Peugeot's new Expert offers a compelling alternative to established medium-van players, thanks to its car-like drive and class-leading tech suite.
The Peugeot Expert has returned to the Australian market after a four-year hiatus, and is spearheading the French brand's new assault on the commercial vehicle segment.
Since 1995, the Peugeot Expert and related Citroen Jumpy have sold a collective 1.13 million units across the globe, with the pair commanding about 16 per cent of the light commercial vehicle (LCV) market in Europe.
Pitched as a rival to the likes of the Ford Transit Custom, Toyota HiAce, and Volkswagen Transporter, the Peugeot Expert arrives as the first of three new vans from the French brand to go on sale in Australia – soon to be joined by the smaller Partner and larger Boxer before year's end.
A total of five variants will be offered from launch, including standard- and long-length bodies, the choice of three powertrains, and the availability of manual and automatic transmissions.
Pricing kicks off at a competitive $36,490 before on-road costs for the base BlueHDi 115 SWB manual, and there's a fairly comprehensive amount of standard specification to boot.
All models get low-speed autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, speed sign recognition, blind-spot monitoring, high-beam assist, front and rear parking sensors, and a rear-view camera that stitches together images to create a static 180-degree view of the vehicle's surroundings as you reverse.
That suite of driver-assist tech is a rarity among the commercial vehicle segment, and even beats numerous passenger cars at the same pricepoint.
Other standard features include a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, automatic headlights and wipers, 16-inch steel wheels, and the company's 'Moduwork' removable lower bulkhead that adds 1.15m of load length on the passenger side.
There's also a cool fold-down centre armrest that doubles as a swivel-out laptop table, and there's a storage area under the seat base of the middle seat.
Everything in the Expert's cabin is pretty logically laid out, with all controls within easy reach of the driver.
Build quality seems pretty good, too, with everything feeling well screwed together. The various plastics across the dashboard and doors are more utilitarian than plush, which is par for the course in the segment.
The seats, meanwhile, are comfortable and supportive for all three occupants in the cockpit. There's a good amount of adjustment for the driver, and the fabric upholstery feels of a high grade.
In terms of physical dimensions, standard-length versions measure 4959/2204/1895-1935mm (L/W/H), while long-body grades increase length to 5309mm. Regardless of body style, the wheelbase measures 3725mm, which Peugeot says helps to keep the turning circle to a constant 12.4m across the range.
Between the wheel arches in the load bay, there's 1258mm in load width, while the load length is between 2512mm and 2862mm depending on the body variant. Using the Moduwork system increases load length to between 3674mm and 4024mm on the passenger side.
Load volume is rated at 5.3 cubic metres for standard-body models, while the long-body version ups that to 6.1 cubic metres. The Moduwork system adds 0.5 cubic metres in both cases.
Peugeot says the Expert can accommodate three Euro pallets in the rear regardless of body configuration, too.
CarAdvice attended the local launch drive in Sydney, where we were able to sample the mid- and top-spec offerings in the Expert range – the BlueHDi 150 automatic and BlueHDi 180 automatic.
The former carries the older Euro 5 emissions certification, is also available with a six-speed manual, and offered in both standard- and long-body forms. Meanwhile, the latter is solely available with a six-speed automatic and long-body guise, and wears the Euro 6 emissions certification.
We started off in the flagship BlueHDi 180 (from $45,890) driving over a mix of urban and freeway roads, including Parramatta Road and the M4 in Sydney's west.
Power comes from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel making a healthy 130kW (at 4000rpm) and 400Nm, with drive sent to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic as standard.
Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) is rated at 3000kg for the '180' model, payload at 1250kg, and maximum braked towing capacity listed at 2200kg.
The top-spec model immediately impressed with its refinement and drivability across all traffic situations, while helpful features like blind-spot monitoring counter the visibility drawbacks that are common with vans.
In the city, the Expert feels very much like a car to drive, with all the controls fairly direct and easy to use, while the 2.0-litre diesel is punchy and quiet in operation. The idle stop/start function proved to be snappy and quick to re-engage the transmission on start-up, too, which can't be said for all systems of this type.
Despite being unladen, the Expert was rarely upset by Sydney's patchy road surfaces, and road noise was impressively suppressed from the cabin.
Out on the freeway, the BlueHDi 180 motor got up to speed with little fuss, and settled into a quiet hum in sixth gear. By the end of the test loop, we were averaging low sevens in terms of fuel consumption – a little up on the company's official claim of 6.2L/100km on the combined cycle.
We found the Expert's adaptive cruise-control system to be quite intuitive and easy to use, and should make extended highway stints that little bit easier for tradies on the move.
The automatic Expert features paddle shifters for when you want to change gears yourself – not that you'll ever feel like an F1 driver, but that's not the point – which offer snappy shifts when required.
For the final section of our drive loop in the BlueHDi 180 variant, we were taken through some twistier roads that allowed us to test out the Expert's dynamics.
As noted before, the Peugeot van is quite car-like to drive, though don't expect 308 GTi levels of dynamism, of course. The Expert corners with poise and never feels like it's about to topple over, and there's a nice directness to the steering that inspires confidence when entering a bend.
It probably helps that the Peugeot Expert is based on the same EMP2 modular architecture that underpins a range of PSA Group models including the Peugeot 308, 3008 and 5008, no doubt contributing to that car-like feel.
The Expert also gets new front and rear axles compared to its predecessor, which save 10kg up front and 15kg at the rear, while also helping to improve payload by up to 200kg.
Between drive loops, we had the opportunity to drive two Expert BlueHDi 150s back-to-back laden and unladen, the former with a 500kg weight in the load bay.
Despite being a short motorkhana-style course that didn't really replicate real-world driving, the Expert seemed unbothered with the added weight in the rear, with barely noticeable handicaps in terms of acceleration and stopping distance.
Our second loop was spent in the BlueHDi 150 automatic (from $42,490), and covered mainly highway roads on the way back to the Sydney CBD.
Compared to the 180 model, the 150 is a little down on power and torque (110kW/370Nm versus 130kW/400Nm), and also lacks the idle stop/start tech and Euro 6 emissions certification of the entry-level BlueHDi 115 and top-spec BlueHDi 180 powertrains.
Payload for the '150' is rated at 1300kg, while braked towing capacity is listed at 1500kg. Depending on which transmission and body variant you choose, the GVM is between 2730kg and 3100kg.
Despite not being as advanced as other engines in the line-up, the mid-spec diesel didn't feel like it was far off the flagship model in terms of performance and refinement.
Like the more powerful variant, the BlueHDi 150 offers adequate punch to get up to urban and highway speeds, and is relatively quiet and refined. The six-speed automatic shifts smoothly and intuitively, and the suite of driver-assistance tech is a helpful touch.
Fuel consumption during our highway-skewed test route again fluctuated from low- to high-7L/100km throughout the journey. Officially, Peugeot claims 6.3L/100km combined for the standard-length auto and 6.4L/100km for the long-body automatic.
In terms of aftersales coverage, the Peugeot Expert is covered by a five-year, 200,000km warranty. The mileage cap means the French van's warranty doesn't stretch as far as Ford's and Volkswagen's, though it betters just about every other competitor.
Scheduled servicing is required every 12 months or 20,000km, whichever comes first. Peugeot quotes $2868.47 for the BlueHDi 115 and $2982.46 for the BlueHDi 150/180 if the five-year service plan is purchased upfront, which incorporates a 10 per cent saving compared to if you were to pay per visit at each interval.
That averages to about $573–$596 per year depending on powertrain, which isn't what you'd call 'cheap', though the DSG-equipped 103kW Volkswagen Transporter will cost you more over the same period.
One thing worth noting is Peugeot's relatively small dealer footprint in Australia, which at 33 showrooms nationally pales in comparison to giants like Toyota, though it should service you fine if you use your vehicle in and around the city.
All told, our first impression of the Peugeot Expert is that it follows a similar formula to the brand's passenger car products – a refined, handsome and tech-laden offering that's something of a left-field choice in its segment.
It's competitively priced, drives nicely, and has a level of standard kit that isn't replicated by the majority of its rivals.