March 25, 2019

Three’s company

PSA Group’s latest van comes to the market in three guises from its Vauxhall, Citroën and Peugeot brands. Dan Gilkes looks at what’s on offer.

Peugeot, Citroën and Vauxhall will all have new vans in their dealerships in early December. The Peugeot Partner and Citroën Berlingo will replace current models of the same name, while the new Vauxhall Combo will take over from the former Fiat Doblo-based model, now that Vauxhall/Opel is part of the PSA Group.

There are two wheelbases and body lengths on offer, though only one roof height. The Berlingo XL, Partner Long and Combo L2 have a 19cm longer wheelbase than the shorter models, with a 16cm longer rear overhang.

They provide a load volume of 3.3m3 for the smaller model and 3.8m3 for the longer van, though both can be increased – to 3.9m3 and 4.4m3 respectively – with a folding passenger seat and load-through bulkhead. However, both the long and the shorter vans can now carry over 1-tonne of payload if required, though reduced payload models are also available.

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

Even with the current strength of feeling against the black pump, there will be three diesel engines on offer, though they will be joined by two petrol engines next year. PSA will continue to sell the existing electric Partner and Berlingo at present.

The BlueHDI 75 and BlueHDi 100 are the current Euro 6b 1.6-litre diesel engines, with Stop&Start now standard on the 100bhp model. The BlueHDi 130 is a new 1.5-litre Euro 6d TEMP BlueHDi, which meets the next stage of Euro 6 emissions regulations.

Regulations

The two 1.6-litre diesels will be replaced by similarly powerful Euro 6d 1.5-litre engines next summer, in time for a change in LCV emissions regulations in September 2019. Service intervals for the 1.6-litre diesel are 16,000 miles/1 year, while the newer 1.5-litre diesel has variable service intervals, of up to 25,000 miles/2 years.

The 1.2-litre PureTech petrol engine will come next year, with 110bhp and 130bhp outputs. The 75bhp and 100bhp diesels 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 additional £1,150.

Though petrol engines only account for around 2-3% of Peugeot Citroën sales in this sector at present, there is growing fleet demand for petrol, from the likes of the Post Office. Both companies are expecting growth in petrol sales though, particularly to urban customers and those operating in low emission zones.

With the front section of the chassis based on PSA’s EMP2 modular framework, as used in a range of Peugeot and Citroën SUVs and people-carriers, there are plenty of driver assistance and electronic safety aids on offer. Several of the assistance systems are made possible, as the vans have moved to electronic power assisted steering. However, few will be standard equipment in all but the top trim levels.

The most interesting options include a Surround Rear Vision system, that provides three different views to the rear of the van, for driving, manoeuvring and parking. This uses a 5” screen in place of the traditional rear-view mirror, with the driver able to toggle through the views on offer.

Overload indicator

The vans will also be the first to offer a factory-fit Overload Indicator in this sector. The system measures the load on both axles and provides a warning to the driver when 80% load is achieved. This allows for the driver and a passenger to travel without exceeding the maximum weight. At 100% load, a second warning is given, to prevent overloading.

Though outwardly similar, apart from the grilles and badges, there are some differences between the three vans. The Partner van uses Peugeot’s i-Cockpit layout, as seen on its cars, with a very compact steering wheel and a raised dash, that can be seen above the wheel, rather than through it. Both the Citroën and the Vauxhall vans use a more conventional dash layout and a regular sized steering wheel.

Partner and Berlingo will each be offered in four trim levels, while Vauxhall will have three model variants on offer. Peugeot’s base S model and the Berlingo X come 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.

Move up to a Partner Grip or Berlingo Worker trim and you add 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.

Peugeot’s Professional trim and Berlingo Enterprise do without the off-road capabilities of Grip or Worker, but add 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 you get an 8” touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirror Link.

The range-topping Partner Asphalt and Berlingo Driver come with 16” alloys, body coloured bumpers, door handles and mirror housings, auto wipers, 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.

Price rises

Partner prices are expected to rise on average 6% compared to the previous model, while Berlingo prices will go up 8% to achieve parity. The specification will have improved though and the total cost of ownership should be lower.

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.

To put some space between its van and those of its French stablemates, Vauxhall will offer 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 to Sportive and you get 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.

The 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. Crew Van models, which will be added next year, will be offered in Edition and Sportive trim levels.

There is no specific construction model for the Combo line-up, but there will be 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 and the van is expected to lead a year of change for Vauxhall, with a new Vivaro and updated Movano both due by mid-2019.