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Road Test: Compact load carriers

PSA Group looks set to pose a triple threat to the small van market, says Dan Gilkes.

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Peugeot, Citroën and new PSA sibling Vauxhall, have all unveiled updated vans in the small LCV sector. The Peugeot Partner and Citroën Berlingo replace existing models of the same name, while the new Vauxhall Combo takes over from the former Fiat Doblo-based model.

As with the previous generation, there will be two body lengths on offer. However, unlike the last Partner and Berlingo, where an extended load bay was placed on the same wheelbase as the shorter van, the new models have two distinct wheelbases, allowing improved load carrying abilities on both models.

The Berlingo XL, Partner Long and Combo L2 have a 19cm longer wheelbase, with a 16cm longer rear overhang. This provides a load volume of 3.8m3, compared to the 3.3m3 of the M/Standard/L1 models. In both cases the load volume can be increased – to 3.9m3 and 4.4m3 respectively – by opting for a folding passenger seat and load-through bulkhead.

Maximum payloads have been increased, with both short and long wheelbase models now able to handle over 1-tonne of load. There are also reduced payloads of around 680kg available, for the lower horsepower models. The L1 vans are expected to account for 75% of sales, with the highest payload taking the lion’s share of orders.

Talking of which, the manufacturers have three diesel engines on offer, to be joined by two petrol engines next year. Initially the BlueHDi 75 and BlueHDi 100 will use the existing Euro 6b 1.6-litre diesel engine, with Stop&Start now standard on the 100bhp model. The BlueHDi 130 is a new Euro 6d TEMP 1.5-litre BlueHDi, conforming to the next stage of Euro 6 emissions regulations. The 1.6-litre diesels will be replaced by similarly powerful Euro 6d 1.5-litre motors next summer, in time for a change in LCV legislation in September 2019. The 1.6-litre engines have service intervals of 16,000 miles/1 year, while the newer 1.5-litre diesel has variable service intervals, of up to 25,000 miles/2 years.

There will also be two versions of PSA’s 1.2-litre PureTech petrol engine on offer, with 110bhp and 130bhp, though these will not arrive until 2019. Petrol engines currently account for just 2-3% of Peugeot Citroën sales in this sector. However, there is growing fleet demand for petrol, from the likes of the Post Office in particular and the two companies are predicting a gradual move in demand. In the first full year of sales, that could be as high as 20% of the Partner/Berlingo mix.

The 75bhp and 100bhp engines come with a five-speed manual gearbox, while the 110bhp and 130bhp motors get six forward gears. The 130bhp engines can also be ordered with an Aisin eight-speed automatic transmission, for an £1,150 premium. Traditionally Citroën’s biggest selling Berlingo has been the 75bhp, 625kg payload L1 van, while the top selling Partner has been the 100bhp, 850kg L1 in Professional trim. Going forwards, Peugeot expects the 100bhp 1,000kg L1 to become the top model, while Citroën expects to see a move from the 75bhp, 650kg L1, to the new 100bhp, 1-tonne model.

All three vans are offered with a host of driver assistance and electronic safety aids, though few of them will be standard equipment. The most popular options are expected to include a Surround Rear Vision system, that provides three different views to the rear of the van, for driving, manoeuvring and parking. The manufacturers will also offer the first factory-fit Overload Indicator in this sector. The system measures the load on both axles and warns the driver when 80% load is achieved, to allow for the driver and a passenger to travel in the laden van. At 100% load a second warning is given, to prevent overloading.

All three vans will be in dealers from early December, with petrol engines and crew vans joining the line-up next year. All come with a host of driver assistance and safety aids.


Vauxhall Combo

Vauxhall will offer the new Combo in three trim levels. The entry level Edition, the Sportive and a range-topping Limited Edition Nav (LE Nav). The Edition model comes with a steel bulkhead, nearside sliding door, DAB radio with Bluetooth, electric windows and heated mirrors.

Move up to Sportive and the van gets a six-way adjustable driver’s seat, larger 16” wheels, air conditioning, metallic paint with body coloured bumpers, rear parking sensors, cruise control and an alarm.

On top of that, LE Nav adds body coloured mirror housings and door handles, side protection mouldings, a front bumper with a skid plate, 16” alloys and an 8” touchscreen with sat-nav. The Crew Van models will be offered in Edition and Sportive trim levels.

There is no specific construction model in the Combo line-up, but there is an IntelliGrip Pack available for £200, which can be ordered in conjunction with a Construction Pack (£575) that includes the underrun guards, mud and snow tyres and 30mm increase in ride height.

The arrival of the new Combo represents a far bigger change for Vauxhall than for the two French companies. The van will spearhead a year of change for Vauxhall, with a new Vivaro and updated Movano both due by mid-2019.

SECTOR Small van  PRICE £16,518-£27,564  FUEL 64.2-67.3mpg*  CO2 109-119g/km*

Rating **** 1/2


Citroën Berlingo

The Citroën Berlingo uses a conventional steering wheel and dash. There are four trim levels on offer here too, pretty much matching their respective Peugeot competition in specification and price. These range from X, through the construction-specific Worker, to Enterprise and a new range-topping Driver model.

While Peugeot calls the folding passenger seat Multi-Flex, Citroën is sticking with its Extenso name. In both cases, the outer passenger seat can be folded down and forwards, or the seat base can be fold up, to make room for longer loads coming through the bulkhead hatch from the rear. The bulkhead hatch can also be equipped with a load bag, that covers the ladders or pipes in the cab, to prevent dirt and loose materials from entering the cab.

All UK Partner and Berlingo models bar the entry level S and X trims will come with the three-seat layout. A second row of seating will be available in a crew cab model in 2019. This uses a sliding bulkhead to ensure occupant safety when the rear seats are folded forwards.

To bring Berlingo prices in line with their French stablemates, the Citroën’s list prices are expected to rise by around 8% with the new model.

SECTOR Small van  PRICE £16,518-£27,564  FUEL 64.2-67.3mpg*  CO2 109-119g/km*

Rating: **** 1/2


Peugeot Partner

Unlike the Citroën and Vauxhall vans, the Peugeot doesn’t just use a different front grille. Inside the cab, the Partner van has Peugeot’s i-Cockpit layout, as seen on many of the firm’s cars. This uses a very compact steering wheel with a raised dash that can be seen above the wheel, rather than through it.

Partner will be offered in four trim levels. Even the base S model comes with a full bulkhead, electric windows and mirrors, automatic headlights and daytime running lights. Technology includes ESC with Hill Start Assist, remote central locking, a DAB radio with Bluetooth and USB, plus Peugeot’s Connect SOS Assistance pack.

The Grip trim is based on the S model but adds an automatic electronic parking brake, Grip Control with hill descent, underbody protection, the Overload Indicator and a tyre pressure monitor. You also get 16” mud and snow tyres and a 30mm increase in ride height.

Professional trim does without the off-road capabilities of Grip, but adds air conditioning, rear parking sensors, cruise control, the automatic parking brake and tyre monitor, the Multi-Flex modular folding passenger seat with load-through bulkhead and front cornering fog lights. In the cab Professional adds an 8” touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirror Link.

The range-topping Asphalt trim level comes with 16” alloys, body coloured bumpers, door handles and mirror housings, auto wipers, Peugeot Connect 3D navigation, front and rear parking sensors and passenger and rear cameras providing rear and nearside visibility through a 5” screen where the rear view mirror would normally be fitted.

Partner prices are expected to rise on average 6% compared to the previous model, though the specification will have improved and the total cost of ownership should be lower.

SECTOR Small van  PRICE £16,518-£27,564  FUEL 64.2-67.3mpg*  CO2 109-119g/km*

Rating **** 1/2

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Written by Dan Gilkes

Dan has been a commercial vehicle and construction equipment journalist for almost 30 years. An automotive engineer and former fleet manager, he has driven almost every van, pickup and truck that has been launched in Europe over that time. As editor of VFW, his aim is to keep readers up to date with the latest developments in the light commercial world.

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