What Car? says...
You may not think you know many people that own a Peugeot Boxer - but you also stand to be surprised, as it is used as a donor platform for everything from horseboxes to ambulances to motorhomes and therefore far more prevalent on our roads than you may imagine.
The Boxer is relatively lightweight for a large van, which means that converters love it for its flexibility when it comes to putting a body on the back and lots of equipment inside. The same can be said for the Citroen Relay and the Fiat Ducato, both of which share the same platform, but the contrast is that when it comes to a plain old panel van, the Peugeot has historically been conspicuous in its absence on our roads.
However, the Boxer is a large, capable and versatile van, let down a bit only because it is now quite old. The basic van dates back to 2006, and since then it has had just two significant updates: it received a facelift in 2014 and Euro-6 engines were fitted in 2016.
The latest improvements are, on paper, less significant, and are predominantly aimed at enabling it to meet the tougher Euro-6d emissions regulations, but they have considerably improved this ageing warhorse.
Having had its engine downsized from 2.2-litres to 2.0-litres in 2016 to meet the initial Euro-6 requirements, Peugeot has pushed it back up to 2.2-litres for the newer Euro-6d TEMP requirements. Thankfully, the larger outputs mean more power, with the new 2.2-litre BlueHDI available in three power outputs up to 163bhp.
If you’re after an automatic gearbox you’ll be disappointed, as the Boxer has no two-pedal options in its range. If the six-speed manual won’t do you, rivals including the Ford Transit, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Volkswagen Crafter are all available with an automatic option.
The Boxer does, however, provide you with plenty of body size options, with four lengths and three heights available. There’s also the chassis cab option which is so popular with bodybuilders as well as double-cab, and minibus versions. Need a converted van in a hurry? Peugeot has a dedicated range of off the shelf Boxer vans available with tipper, dropside, Luton van, curtain-sided van or a low-floor Luton.
You can transport anything from 8m3 to 17m3 if you need to fill up your Boxer van, or as much as 1575kg in the best performing 3.5-tonne van.
If you’re looking to find out how to identify this new Boxer from the previous versions then you’ll have to have your wits about you. Almost nothing has changed since a significant redesign of the grille for the Euro-6 update. This time around there’s the option of LED daytime running lights within the headlight unit – something reserved for the most expensive Boxer vans – and a slightly more rounded bumper. It’s minor stuff, none of which is likely to sway your buying choice.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The newer, larger engine has made an obvious difference to the way the Boxerdrives; not only is there more power, but it is smoother and quieter with it.
The entry-level model has increased by 10bhp to 118bhp but retains the same 221lb ft of torque. Mid-level units also get a 10bhp boost to 138bhp and have 251lb ft of torque available. Completing the range is a 163bhp engine, which replaces the 158bhp unit but adds 15lb ft of torque, bringing its total output to 273lb ft. Stop-start systems are now fitted to minimise emissions and a six-speed gearbox is standard across the range.
With more power and torque the 2.2-litre engine in every form is now far more forgiving. It has more low-down urgency and is much better at pulling away when heavily laden or if you’re not quite in the optimum gear.
The gearbox has a tight gear shift action, which although often found in sportier vehicles, works well with an engine which is always ready to give you power. Shifts are smooth and you feel very little of the engine or its changes through the driveline.
The same cannot be said about noise, though, as the Boxer is still a fairly loud, clattery van to drive. It’s a massive improvement over the outgoing model, but it’s not as refined as some of the other vehicles in the segment. If you want a quieter and more sophisticated cabin we’d suggest you explore a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter or Volkswagen Crafter, but while it is behind some competitors it’s far from an unpleasant place to be.
As a large van you’d expect the Boxer to feel quite heavy and cumbersome, which it does, but throw in the van’s firm ride quality and you end up with a strangely satisfying combination. It feels far more of a driver’s van than you would imagine, but also manages to feel safe and sensible at the same time.
Visibility is excellent because the cabin is so spacious and wide. It’s also helped because the seating position is particularly high, even for a large van, so forward views in particular are good.
Overall the Peugeot Boxer is a good van to drive, only let down by its age. The Renault Master or Vauxhall Movano are marginally better, while the Ford Transit, Volkswagen Crafter or Mercedes-Benz Sprinter are a cut above.
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