What is it?
It's a van.
"I can see that, but what on earth are you doing reviewing a van?" you may ask, and it's a valid question.
It started last year when I was invited to DriveIt, a dedicated light commercial vehicle show at which visitors could test drive any of the vehicles on show, on different types of roads, and that included a challenging off road route. As you can read if you click the link, amongst the many pick-ups, Peugeot had their New Partner ATV (All Terrain Vans) for me to play with.
Within the Peugeot commercial vehicle range, the Partner is a compact van that finds itself between the smaller Bipper and its bigger sibling, the Expert and would consider the likes of the Citroen Berlingo, Ford Transit Connect and VW's Caddy as rivals.
It comes with 2 body lengths that sit on the same wheelbase, L1 is the Partner at 4.38m and L2, which they call the Partner Tepee stretches to 4.63m. The latter is available with extra rear seats and can be used as a people carrier or even camper van conversions. Payloads are up to 850kg and 750kg respectively.
On the road
Of course, by its nature the Partner was never going to be the quietest vehicle we've tested, it's a small panel van! However, from trips to the market and a 300 mile round trip to Warwickshire, i was pleasantly surprised. Of the two 1.6 HDi diesel options, (75bhp & 92bhp) we had the latter, and whilst it's no rocket ship, coupled to the 5-speed box it performed admirably. By its nature the Partner is a tall vehicle so driving is quite easy, and even unladen the ride was comfortable.
Off the road
There was a fatal flaw in my plan to review the Partner, as I mentioned earlier, the Partner at DriveIt had the remarkable Grip Control fitted, the press van I had for the week didn't, so unfortunately I didn't venture off-road.
However, going back to my experience at DriveIt, the Grip Control worked incredibly well and took the Partner everywhere we pointed it. Of course, we had to use a bit more momentum to navigate some of the steeper tracks, but it proved a capable contender, especially if you don’t want the bulk of a 4x4, yet need to keep mobile during the winter months. On the subject of winter, if you want to see just what Grip Control can do, check out this video of the Peugeot 2008 driving up a ski slope, and remember, it’s front wheel drive. Click link.
Grip Control offers 4 modes: mud, snow, sand and regular ESP, so drivers can cope with just about anything. ATV vans also feature upgraded mud and snow tyres for greater traction during bad weather and are available on New Boxer, Bipper, New Partner and Expert vans, as well as 2008, 508 and 3008.
Let's not forget that the Partner is a working vehicle, so it'll be devoid of leather trim and mahogany facias, having said that it's still a pleasant place to be. Being 6ft 1" I reckon that anyone taller than me would find it a little cramped which can be put down the fixed bulkhead behind the seats that restricted the seats movement.
All the buttons and controls are within easy reach, even the electric window switches that are on the dash instead of the doors. There's plenty of cubby holes up front, including horizontal bottle holders in the dashboard that admittedly took me a while to figure out what they were.
We had the 3 seat option, and although I wouldn't want to be the middle passenger, it'd be handy for short journeys, plus both passenger seats flip forward for extra storage. On the subject of seats, they are quite short in the base, which means if you’re the type of workman who puts a packet of crisps in-between your legs whilst driving, they’ll fall on the floor as space between your crotch and end of the seat is limited.
The back is obviously vast; Height: 1,250mm, Width: 1,500mm,Length: 1,800mm and 3.3m3 volume capacity. It can take 2 Euro pallets, and as Muddy Madam proved, there's plenty of space in the back for a body.
Oddly, the first thing I noticed when I took the Partner out for a drive wasn't how ergonomically pleasing the interior was, nor its comfortable ride, rather that no one let me out at junctions! From a £100k+ Range Rover to my old Series 1 Land Rover, I've never had a problem getting out of my street on a school day, not even in a BMW, but a white van? No chance, I had become the evil spawn that is known as a white van man!
Overall, I rather enjoyed my week with the Partner, not only was it frugal, but on long motorway journeys it proved to be comfortable too.