Comfortable & Easy to Drive, Usable Power, Great Fuel Economy
Rear Visibility, Front Drive Dynamics Evident, Barn Door Hinges
– Matt Brogan
White vans. The mere thought conjures a perception of boredom, necessity, practicality and very little else. They drive like a refrigerator tipped long ways and usually have the style and driving dynamics to match. They’re uncomfortable, noisy and unrefined – hardly worth a mention really. Then how is it the Expert exists? Surely it’s an oxymoron.
Peugeot’s new LCV (light commercial van) range takes all these tragic ideals and completely destroys them. In fact were it not for the simple fact that this is so very obviously a white van, you would almost think that I’d muddled up my reviews. It really is that good, in fact the Expert may just change “white van” thinking for ever. Seriously!
Expert shown in ‘Bianca White’
OK, that’s a big claim, and as someone who has spent a great deal of time in white vans in my formative years I can tell you that seeing this on my schedule list did nothing to thrill me. But after five minutes behind the wheel I was forced to eat my hat. The Expert makes driving a commercial van easy, almost relaxing and very nearly pleasurable.
But before we jump in to all that, let’s kick the tyres and take a quick look around outside. From the front Expert is car-like, very Peugeot-esque (naturally), and the big mouth certainly bears an unmistakable family resemblance. It’s more aerodynamic than is usually the case for a box van and even from the rear remains crisp and taut with all lateral lines following aftward in a uniform fashion.
Once behind the wheel a couple of nice surprises lay in store. For starters it’s quiet, the driving position is actually comfortable, neutral and it remains that way even after hours and hours of sitting there. I dislike the word ergonomic, but that is exactly what this is.
I drove through heavy peak hour traffic (which is 6am ’til 7pm in Melbourne), the demanding warrens of various industrial estates and wiggled down tight inner city lanes for the best part of a week and still jumped out at the end of each day surprised at just how good I felt. What’s more it’s easy to jump in and out of. There are no grab handles, you don’t need them. Just pop the door open and step in. Simple! Courier drivers will love this van.
Surprise number two was just how well the Expert drives. It’s a breeze. The clutch may be a touch heavy for some, but it’s certainly not burdensome. All the controls are light, obvious and fall readily to hand which leaves your focus where it is meant to be – on the road ahead.
The interior features are of car-quality too, not some rubbish from the parts bin off loaded on unsuspecting Tradies (as is usually the case). The stereo is above average, the wipers work perfectly (better than some cars can manage), the headlamps are exceptional and the ventilation and air-conditioning systems are top-notch. One other neat touch is that should the orange hue of the centre information panel become too much after a hard day on the road, you can simply switch it off – nice one Peugeot.
Adding to the pleasant trade ready, yet practical ambiance are power windows and self-folding power mirrors, satellite mounted cruise and audio controls, fully adjustable seats and steering column, remote central locking, fog lamps, headlight level adjuster, an alarm, Bluetooth compatibility, 12V power socket and an abundance of storage compartments.
Under the semi-bonneted front lies a 2.0-litre, common-rail, turbo diesel four-cylinder engine that develops a hearty 100kW at 4000rpm and capable 320Nm from 2000 revs. It’s quiet, strong and presents negligible lag from stand still. Mid range pull is quite strong and even with a couple of pallets of stainless steel bearings up back (thanks fellas), Expert still manages decent performance.
The six-speed manual is a delight to use and has a short throw shifter to take the shoulder ache out of constant cog swapping. The box presents a sweet spread of gears, the top two of which are more focused toward achieving greater fuel economy, yet another forté of Expert’s repetiore. Through a week of punishing work I managed a return of 9.5-litres per 100km – all of it city driving.
Electro-hydraulic, speed-sensitive, power-steering and pneumatic rear suspension (MacPherson strut front) make for consistent maneuverability no matter the load carried and with powerful, smooth acting discs all round you’ll be convinced this isn’t a van so much as it is a car with a large box up back. If you push hard, and I mean needlessly hard, the front drive characteristics are evident (tending to understeer), but it’s certainly beyond the threshold of an average day’s driving.
Six cubic metres of cargo area offering an 1188kg payload mean two standard pallets are placed with ease, even fitting between the arches no sweat (1250mm wide x 2584mm long). The load sill is 500mm high which makes manual handling easier and with 1272mm of loading height from the rear, 4ft box crates aren’t a drama. The only real dilemma is that the barn doors don’t fold against the sides and the wire supports will see the doors blow shut in a stiff breeze.
Eight tie-down points, all conveniently placed, provide safer load retention for OH&S purposes as does the optional steel cargo bulkhead giving a reassuring feeling that you won’t be sconed should some rabbit plant the brakes in front of you (it also helps keep the cabin at a consistant temperature if the fork lift driver takes too long back there). The only drawback is that you now have no straigh-through rearward visibility, which also makes the neat dual rear wipers redundant.
Expert was awarded 2008 “International Van of the Year”
Those few qualms aside, and as far as white vans go, this one is vantasic (sorry I couldn’t help it). If you don’t believe me then trundle on in to the Peugeot dealership in your 15 year-old E series or Hiace and ask the kind salesman for a drive. I can bet that should your cheque book permit that old van will be a one-metre crushed cube stowed neatly in your new Expert to drop at the tip as you make your way to work feeling every bit as good as you look.
CarAdvice Overall Rating: How does it Drive: How does it Look: How does it Go: