What Car? says...
To many, the Peugeot Partner is the same as the Citroën Berlingo and the Vauxhall Combo Cargo. They’re built in the same factory in Spain and are broadly similar in their specification, if not their looks.
However, in any joint venture such as this, there is always a more dominant partner, one that gets its way a little more than the others or has a few more special features. The Peugeot Partner is definitely that van among this trio.
All three vans get the same engine options, with either a 1.2-litre Puretech petrol or 1.5-litre BlueHDi Euro 6 diesel engine, and each has its own front end styling. However, it’s only the Citroën and the Vauxhall that share an interior. That’s because the Peugeot Partner has its very own i-Cockpit, a design adapted from Peugeot's passenger cars and one that sets the Partner apart from its siblings.
Buyers have the option of S or Professional trim levels, as well as Grip and Asphalt specialist versions.
The Partner is available in two sizes – standard and long – but can also be specified as a crew cab that can transport up to four passengers. Manual gearboxes are fitted as standard, but there is an option of an eight-speed automatic.
Sales of the Partner as a van have traditionally been higher than those of the Berlingo, but it also competes against the immensely successful Ford Transit Connect, as well as the popular VW Caddy and Renault Kangoo.
In this review, we'll examine what makes the Peugeot Partner worthy of consideration, and we've also revealed what we think are the best small vans to buy right now.
And don't forget, if you're interested in leasing a new van, you can find the cheapest deals at What Car? Leasing.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Peugeot Partner's 1.5 BlueHDi diesel engine which is likely to be the starting point for most buyers is found across Peugeot's passenger car range, and is available in 74bhp, 99bhp and 128bhp forms; we’d steer you towards the mid-range option, which Peugeot predicts will be the most popular choice. It has a decent mix of impressive fuel consumption and torque that will work well in both city driving and on the motorway.
If your usage will lean towards more long-distance driving, however, consider the 128bhp diesel option for the simple reason that it gets a standard six-speed manual gearbox, rather than the five-speed ’box that comes with the lesser engines, helping to improve fuel economy. If an automatic gearbox is your preference, the most powerful engine is also available with an eight-speed automatic gearbox option that is well matched to the Partner.
The 1.2-litre Puretech petrol engine which is on offer in the Partner is again the same one that's offered on Peugeot's passenger car range, and indeed is an engine we consistently recommend, so if you won't be covering enough miles to justify a diesel it's worth looking at.
The other key point about the Partner is that it is built using the same underpinnings as the Peugeot 3008 and 5008 SUVs, so it gets not only passenger car power but also passenger car attributes that make the ride and handling of this little van far better than the model it replaces. While it can’t quite match up to the Transit Connect in terms of how comfortable it is, it is certainly on a par with the Volkswagen Caddy for overall driveability. Very little noise penetrates the interior, too.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Many vans claim to focus on the driver, but few manage it as well as the Peugeot Partner. The i-Cockpit interior design might not be to everyone’s taste, but it certainly makes you feel like you're at the heart of the van. It’s a reworking of Peugeot’s passenger car interior, and it means the instrument cluster is mounted higher than in the other vans, with different dials and gauges. Another obvious difference is that the steering wheel is flattened at the top and bottom, giving the whole interior a more modern feel.
Elsewhere, the Partner's interior is well put together and spacious. Two-seat or three-seat options are available, with the centre seat on the three-seater also doubling up as a fold-down table for use as a mobile office. A new design of the collapsible front passenger seat helps improve the rear load space capacity of the Partner, too, adding half a metre of extra length thanks to a load-through bulkhead.
The interior is far more comfortable than that of the previous Partner, and the technology is infinitely more impressive. Professional models get an 8.0in touchscreen that supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, as well as other infotainment features, much of which are also controllable via the steering wheel-mounted controls.
Storage throughout is fairly standard for a city van, with cupholders, a ledge across the top of the A4-sized glovebox and a small area on top of the dashboard (and behind the touchscreen if you have one fitted). Door pockets suitable for a large bottle are perhaps the most useful storage space, along with the overhead shelf.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
While the front half of the Peugeot Partnet is reminiscent of that of a passenger car, the rear is strictly commercial vehicle and retains the dimensions of the previous model. There are two wheelbase lengths available: standard (L1) and long (L2), the bigger of which adds 350mm to the overall length of the vehicle, making an L1 van 4403mm and an L2 van 4753mm.
Maximum load length is 1817mm for the L1 and 2167mm for the L2, while the width between wheel arches is 1229mm. There’s no option of a high roof, but the Partner has a maximum load space height of 1243mm and a loading height for the rear of 548mm in the L1 and 620mm in the L2.
Maximum load volume is 3.3 cubic metres for the L1 and 3.9 cubic metres for the L2. However, an extra half a cubic metre is possible with the addition of the Multi-Flex folding partition bulkhead. Twin rear doors and a side loading door are standard on all vans, while the long-wheelbase versions get an additional sliding door.
Payloads vary by model, but there are two different gross vehicle weights depending on whether you have a two-tonne van or a 2.3-tonne van. Broadly speaking, the lower-weight vans can transport 650kg to 670kg, while the higher-weight Partners can transport anything from 955kg to 1020kg.
Long-wheelbase vans get a hard plastic floor covering as standard, but it is an option on the shorter vans. Six floor-mounted load securing rings are standard on all models, while a Loading Pack (which includes extra LED lighting, 12V and 220V sockets in the rear load space and four mid-height load lashing rings) is available as an option but standard on Grip models.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Partner will cost you more to buy than either of its badge-engineered siblings, and also more than the rival Ford Transit Connect. In fact, it's one of the most expensive small vans on the market.
If you're looking for the most economical version of the Partner, the middle-powered 99bhp diesel engine should be the one you opt for, but in truth each Partner engine is a frugal option. Average fuel economy ranges from 61mpg to 67mpg – the same as the highly efficient Econetic version of the Transit Connect.
The Partner is covered by a three-year/100,000-mile warranty and servicing intervals are every 25,000 miles for the BlueHDi 130 model, but every year or 15,000 miles for the 75 and 100 vans.
Additional safety equipment has taken a huge step forward on the new Partner, and there are now more than 20 options available to buyers, including traffic sign recognition, blindspot monitoring, distance alerts, active safety braking and driver attention alert.
Entry-level S models get electric mirrors and windows, Bluetooth connectivity, DAB radio and automatic headlights. Professional trim adds air conditioning, parking sensors at the rear, cruise control and speed limiter, an electronic parking brake, alarm, a tyre pressure monitoring system and one-touch electric windows and folding mirrors. There’s also a much more adjustable driver’s seat and the Multi-Flex folding passenger bench that allows for that storage.
Asphalt models add onto Professional trim with an armrest and additional sound deadening. There’s also automatic windscreen wipers and the Peugeot Connect sat-nav system, along with passenger side and rear cameras. Grip models are based on the S trim and are designed for light off-roading; they get additional underbody protection as well as Grip Control with hill descent control, making going off-piste a little easier. Changes on the inside include a 220-volt socket, the Multi-Flex passenger seat configuration and an improved driver’s seat.
One particularly good option we would endorse (particularly if you carry a lot of weight in the van) is the overload indicator. It alerts you as you reach 90% of capacity and again when the vehicle is overloaded.
Another innovation unique to the Peugeot Partner, Citroën Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo Cargo is the Surround Rear View. It comes as standard on Asphalt trim models but is an option for the others, and gives you a 5.0in screen with blindspot views as well as rear views of the vehicle.
We’d be inclined to go for a Professional-spec model, simply for the value it offers in terms of additional equipment, but if you plan to cover many miles, the Asphalt has a generous package too.
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About the author
George Barrow is one of the leading van and truck reviewers, and is the UK’s only representative on the prestigious International Van of the Year jury. He has written about vans and commercial vehicles for the past 15 years, and can be found in titles including The Sun and What Van?, alongside What Car?.
Barrow is well regarded in the commercial vehicle industry, securing access to the latest models – and the people who made them – long before other titles.
The Peugeot Partner is regarded as a durable van. It is sold with a three-year/100,000-mile warranty as standard. Some Partners are used as workhorses, which means you should always check how the van has been maintained if you are buying used. Read more on Peugeot Partner running costs.
The Peugeot Partner comes with the option of a two or three-seat layout, which you can specify when ordering the van. Read more about the Peugeot Partner interior.
The Peugeot Partner and Citroën Berlingo (and Vauxhall Combo Cargo) are the same van in almost every regard, and even built in the same factory in Spain. However, it stands out for using the i-cockpit design from Peugeot’s cars, which elevates the interior and puts the driver at the heart of the van. Read more about the Peugeot Partner interior.
Peugeot has made some progress in bolstering its appeal and reputation in recent years, but still sits mid-table in most depreciation charts. It’s vans fare little better than its cars, either, and while the Partner typically edges its counterparts fractionally, the Citroën Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo Cargo, rivals from Ford and VW do better.
Peugeot’s goal is to be considered at the top level of mainstream brands, for instance comparable to the likes of Volkswagen. While most would consider that slightly ambitious at present, it has made significant strides to push upmarket in recent years. It remains a long way from the orbit of luxury van or car makers, however. Read our full Peugeot Partner review.