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Peugeot Partner 2021 review: 130 Auto Standard

Tall and boxy it may be, but the Peugeot Partner leverages eight decades of van-building experience

Daily driver score

4.5/5

Urban score

4.5/5

Want an inexpensive, high-riding, fun-driving urban runabout with seating for three, the latest safety and connectivity features and space for two to sleep in during adventurous weekend getaways?

Welcome, then, to the lively, lusty little Peugeot Partner.

Check out more Peugeot Partner reviews

Sure. The panel van seems to be inextricably linked with the sun, surf and freedom culture of the 1960s and ‘70s, as defined by the iconic Holden Sandman.

But as workhorses, they date back much further back than that, and are still around today. Whatever you call the smaller, box-shaped versions – bread vans, florist’s vans or plain old delivery vans – the point is, they’re compact, comfy and easy to manoeuvre for city and urban use.

Small vans are born to live in urban environments. Small vans are born to live in urban environments.

So much so, in fact, that they easily double up as lifestyle vehicles, and that’s a genre that France seems to have owned since the Post War-era Citroen 2CV Fourgonnette – or ‘minivan’ – arrived in the ‘50s, carrying through to the Visa-based C15 and finally the Berlingo series up to today.

Peugeot, of course, controls Citroen, and the Partner tested here is now the sole representative of this inspired line of compact vans in Australia. The K9 is the third-generation version unveiled in 2018 and launched later the following year, and is based on the brand’s advanced EMP2 architecture that underpins the excellent 308 small car.

Targeting the top-selling Volkswagen Caddy and Renault Kangoo, it truly is a big little van made for the city. Let’s see how the Partner 130 THP auto stacks up.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Fun fact: along with the Berlingo, the French-built Partner is also sold in Europe as an Opel/Vauxhall Combo (descendent of the SB and XB Barina Combo, Holden fans) as well as the Toyota ProAce City. There’s another Toyota connection too, which we’ll get to in a moment.

Priced from $31,490 before on-road costs (ORC), the Partner L1 130 THP is the only automatic version available, as well as the best equipped of the range.

‘L1’ refers to the shorter of the two body and wheelbase lengths on offer and ‘130 THP’ is the 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine’s metric horsepower rating (translating to 96kW), driving the front wheels via a Toyota-built eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission.

The partner has Apple CarPlay and Andriod Auto. The partner has Apple CarPlay and Andriod Auto.

Buyers can save money with the $25,990 L1 110 THP (82kW) version or $30,490 L2 92 HDI; in Peugeot-speak L2 means 'longer', adding a 350mm and 190mm body and wheelbase stretch respectively, while 92 HDI refers to a 68kW 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel. Both cheaper grades come only as a manual.

Safety features include autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (LDW), anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Emergency Braking Assist, electronic stability control (ESC), four-wheel disc brakes, six airbags (for driver, passenger and front side curtain), front and rear parking sensors, speed-sign recognition, cruise control with an electronic speed limiter, electric parking brake, a surround-view camera system that provides both parking and a rear-vision-mirror-style projection and an internal central locking system. Not bad for a van.

On the comfort and convenience side there’s ‘2+1’ three-seater bench, a driver’s seat height adjuster, climate control air-conditioning with pollen filter, auto on/off headlights with a timing function, static cornering lights, front fog lights, an electronic instrumentation layout, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, a tilt/telescopic multi-function steering wheel with remote controls, paddle shifters, central locking, power windows, dual sliding side doors, a glazed bulkhead separating passenger and cargo areas, rear barn doors and a full-sized spare wheel.

Featuring 16-inch steel wheels. Featuring 16-inch steel wheels.

Too bad adaptive cruise control isn't offered on Aussie-bound Partners, though.

That three-seater bench arrangement includes Peugeot’s Multi-Flex modular folding passenger seat, which can provide 1273mm of additional load length or 0.6 cubic metres of volume, accessible via a hatch in the bulkhead. The centre backrest folds to reveal extra storage or a sliding bench top table.

You get the jam as well as the butter in this glorified bread van.

 As far as rivals are concerned, the Partner makes a compelling case for itself, especially as it is by far the youngest in a class featuring decade-plus old small vans at the time of writing.

Now in runout, the cheapest old-shape Caddy auto is the TSI 220 petrol Crewvan (with two rows of seats) from $35,040 before ORC with a dual-clutch auto (DCT), while the in-coming (from July) all-new Caddy 5 Cargo TDI 320 diesel auto starts from a hefty $38K, and with no petrol equivalent slated for Oz for now.

Meanwhile, the Kangoo Compact 1.2-litre turbo DCT auto petrol is just $28,490 but it lacks driver-assist safety tech like AEB and LDW, curtain airbags, as well as a third seat, climate control, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, glazed bulkhead and other goodies at that price point. An all-new version was recently rolled out in Europe, but that may years away from Australia. Nobody knows exactly.

As it stands, advantage Partner.

Options include windows for the side and rear doors, roof racks, tow bar, and extra cargo area accessories like wooden side and floor panels for body protection and insulation, rubber floor coverings, carpets and additional rear interior lighting.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

Park a Partner alongside one of its (ageing) rivals and it is clear that the newcomer is a more modern and fresh design. It also stands considerably taller, with loftier seating. In this way, the French van is more like an SUV – albeit with just 156mm ground clearance.

Stylistically, the Partner is a gentle evolution of the previous generation Berlingo models, but with more pleasing proportions, cleaner lines and a chunky, purposeful look. The detailing is restrained yet attractive, though not everybody will like the grey plastic bumper and steel wheel look as much as we do.

Our only real objection is the limited colour palette – two greys, a black and a white seem to be our lot. A blue and a red were offered last year but aren’t listed for 2021. More vibrant colours to reflect the Partner’s bubbling personality, please!

Our only real objection is the limited colour palette. Our only real objection is the limited colour palette.

How practical is the space inside?

Passenger Compartment

It’s always a surprise how large the Partner is. It is one of the easiest vehicles you’ll ever experience entry/egress wise, with the high roof, big wide-opening doors and lofty seating. You simply step up and swing yourself inside, as you might sat on a barstool.

This is a post-Peugeot renaissance interior in here, so there’s a love-it-or-hate-it ‘i-Cockpit’ low-wheel/high instrument pod layout. We don’t mind the arrangement at all, but apparently 20 per cent of all people surveyed in France by the company hate it. Futuristic and even perhaps a tad intimidating at first, the dashboard does take a few moments to acclimatise, but once that happens, it does quickly become second-nature.

This is a post-Peugeot renaissance interior. This is a post-Peugeot renaissance interior.

There’s no denying the ergonomic advantages of having near eye-level dials, which are crisp white-on-black dials (with the speedo swinging in the right direction – take that, 308 buyers!) and a helpfully big digital speedo, as part of fairly comprehensive trip computer data.

Full marks for the driving position, thanks to a tilt/telescopic wheel and cushion height-adjustability. The driver’s seat is the most comfortable place to be, since it also has a reclining backrest and lumbar control, for added support to help you settle in well over longer trips.

The basics are spot on, actually, with ample air flow from the simple but effective ventilation system and the easiest multimedia system Peugeot has offered in living memory. We also commend the camera mirror that provides full-time coverage – though it does need confirmation setting every time it’s restarted. There’s a moveable shelf when the centre seat folded that’s handy as a table and the door pockets are massive.

The myriad storage areas point to Peugeot’s experience in designed practical compact van interiors, with slots and shelves and cubbies to support an extremely deep and long glovebox. There’s also storage above the sunvisor area as well as under the seats, including a compartmentalised area beneath the centre cushion that’s also very useful – especially for hiding the laptop this review is written on.

There’s storage above the sunvisor area. There’s storage above the sunvisor area.

Additionally, a single USB and 12V outlets are sited for handy charging, but there isn’t any wireless charging available as yet. Four cupholders are also fitted.

Being a van, this has a three-seater arrangement, made possible via a 2+1 bench, with only the driver’s seat being of normal size and proportion. The thinking here is that the centre section is an occasional perch. The outboard passenger seat thus doesn’t recline at all but folds down to allow for a ski-port like access to the rear cargo area.

The outboard passenger seat folds down for ski-port like access to the rear. The outboard passenger seat folds down for ski-port like access to the rear.

There are some flaws, however, that potential buyers need to be aware of.

The first is the vision-blocking windscreen pillars when negotiating a roundabout, where whole vehicles can be momentarily hidden when going through a roundabout. Not so great in urban areas.

Beware of the awful rotary auto selector, which is fiddly and requires concentration to ensure the stubborn ‘P’ for park segment is selected. On several occasions, it was accidentally left in ‘R’ for reverse and the car started moving back, narrowly avoiding hitting a post behind. That’s poor design execution. What’s needed is a park button, like Ford and BMW offer, to avoid this potentially dangerous set-up.

That two-seater passenger seat isn’t particularly comfortable. It is fixed in one position so doesn’t recline or adjust for height, as a result of the Multi-flex packaging that allows for longer loads to be slid underneath it. The cushion is flat too. If it’s being used as a three-seater, larger occupants might find there isn’t quite enough width, making this arrangement only really acceptable for shorter trips.

Finally, the lack of digital radio is disappointing.

That all said the Partner’s passenger compartment is solid, logical, high quality and very European in execution. Beyond the fat pillar bases, vision is good, with a high and commanding point of view that makes the Peugeot easy to pilot around town.

Cargo Area

The 130 THP comes standard with two sliding side doors and a set of barn doors out back. All provide easy access to the isolated cargo area, which in Australia includes a glazed bulkhead to separate car from van. Payload is 1000kg, with a towing load of up to 950kg (braked). Useable volume is 3.3 cubic square metres.

Peugeot says the internal load length is 1817mm (or up to 3090mm with the Multi-flex opening bulkhead hatch that allows for longer items to be slid in a narrow opening to inside the cabin beneath the passenger seat); in contrast, the L2 cargo area offers up to 2167mm.

The 130 THP comes standard with two sliding side doors and a set of barn doors. The 130 THP comes standard with two sliding side doors and a set of barn doors.

The rear can take a full-size (1200mm x1200mm) Aussie pallet between the rear wheel arches, aided by the rear hinged panelled barn doors, which open to 180 degrees for easier loading.

The floor features a ribbed steel surface with six tie-down rings to help secure loads, while rubber or timber covering are optional. A full-sized spare lives underneath the floor and is accessed via outside of the van, though it is secured via an internal lock.

Huge inside yet compact on the outside, there’s probably enough space available in the Partner for owners of larger medium-sized vans to consider downsizing to.

Huge inside yet compact on the outside. Huge inside yet compact on the outside.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Under that stubby bonnet is Peugeot’s 1199cc 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol 'Pure Tech' engine that first saw the light of day almost a decade ago. With twin cams and variable-valve timing, it delivers 96kW of power at 5500rpm, and 230Nm of torque from as low as 1750rpm, to 3500rpm.

With a kerb weight of 1366kg, the 130 THP’s power to weight ratio is a decent 70.3kW per tonne.

Under the bonnet is Peugeot’s 1199cc 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol 'Pure Tech' engine. Under the bonnet is Peugeot’s 1199cc 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol 'Pure Tech' engine.

Dubbed 130 THP, it drives the front wheels via an eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission supplied by Aisin – a company owned by Toyota in Japan. This puts the Peugeot at an advantage for people who are wary of the bad publicity that dual-clutch transmissions have garnered over the years. A pair of paddle shifters is standard, meaning drivers can push the Manual mode button to manipulate or extend the gears as required.

The well-spread set of ratios, combined with the Partner’s low-down torque and lightweight build, also helps with fuel efficiency.

How much fuel does it consume?

We averaged a commendable 8.2 litres per 100km at the pump.

This is in contrast to the official combined figure of 6.3L/100km (7.3L/100km in the urban test and 5.7L/100km on the extra-urban run), which equates to 142 grams per kilometre of carbon dioxide emissions. This is a Euro-6 rated engine.

The Partner is fitted with a 60-litre tank. The Partner is fitted with a 60-litre tank.

On the other hand, the Partner does demand the more expensive brew – a minimum of 95 RON premium unleaded petrol,

Fitted with a 60-litre tank, about 950km between refills is possible.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Partner scored a disappointing four-star rating in the ANCAP crash-test results. Areas of improvement concerned the impact of pedestrians, which was rated as marginal. 

The variant tested was the European-market Rifter passenger wagon version. Conducted by EuroNCAP in late 2018, the results are applicable to the Partner too, according to ANCAP.

The Partner scored a disappointing four-star rating from ANCAP. The Partner scored a disappointing four-star rating from ANCAP.

Safety features include autonomous emergency braking (AEB – with pedestrian and cyclist protection), lane departure warning, anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Emergency Braking Assist, electronic stability control (ESC), four-wheel disc brakes, six airbags (for driver, passenger and front side curtain), front and rear parking sensors, speed-sign recognition, cruise control with an electronic speed limiter, electric parking brake, a surround-view camera system that provides both parking and a rear-vision-mirror-style projection and an internal central locking system.

The AEB is operational from 5km/h to 85km/h while the lane support systems work from 60km/h to 180km/h.

Note that the Partner is fitted with an overload alert system. Sensors measure the load mass automatically on engine start-up, alerting the driver if over 90 per cent capacity with a white light that flashes yellow if exceeded.

The Partner does not have rear seats or child restraint anchorages and so is not suitable for carrying children under 36kg.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

All Peugeot light commercial vehicles offer 12-month or 15,000km service intervals, while the warranty pegged at five-years/200,000km, including free roadside assistance during that time frame.

Capped-priced servicing info is published on the brand’s website, which for the Partner 130 THP auto comes to $441, $685, $517, $698 and $454 for the first 60 months or 90,000km. This totals to $2795, or $559 annually averaged out, all at the time of publishing.

 Peugeot offers five-year/200,000km warranty. Peugeot offers five-year/200,000km warranty.

What's it like to drive around town?

The Partner is a nippy and sprightly little van with big-van performance and car-like dynamics that should please both keener drivers and occupants seeking comfort and ease alike.

Around town, the 96kW 1.2-litre three-pot turbo is terrifically energetic, scooting off the line with determination as speed quickly builds up, backed up by a rorty mechanical thrum that reflects the van’s lusty nature.

The eight-speed auto is slick and unobtrusive, as it shuffles through each ratio cleanly, to provide smooth yet responsive progress. As mentioned earlier, the ‘M’ manual mode allows paddle shift access to all eight ratios, and are natural and easy to operate.

Likewise, Peugeot provides steering that is sharp and reactive to inputs, resulting in direct handling and very easy manoeuvrability. Aided by the surround-view cameras, sensors and big field of vision up front, it is simple to park this van in tight spots. The turning circle is also outstandingly tight.

Just as important, the Partner’s unladen ride is sufficiently absorbent as to not feel hard or harsh, unlike some other compact vans. The car-based, beefed-up suspension system works in its favour here considering the load capacity on offer, with MacPherson-style struts up front and a torsion beam rear end taking care of business.

This really is one of the most pleasant and car-like vans to drive.

The Partner is one of the most pleasant and car-like vans to drive. The Partner is one of the most pleasant and car-like vans to drive.

Out on the open road, the Partner’s powertrain shows off its engineering pedigree by being both punchy and civilised; yes, the exhaust note at speed has a thrummy resonance, but it is entirely suited to the van’s sporty nature. It will rev effortlessly to the 5200rpm red line without fuss.

Perhaps the Peugeot’s most eye-opening party trick is how flat and stable its cornering is at higher speeds, with a hunkered-down sensation provided for safe and secure roadholding. Factor in the that precise yet light steering, and – again – this van feels like a car do drive through and through… though a qualification does need to be mentioned here.

To the uninitiated, the helm’s crisp turn in and great body control (for a van) might feel too responsive and even nervous at first – though, like most things involving the Partner, prolonged exposure soon takes care of that.

Our bigger concern is noise. Unladen, and without any of the available cargo-area flooring and panelling in our naked van for sound deadening, there is too much tyre and road drone intrusion coming through inside, even with the standard bulkhead separating cargo from the humans (or animals travelling alongside them). Our advice is to stretch to some quality rubber or carpeting underlay to quell the din.

Note that high winds are felt and heard but they rarely upset the composure of the car, even at speed. We drove ours during a veritable gale at times, with no dramas.

The Peugeot Partner 130 THP is another example of the rude health its maker is, and how profoundly better the French brand’s products have become since the advent of the EMP2 architecture.

If you want a thoroughly modern, refined, connected and enjoyable three-seater compact van with all the cargo-carrying capabilities such vehicles provide for work, as well as the weekend-getaway space for pleasure activities afterwards, then this should be at the top of your list.

It has some foibles, but nothing that rate as deal breakers, meaning that the exceptionally well-rounded Partner ably reflects Peugeot/Citroen’s eight-decade experience of continual development in the field of small vans.

$31,490

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4.5/5

Urban score

4.5/5
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.