Road Test: Peugeot Expert
There are a number of automated manuals available – VW’s excellent DSG, the Renault/Vauxhall Quickshift/Tecshift, Fiat’s Comfort-Matic, while Mercedes has continued to market full auto transmissions, the latest being the 7G-Tronic that is now available in Sprinter.
Peugeot’s Expert van might not be the obvious next name in that list, but the French company is now offering a full auto six-speed box in its mid-size load hauler. It’s available as an option with the range-topping 163hp version of Peugeot’s 2.0-litre diesel engine, and will set you back around £1,000 on top of the van’s price.
You can order the engine and transmission combination in an L1H1 van like we have here, or in the longer L2H1 body. It’s not available with the higher roof for some reason. Rather oddly the auto doesn’t come in the Professional high specification versions either, so you will have to tick option boxes if you want the air-con and Bluetooth that comes as part of the Professional pack. ESP is standard on all vans with the 163hp engine though.
The 163hp Expert claims the same acceleration and top speed figures whether you opt for the manual or the auto transmission. To be honest though the auto feels instantly quicker, partly because its gear-changing is so smooth and swift.
Traditionally the big downside of an automatic box has been fuel related, though the modern six-speed auto doesn’t give away too much to its manual cousin. Peugeot claims a combined figure of 44.1mpg for the 163hp manual, while the auto offers an entirely believable 39.2mpg. The manual pumps out 168g/km of CO2 and the auto a still respectable 189g/km.
Perhaps unusually, the automatic will carry slightly more, offering a payload of 1,204kg versus 1,186kg in the manual van. But few buyers will be looking closely at the final few kg of load weight.
The big difference, particularly in congested urban conditions, will be the driving experience, which is excellent. I would go so far as to say that this is the best Peugeot van that I have driven in quite some time.
The Expert pulls away from the lights rapidly and will happily hold its own on all types of road. The transmission is smooth and very well matched to the van, shifting up and down rapidly and without fuss.
There is no denying that it is operating in a crowded market sector though, many of its competitors being much younger and in many ways more advanced. Our van came with a single passenger seat, making it feel roomy inside. You can carry three with the standard twin passenger seat though.
Our van also boasted a host of optional extras, including manual air-con (£800), Peugeot Connect Navigation including Bluetooth (£650), cruise control/speed limiter (£160), rear parking sensors (£190), Visibility Pack (auto lights and wipers plus front fog lights (£180)) and colour coded bodywork (£300). Perhaps if you are happy to spend the extra on the auto box then some of these options will appeal too.
Which brings us to the auto’s biggest challenge: cost. Few customers will worry about the additional fuel consumption, but finding the extra money at purchase time might be another matter. However, if the buyer is also the driver, and they work in a predominantly urban environment, the auto really does make driving much easier.
The automatic transmission remains a niche option in Peugeot vans. However, if it was extended across the engine range and the price was a little lower, it could prove more popular.