Peugeot Boxer 2020 160 hdi standard (l2)
review

2020 Peugeot Boxer 160HDI review

Rating: 6.8
$47,490 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
    6.4L
  • Engine Power
    120kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    168g
  • ANCAP Rating
    N/A
Peugeot’s big van, the Boxer, tries to land a KO in Australia’s light commercial market.
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Joint ventures and rebadged products are fairly common in the commercial vehicle sector, so if you think the Peugeot Boxer van looks familiar, you’d be dead right. This is Peugeot’s version of the Fiat Ducato.

The Boxer isn’t a completely carbon-copied Fiat product, though. Under the stubby bonnet beats a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel engine producing 120kW at 3500rpm and 310Nm at 1500rpm (a product of another joint venture with Ford). The Ducato runs a different 2.3-litre four-pot diesel rated to 130kW and 400Nm for a van of the same dimensions.

Speaking of dimensions, Peugeot offers the Boxer in two lengths, either a mid-wheelbase or long wheelbase, while Fiat also has a third short model in its books. The van we’re testing here is, to give it its official title, the 2020 Peugeot Boxer 160HDI Standard – AKA the mid-wheelbase.

The Boxer also offers a reduced choice of transmissions, well, no choice at all – just a six-speed manual. Not wildly unusual for the segment, but somewhat limiting as most competitors offer an auto or automated option.

Pricing opens from $47,490 plus on-road costs, but unlike so many vans that offer a range of optional configurations to tailor a van to your needs, Peugeot Australia takes a ‘what you see is what you get’ approach – no different doors, windows, or cabin layouts.

Every Boxer in Australia comes with a height-adjustable driver’s seat, a single passenger seat, 180-degree rear doors, dual sliding side doors, and a fixed rear bulkhead with sliding glass pass-through panel. Not bad, and certainly not missing anything major, though 270-degree doors would be handy for narrow bay loading.

At the rear, maximum load length is 3120mm, height is 1932mm and width is 1870mm, with 1420mm between the wheel arches (11.5 cubic metres) – enough space to fit two pallets, if need be. But if fitted out with racking, perhaps a shade tight on standing room depending on your application.

External dimensions see the Boxer reach 5413mm nose to tail, 2050mm wide and 2522mm tall when unladen.

At its core, the Boxer is far from new, based on a vehicle launched in 2006 overseas, but the spec list reads as mostly modern with standard air-conditioning, rear park sensors, rear-view camera, power windows, cruise control and speed limiter, digital speedo, camera-based autonomous emergency braking and forward-collision warning, LED running lights, four-wheel disc brakes, and remote locking with separate access to cabin and cargo.

Some more advanced functions like blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and fatigue monitoring aren’t yet covered. Neither ANCAP nor Euro NCAP has assessed the Boxer (or related Ducato), so no safety rating exists.

Peugeot fits an infotainment system with a 5.0-inch touchscreen, integrated navigation, and Bluetooth phone and audio, but not the latest Apple CarPlay or Android Auto phone mirroring. While it’s fair to assume most delivery drivers will know their regular route and won’t want to unplug their phone at each stop, the old nav platform can be slow and clunky to use when you have to.

The interior itself is built to be as durable as possible, but pushes luxuries and creature comforts aside. There’s a hard-wearing feel and functionality to the dash and door plastics, and a heap of storage nooks and cubbies.

A clip atop the dash can secure consignment notes, invoices, quote pads or a tablet. There's storage space across the dash, the door pockets are absolutely huge, and an overhead console can play host to a lunch cooler, tools, maps and more.

The design really shows its age, however. Many of the plastics are poorly fitted or misaligned. The passenger airbag cover on the car we tested was springing up at one corner.

The design itself has some significant ergonomic failings, too. That overhead console is placed where you’ll strike your head on it – I did constantly and I’m only short.

The front seats are set behind the B-pillar – no doubt great for crash strength, but terrible for side-to-side visibility at intersections. The handbrake is mounted to the right of the driver’s seat, but doesn’t drop away when applied. Instead, it stabs you in the thigh as you swing out of the cabin.

There’s a quirky driving position, too, with the steering wheel set high up and the pedals low down, putting the driver in a half-standing stretch behind the wheel.

At least visibility from the huge mirrors goes a long way to keeping an eye on moving traffic, with enough glass real estate to keep an eye on multiple lanes, plus a wide-angle sub-mirror on each side.

On the road, the Boxer is pretty decent. The engine is no powerhouse, but there’s enough grunt from low down to keep things moving along without holding up urban traffic or clogging a lane on the freeway.

It’s also decently refined. No van is a Rolls-Royce inside, but without a sound-absorbing headliner like you’d find in a HiLux, I expected more boom and echo from the rear, yet road noise is quite well suppressed at freeway speeds.

Wind noise is easier to pick up, and there’s some extra white noise from the front of the van between air slipping over the front of the car coupled with tyre noise at speed.

With a maximum payload just under 1600kg, unladen ride quality runs the risk of being on the harsh side of unforgiving, with load capacity often blamed for contributing to the rough ride of dual-cab utes. That’s not the case for the Boxer. Even with an empty rear, the back axle sits comfortably on the road and keeps contact with the tarmac without feeling nervous or skittish.

In this instance, the front wheels do the driving, not the rears, but suspension at the back is via load-capable leaf springs holding up a rigid rear axle. Independent front suspension is via MacPherson struts.

There’s a lot of steering work to do to twirl from lock to lock (just under 3.9 turns), but there’s stability in the slow rack and the resistance is minimal, so you won’t break a sweat doing so. At 12.6m, the turning circle isn’t quite narrow-alley tight, but should work for most loading bays.

While we weren’t able to put the full capacity to the test, we did run 250–300kg in the back, and with a mild payload the Boxer shrugged its weight off like it wasn’t there.

Engine noise isn’t escapable. There’s some diesel chugging as a constant background soundtrack, though for the most part it’s never too vocal and actually surprisingly quite smooth. The tractible low-down torque stands out, and there’s no point where the Boxer feels weak or stumbles into a torque dip as you roll from a standstill.

Like so many working-class diesels, there’s no reward for piling on revs. You're better off letting the mid-range do the hard work, and in actual fact, it’ll never feel like it's working too hard. The clutch is a breeze to work with – never too heavy and easy to judge.

The gearshift has a touch of notchiness to it. You need to be pretty firm to get it where it’s going, but even shifting absentmindedly it’s hard to slot into the wrong gate, and of course familiarity will only make it easier to deal with.

Warranty coverage spans five years or 200,000km. Peugeot also runs capped-price servicing at 12-month or 20,000km intervals for $550, $885, $550, $898 and $652 respectively over the first five visits. As a pre-end-of-financial-year bonus, Peugeot is offering the first three services free, though unlike the smaller Expert and Partner vans, there’s no EOFY national drive-away pricing.

Efficiency holds up, too. The official combined cycle fuel-use claim is a light 6.4L/100km, and urban consumption is rated at 6.9L/100km. In mostly stop-start running, linked by brief highway stints, the Boxer suggested it sipped at a rate of 7.6L/100km, though it was only lightly loaded over that time.

Competition in the segment is pretty sharp and widely varied. Fiat’s mid-wheelbase version of essentially the same van is cheaper at $42,990 and comes with extra grunt but lacks AEB. The Renault Master MWB lists the same $47,490 start price, but includes more configuration options, and is available with an automatic.

If tech takes priority, a Transit 350L leads Ford’s big-van pricing table, and manual versions are rear-wheel drive but automatics drive through the front. Pricing starts from $60,690 for a larger LWB body, but the same 11.5m³ rear cargo volume and a 125kW/390Nm engine. Superior safety tech, including adaptive cruise control, AEB, blind-spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition plus a far superior infotainment system, helps balance the price premium.

Similarly, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter kicks off from $51,694 in manual FWD guise with a mid-wheelbase, though cargo capacity drops to 9.5m³ and the engine is a little lighter at 84kW and 300Nm. Like the Ford, the Sprinter goes heavy on tech, though not quite as heavy, but a huge array of fleet management and tracking tools are available.

Then there’s Peugeot’s dealer network, which is a fraction of the size of a powerhouse like Ford, and could be enough to sway operators away from major metropolitan centres to consider better-supported brands.

As a hard-graft van, the mid-wheelbase Peugeot Boxer 160HDI isn’t outrageously priced next to its competitors, and your individual deal is sure to be sharper than list pricing. It can’t hide its age, so comfort and safety don’t match newer-generation vans, but there’s a twist of value in it as a no-frills workhorse.

To this point, the buyer pool is small, and aftersales support and reliability aren’t yet known. That places a bigger question mark over the Boxer’s long-term viability for many businesses. We’d suggest approaching with caution, and with eyes wide open, in this instance.