Peugeot Partner van review

Car tech and plenty of versatility put the Peugeot Partner at the front of the small van pack

The Peugeot Partner, along with its Citroen Berlingo Van sister model, rules the sales charts for the small van sector. And this latest version uses car-derived tech to take the small van class to another level. Practicality is at its best ever, with payload weights of up to a tonne available, but the real advances come in the cabin, where Peugeot has made the Partner more user-friendly than before.

There’s new safety kit, plenty of useful features and the efficient diesels help to keep costs down. Driving comfort is improved, while the broad selection of versions on offer mean there should be a Partner van to suit most small van customer needs.

While the last Peugeot Partner was essentially a re-badge of the Berlingo, it was Peugeot that took the lead when it came to producing this new model. Under the skin, it uses a platform that features a mix of the old Partner’s tech with the latest EMP2 components from the Peugeot car range. That means Peugeot has been able to kit the Partner out with a range of cutting-edge tech that hasn’t been seen in the small van class before.

As well as sharing its technology with the Citroen Berlingo Van, the Vauxhall Combo is also based on the same tech, while the Peugeot Rifter is the MPV variant, having ditched the Partner name with its introduction earlier in 2018. All these vans are based on a new body that tries to make them look less van-like, although there’s no avoiding the boxy proportions needed to create a useable work space in the back.

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Like the Citroen and Vauxhall, there are two lengths of Peugeot Partner called Standard and Long, while there’s a single roof height offered. Cargo volumes range from 3.3 to 3.8 cubic metres, while payloads range from 667kg to 1,050kg. Later in 2019 a Partner Crew Van will join the line-up, which features the same three-seat rear bench as the Rifter MPV and a mesh bulkhead, a combination that can be folded and moved forward to create more cargo space if it’s needed.

There are four trim levels available, the fleet-minded Partner S, the Partner Grip, which is geared towards the construction industry, plus the Professional and Asphalt, which offer car-like levels of kit. While these trim levels have different names to Citroen’s, prices and specifications for the Partner are identical to the Berlingo Van across the board.

That means standard kit is essentially the same, too, with all vans getting offset double rear doors, a full steel bulkhead, a single sliding side door (twin doors on Long vans), a reach and rake adjustable steering wheel, auto lights, six load hooks in the load area and Bluetooth, among others.

The Partner Grip adds Peugeot’s Grip Control system, which features switchable traction control for different surfaces, plus a 30mm raised ride height and Mud & Snow tyres for extra traction. Despite this off-road set-up, the Partner is front-wheel drive whichever model you go for, although French conversion company Dangel does offer an official 4×4 kit for the Partner/Rifter range.

Grip, Professional and Asphalt models all get a three-seat cab layout, too. This Multi-Flex folding seat also sees an electric parking brake added – which helps take some strain out of driving – while the seats flip and fold to create more storage. Also included is a through-load facility for the bulkhead that allows longer items to be carried.

Professional vans also get rear parking sensors, cruise control, and a touchscreen DAB radio with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus two USB sockets. On top of this Asphalt vans add body coloured bumpers, alloy wheels, sat-nav and rear and nearside cameras, although all of these extras can be added to lower spec models from the extensive options list.

Peugeot offers a variety of packs that bundle options together into better value packages. The Surround Rear Vision Pack adds front and rear parking sensors (also available separately), plus a rear camera and nearside camera to help with blind spot visibility. There’s also a Safety Pack which adds lane assist, speed limit recognition and active braking alert, while the Safety Pack Plus adds auto main beam, tiredness alert and traffic sign recognition. On top of that, you can add the Drive Assist Pack with adaptive cruise control on selected models.

An all-diesel engine line-up is offered at launch, with a 1.2 PureTech petrol due to arrive in 2019. The BlueHDi diesels come in 75, 100 and 130 guises, with the two smaller engines using the older 1.6-litre diesel, while the 130 uses a newer 1.5-litre engine. The lower powered engines come with a five-speed manual, while the 1.5 has a six-speed manual and an optional eight-speed auto.

As well as its Citroen and Vauxhall sister models, the Peugeot Partner can count the VW Caddy and Ford Transit Connect as its main rivals, but it has a breadth of ability and tech to make these two look dated, while other rivals such as the Fiat Doblo, Renault Kangoo and Mercedes Citan are positively old hat in comparison.

MPG and Running Costs

The Peugeot Partner has an identical model line-up and price range as its sister model, the Citroen Berlingo Van. That means prices start from around £16,000 ex VAT, while the Long model starts from around £17,800 ex VAT. The most expensive model comes in at just under £23,000 ex VAT, although Peugeot offers plenty of options that can bump these prices up significantly.

All vans get electric windows, a full steel bulkhead, sliding side door (double sliding doors on Long models), a reach and rake adjustable steering wheel, six lashing eyes for the cargo floor, a trip computer and central locking with deadlocks.

The Partner Grip is a variation on the base model, rather than being a complete trim upgrade. It adds the Multi-Flex seat layout with through loading and two passenger seats, tyre pressure monitors, and an electric parking brake, while the overload indicator shows when the van is exceeding its maximum gross vehicle weight. The biggest additions are a 30mm raised ride height, Peugeot’s Grip Control traction electronics and Mud & Snow tyres, so the Partner Grip has some modest off-road ability.

Enterprise and Driver versions of the Partner are so well specced you could be mistaken for thinking you’re looking at the spec sheet for the closely related Rifter MPV instead. There’s plenty of useful safety kit, climate control, an alarm, alloy wheels and body coloured bumpers, although these do bump list prices higher.

Fortunately, you can cherry pick the specification that’s right for you, because most of the tech that’s standard on top-spec models is also available as a cost option on lower spec vans. Extras include a second sliding door for Standard vans, glazing for the load doors, vinyl and plywood floor linings, plus extra lashing eyes and load bay lighting.

There’s more kit available to make life easier for the driver, too. Grip Control is offered as an option on non-Grip models, as are the rear camera systems, side guard sensors and climate control, while all of the Partner’s safety systems are available either as standard or in option packs.

Economy is the Partner’s strong point thanks to its diesel engine range. The BlueHDi 75’s claimed combined economy is 64.2mpg, but the more powerful BlueHDi 100 is even better at 67.3mpg, because it has stop-start as standard. These two figures are for the Standard van, go for the BlueHDi 100 in the Long van (the 75 isn’t offered), and economy tails off a little at 65.7mpg, while the Grip model has slightly poorer mpg courtesy of its knobblier tyres and raised ride height (65.7 or 61.4mpg for the Standard and Long vans).

The BlueHDi 130 is a newer engine, and it shows because the 1.5-litre motor has economy figures to match the 1.6 versions: 64.2mpg for the manual is the same as the 75 motor, while the EAT8 auto-equipped version returns a claimed 65.7mpg to match the 100 diesel. All diesel vans come with a 50-litre fuel tank, while the AdBlue tank measures at 17 litres.

Load Space and Practicality

The Peugeot Partner has a development of the old Partner’s platform at the rear, although a comprehensive redesign has made more space and increased payload weights. Different models have different payload weights, but these range from 667kg for the least powerful Partner BlueHDi 75, up to 1,050kg for the BlueHDi 100 in Standard body guise. The Long van has payloads ranging from 940-970kg.

Cargo volume for the Standard van is 303 cubic metres, while vans with the Multi-Flex front seat have a combined maximum of 3.9 cubic metres, with an extra 600 litres of space when the front passenger seat is not in use. Go for a Long van, and cargo volume is 3.8 cubic metres as standard, and 4.4 cubic metres in Multi-Flex mode.

In terms of dimensions, the cargo area has 1,229mm between the wheelarches, so it’s wide enough for a Europallet to fit between them. The maximum load width is 1,550mm, while the load height is 1,236mm (1,243mm for the Long van). There’s a load lip that’s 548mm high, rising to 586mm for the Partner Grip (the range is 571-610mm for the Long model). Finally, there’s a load length of 1,817mm for the Standard van and 2,167mm for the Long version, which has a longer wheelbase and an extended rear overhang to create more space. The Multi-Flex through-load facility increases this to 3,090mm and 3,440mm respectively. Multi-Flex also adds a sturdy vinyl bag that helps prevent long items from damaging the interior.

Access to the load area is via 60:40 split rear doors that offer an opening of 1,196mm high and a load width that ranges from a maximum of 1,241mm to a 1,087mm minimum. The side door slides open to create an opening that measures 1,072mm high and a minimum of 641mm wide. The Standard van has a single sliding side door, while the Long van has double doors. You can add a second door to the Standard van, and all doors can be had with windows, as can the steel bulkhead.

All vans can be fitted with an overload indicator. This is calibrated to calculate how much weight is in the back of the van via how much the rear suspension compresses. You get two warnings on the cargo area-mounted display: one when you’re up to 80 per cent of payload capacity, and another when you’ve exceeded the maximum permissible. The system doesn’t prevent you from driving an overloaded van (and it doesn’t account for passengers you might be carrying), but the warning on the dashboard will be hard to ignore if you’re pulled over by the police or VOSA if the van is overloaded.

Reliability and Safety

While the Peugeot Partner is a big seller in the van market, it hasn’t been plain sailing in terms of reliability. Hopefully the new van carries over enough tech that has been improved and upgraded that it should work without issue. The 1.6 BlueHDi diesels are older units that should prove to be reliable, while the 1.5 BlueHDi is a newer engine, but is designed to be fitted in a wide range of Peugeot models, so will have been extensively tested to ensure it works without a hitch.

The Partner’s use of EMP2 technology means Peugeot has been able to offer a range of safety features that are more commonly seen on passenger cars. Standard safety kit includes a driver’s airbag (passenger, side and curtain airbags are all optional), a full-height steel bulkhead to separate the cargo and passenger areas, electronic stability control, traction control, hill start assist and emergency brake assist.

All vans get a full-size spare wheel, while tyre pressure monitors are fitted to all vans bar the entry level S version, the Overload Indicator is a useful extra to have if you regularly use a van’s maximum payload and want to ensure you’re still within the law (it’s standard on Grip models).

Peugeot’s Safety Packs add a front camera that means kit such as lane assist and speed limit recognition can be added – something that would’ve been unheard of in a van even just a few years ago. Automatic emergency braking is available, too, while adaptive cruise control is offered on the BlueHDi 130 with the EAT8 auto gearbox.

Van security includes remote central locking with deadlocks and a separate load area opening and immobiliser, while higher spec vans get an alarm that can also inform you if the van has suffered from an attempted break-in while you’re away.

Driving and Performance

On the road, the Peugeot Partner is night-and-day when compared to the old model. Where that van was choppy and bouncy and not much fun, the new model rides well and is fairly engaging. Part of the reason for this is the iCockpit cabin layout, which adds a small steering wheel to give the Partner a sportier touch. 

The engine range only really lives up to the chassis’ sporty potential with the BlueHDi 130 motor. This has a good amount of power for hauling big loads, and it feels sprightly enough to give the Partner a decent turn of speed. It’s helped by the six-speed gearbox, which doesn’t have the most positive shift, but makes the most of the power on offer.

The smaller BlueHDi 75 and 100 engines come with a five-speed manual. These don’t have the urgency of the 130 engine, and they’re noisier, too, so are more suited to leisurely driving, especially as the gearing is widely spaced, so acceleration isn’t that brisk.

Again, these engines aren’t helped by the gearbox they use. The five-speed unit is vague to shift, but once you’re in tune with it, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

Cab and Interior

With everything so closely matched between the Peugeot Partner and Citroen Berlingo Van, the one thing that could clinch your decision could be the dashboard layout. The Partner uses the i-Cockpit layout that has been seen in models such as the 308 and 3008, so you get a small, low-set steering wheel and dials positioned high on the dashboard in the driver’s line of sight. In comparison, the Berlingo Van (as well as the Vauxhall Combo) uses a larger wheel with the dials set behind.

The Peugeot’s layout takes some getting used to, and it might not be as easy to get a comfortable driving position where you can see all the instruments ahead of you – it really is a case of try before you buy to see if you can get on with the Partner’s layout.

The rest of the cabin is reasonably well laid out, with the climate controls in the middle of the dash and the infotainment positioned above it. The gearlever is also located on the dashboard to give more legroom below. The controls are easy to use, although the climate controls are recessed slightly under the air vents which makes them a bit hard to read.

Cabin space is good. The basic van is a two-seater with lots of room, although there’s no cabin storage between the front seats. All vans get a reach and rake adjustable steering wheel, although you may find the small wheel is positioned lower than you like if you want to read the dials. There’s overhead storage shelves, while the three-seat Multi-Flex layout adds two passenger seats. Space is a bit tight if you’re travelling three-up – especially legroom for middle seat passengers, but the added flexibility the system provides means it’s still a worthwhile addition.

Storage elsewhere is similar to its sister vans, with two gloveboxes, including a huge upper box that can fit a 15-inch laptop with ease. However, while the dash layout in the Berlingo Van and Combo means there’s an extra lidded storage area above the dials, the i-Cockpit layout foregoes this, so you get a storage tray ahead of the dials instead.

Power is supplied by two 12V sockets and twin USB connections, while Bluetooth connectivity and an audio jack are also included.

Van dimensions

Load area dimensions

(Width between wheel arches: 1,229mm)


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