are deducted! So, to cut a long story short, the 3100kg GVM and 1358kg payload are the key figures here.
Our test vehicle is also rated to tow up to 1500kg of braked trailer, but with a GCM (or how much it can legally carry and tow at the same time) of 4200kg, that would require reducing the payload by a substantial 400kg to avoid exceeding the GCM. Even so, that would still leave almost one tonne of payload capacity, so this is a useful set of numbers for many job requirements.
The cargo hold has a 1640mm internal height and 5.8 cubic metres of load volume. Its floor is 2512mm long and 1636mm wide with 1255mm between the rear wheel housings, allowing it to carry two 1165mm-square Aussie pallets.
The cargo bay has a high standard of finish, with all walls and doors lined to waist height with no exposed wall cavities.
The load floor can also be partly extended by opening a hatch in the lower left bulkhead and raising the outer passenger seat to provide access to the passenger footwell. This stretches the load floor by 1162mm to an expansive 3674mm, ideal for carrying extra-long items like timber, PVC/copper pipe or rolls of carpet. The passenger footwell is also fitted with a handy load anchorage point for this purpose.
The cargo bay has a high standard of finish, with walls and doors lined to waist height leaving no exposed wall cavities. There’s no protective liner for the painted load floor as standard, but there’s a total of eight load anchorage points, a handy 12-volt outlet in the left rear pillar and lighting front and rear. Forklift loading is possible through the side sliding doors (960mm opening) and rear barn doors. There’s also extra carrying capacity on the roof, with a series of brackets already in place to mount roof racks.
The cabin also offers numerous storage options. There’s three storage bins in each door, with the biggest capable of holding the largest of bottles. There’s also a cup/small bottle holder on each side of the dash-pad and an open A4-sized storage bin in the centre. The passenger side gets a lidded glovebox, open shelf and a large storage cubby with audio jack and 12-volt outlet.
Inside there's plenty of storage options including three storage bins in each door.
The under-seat storage is also clever and useful. The centre passenger base cushion rotates forward through 90 degrees to reveal a large insulated box underneath, which is ideal for keeping meals or drinks hot or cold. The centre seat backrest also rotates forward through 90 degrees to reveal a small work desk.
Raising the outer passenger base cushion also reveals a large storage area beneath. Or it can rotate into a vertical storage position against the bulkhead, which provides clear access to the passenger floor when long items in the cargo bay are inserted through the lower bulkhead hatch.
This is not only a nice driving experience for a commercial van. It’s just a nice thing to drive full-stop, with a driving position and ride quality that feels more like an SUV. The engine is quiet and refined, which combined with the bulkhead provides a pleasant cabin environment. Backrest rake is limited by the bulkhead, but there’s enough adjustment in seating and steering wheel for even tall drivers to find a comfortable position. The large left footrest adds to this comfort.
The 2.0-litre turbo-diesel and six-speed auto are well suited to stop-start urban delivery work, with lively acceleration from standing starts and plenty of zip in the often used 60-80km/h range. The four ventilated disc brakes also provide ample stopping power, even when heavily loaded. The Expert also has a surefooted stance that makes it feel well planted on the road.
At highway speeds it fairly lopes along with only 1500rpm at 100km/h and 1750rpm at 110km/h. The active cruise control works well, even if its engagement is a bit fiddly.
All-round vision and awareness is excellent thanks to the extra loud parking sensors and rear-view camera, which automatically changes the view from rearward to a commanding 180-degree overhead view of the rear zone when reversing.
We loaded 830kg into the cargo bay, which with our driver equalled a 930kg payload. That's short of the maximum payloads we usually test at, but as the Australian-spec one tonne-plus payload rating had not been clarified at the time of testing we kept it just below 1000kg.
Even so, you wouldn’t know it even had such a sizeable payload on board, such was the negligible difference between empty and loaded. The rear suspension compressed 47mm and the front dropped 32mm, but there was still plenty of travel remaining and no significant change in engine performance, braking and steering, which was most impressive.
The cargo hold has enough space for two 1165mm-square Aussie pallets, here it's loaded with 800kg.
It gobbled up our 13 per cent gradient 2.0km long set climb, easily maintaining the 60km/h speed limit in third gear and just over 2000rpm. It did it so easily in fact, we tried it again in a manually-selected fourth gear. That’s when we discovered that manual mode is actually semi-manual mode, because when it decided that the rpm had dropped too low it automatically shifted down to third.
We discovered the same effect when trialling engine braking on the way down in a manually- selected second gear. With almost a tonne to restrain, the engine spun up to 4500rpm on overrun (5250rpm redline) before suddenly shifting up to third. This might work fine as a defence mechanism for the engine, but it can also give you a nasty surprise if you’re relying on engine braking during a long descent and it suddenly shifts up and starts increasing its road speed.
Safety – What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
No ANCAP rating as yet but it boasts an impressive armoury of standard safety features which shades many rivals. These include AEB, distance alert, adaptive radar cruise control, road sign reading and speed limit recommendation, blind spot monitoring, driving time warning and driver attention alert, automatic high-beam dipping and the excellent rear-view camera with its split screen and 180-degree overhead view. There’s also driver and passenger front and side curtain airbags.
The latest Peugeot Expert shows how rapidly the bar is being raised in the highly competitive mid-sized commercial van segment. It’s more than fit-for-purpose in providing not only benchmark performance and a comfortable driving environment, but also competitive GVM and GCM ratings, excellent economy, clever use of space and a pleasing emphasis on occupant safety.
In other words, it has all the credentials needed to become a major player in the mid-size van segment. Now it's up to Peugeot Citroen Australia to make it happen.