The MK3 model Peugeot Partner is a compact van with high aspirations. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
Ten Second Review
Peugeot's Partner van has much to offer in this third generation form, with efficiency, technology and practicality to rival class leaders in the compact van segment. It offers a full-EV option if you don't want a diesel and there's the brand's clever 'i-Cockpit' interior design too. On paper at least then, the prospects are promising.
Peugeot knows a thing or two about vans, the brand having built around 2 million LCVs since 1950. This Partner model is the company's biggest seller and it's been revitalised in this third generation guise. The Partner is the kind of model you choose if your business needs a compact LCV that isn't quite as small as a modern cityvan-sector model would be - something like Peugeot's own Bipper. Vehicles like that are based on superminis: Partner-type models, in contrast, sit upon the more spacious platforms originally developed for family hatchbacks or small MPVs.
There are certainly plenty of vans of that type - most notably perhaps, this Peugeot's near-identical design stablemates, Citroen's Berlingo, Fiat's Doblo, Toyota's Proace City and Vauxhall's Combo. Beyond these rivals, this Partner must also directly take on strong-selling contenders like Ford's Transit Connect and Volkswagen's Caddy, along with three further brand-shared designs, the one we know as either the Renault Kangoo, the Nissan Townstar or the Mercedes Citan.
The diesel engine range is made up of Peugeot's latest generation 100 and 130hp BlueHDi diesel units. More eco-minded is the e-Partner's 50kWh battery and 136hp electric motor combo, which offers a driving range of 171 miles.
This MK3 model Partner's EMP2 platform enables short overhangs and a small turning circle for easy manoeuvring: the kerb to kerb turning radius is only 10.82m for the Standard version and 11.43m for the Long version. The neat 'i-Cockpit' dashboard design makes this Peugeot feel quite fun to drive too, with its grippy little wheel allowing for wrist-flick turns. We also like the optional 'Surround Rear Vision' system that gives drivers optimum exterior visibility from inside the vehicle, with a view of the areas around the van courtesy of a couple of cameras, one located at the base of the passenger side mirror and the other at the top of the rear doors. The images are displayed on a 5-inch screen located where the interior rear mirror normally sits and together provide a closer view of the immediate environment.
In the e-Partner EV version, there's a toggle switch for transmission settings and three drive modes - 'Eco', 'Normal' and 'Power'.
You won't want to spend too long in 'Eco', unless you really are eeking out battery capacity because it reduces the powertrain's output to just 80bhp and also restricts the climate system to conserve power. Peugeot expects that you'll do most of your driving in the 'Normal' setting, which increases the motor output to 107bhp. The top 'Power' mode isn't really intended for sporty driving but for situations when you're carrying heavy loads.
Design and Build
This third generation Partner gets sharp styling, particularly at the front, where its familiar lion badge sits in the centre of a vertical grill that aims to enhance the modern headlight design. The profile lines see a high waistline matched with short overhangs. Beneath the panel work, this MK3 model sits on the Stellantis Group's usual EMP2 platform.
Inside, this Partner model's most unique feature is its 'i-Cockpit' instrument layout, familiar from Peugeot cars but here fitted to a commercial vehicle for the first time. This sees the driver looking at the instrument binnacle over the top of the steering wheel rim, rather than through the spokes of the wheel. The fascia's dominated by an 8-inch capacitive touch screen located in the centre of the dashboard in line with the driver's vision. It provides direct and permanent access to key comfort functions such as radio, navigation, vehicle settings and telephone.
As usual, Peugeot is offering its so-called 'Multi-Flex' adaptable bench seat, which allows three people to sit in the front and lets you push longer items through from the load bay. That means 400-litres more load capacity and an effective loading length of up to 3m for the Standard version and 3.35m for the Long version. A writing table is integrated in the fold-down central seat back to convert the vehicle into a mobile office, and this layout features a padlocked storage area underneath the central seat. As you'd expect in this class, a Crew van' body style is also available with a fold-out second row bench.
Market and Model
To meet the differing needs of business users, the Partner van range offers a wide selection of body styles. The main choice is between two lengths (the 'Standard' body shape at 4.4m long and the 'Long' version at 4.75m), plus there's a Crew Van version with a folding bench seat in row two. Spec-wise, Peugeot is offering 'Professional Premium+' and 'Asphalt Premium+' trim levels in Standard or Long versions, with prices starting from around £20,000: there's a premium of around £800 for the long wheelbase body style. The e-Partner starts from around £28,500, after reduction of the government's £2,500 Plug-in van Grant.
If you're a Partner buyer, we think it would be well worth your while looking at this camera-driven tech - the key stuff is in an optional 'Safety Pack'. This gives you four things, the most important one being the company's 'Active Safety Brake' set-up. This is one of those autonomous braking systems that as you drive at urban speeds, scans the road ahead in search of potential accident hazards. If one is detected, you'll be warned. If you don't respond - or aren't able to - the brakes will automatically be applied to decrease the severity of any resulting accident. As part of this, there's a 'Distance Alert System' which warns the driver if he or she is getting too close to the vehicle in front. If you don't respond and a collision seems imminent, the 'Active Safety Brake' functionality will automatically be activated. The 'Safety Pack' also includes 'Active Lane Departure Warning', which works on the highway to sense if you're drifting out of your lane and apply subtle steering to ease the van back to where it ought to be. And you get 'Speed Limit Recognition', which alerts you if you go over the legal limit.
Practicalities and Costs
The dimensions are perfectly in line with the segment, with a length of 4.40m for the Standard version ensuring an optimum effective usable length of 1.81m. With a capacity ranging from 3.30m3 to 3.80m3 depending on the version, this is sufficient to accommodate two Euro pallets. The Long version, which is 4,75m long (an increase of 35cm), provides even greater load capacity. The effective length of this version is 2.16m, providing for a load capacity ranging from 3.90m3 to 4.40m3. Opt for the Multiflex seat with its hatch through to the cargo bay and you can increase those figures using some cab space.
Out back, the asymmetric side-hinged rear doors with 180-degree opening make loading particularly easy. The payload is one of the best in the segment, with values of 650kg and up to 1000kg for certain versions, both Standard and Long with either powertrain. The very low fuel consumption versions have a 600kg payload. A neat touch is the 'Overload Alert System' which alerts you should you exceed your Partner's permitted payload. Fleet Managers can choose from 3 different telematics packages from Free2Move Connect Fleet, providing efficiency and optimisation of fleet management. These use true vehicle CAN bus data to provide accurate information to suit a fleet manager's needs - whether that's mileage tracking, hours of use, fuel consumption or real-time monitoring of service intervals and mechanical alerts. Running costs remain competitive. The popular 1.5-litre BlueHDi 100 diesel model manages 56.5mpg on the combined cycle and up to 148g/km of CO2. The e-Partner EV can go 171 miles between charges which take 7.5 hours from a 7kW garage wallbox.
Peugeot's MK3 model Partner van has become cleverer and more sophisticated, whilst still retaining the practicality that has made it an LCV favorite. The latest BlueHDi diesel and EV powertrain technology should make a big difference to running costs and if you get yourself a variant with the navigation-equipped 8-inch infotainment screen inside, then your little compact van will feel very up to date indeed.
The French brand has obviously put plenty of thought into the design of this third generation Partner and it's backed up the hi-tech stuff with slick features intended to make the working day that little bit straightforward, many of which are packaged up in the Multi-Flex modular seating system - a must-have feature on this LCV. You also get very class-competitive payload and carriage capacity figures, along with a comfortable ride and a wide choice of factory-built models. It all adds up to a strong business proposition.