With style, size and technology now on its side, Peugeot's much improved Euro6-compatible MK3 model Expert has much to offer if you're looking for a versatile medium range Transit-class van.
Engine choice in an Expert is pretty straightforward, provided you've a clear idea of the kind of work you want it to do. Sensibly, all the Euro6 units on offer are diesels and if your needs are mainly based around lighter loads and short distance urban work, then the entry-level 95bhp 1.6-litre BlueHDi unit may well be quite sufficient: this engine's also offered with 115bhp. For heavier payloads and longer journeys however, you'll be needing the 2.0-litre BlueHDi model which gives you a lot more pulling power and is available with either 120, 150 or 180bhp, the most powerful unit mated to the brand's efficient EAT6 auto transmission.
A key factor behind the success of the previous generation Expert was the way it remained compact and wieldy in the manner of smaller, more car-like vans from the class below. This model's bigger of course, but it retains much of that same usability around town and rides much better thanks to revised suspension and a stiffer EMP2 platform. Special wishbone filtering dampens the impacts of our country's terrible tarmac and the variable stiffness springs and shock absorbers deliver surprising levels of comfort whether the vehicle is loaded or unloaded. Peugeot also claims that refinement is much improved this time round. And, as before, there's the option of a Grip Control traction system. We also like the 'Driving time warning system' which flashes up a dash warning after two hours of uninterrupted driving at speeds of 40mph and above.
This new generation Expert certainly has a little more road presence than its predecessor. The restyled grille features a smarter brand logo, while more sleekly designed side panels are structured with sharp lines and sculpted by concave door sills. There are low side protection strips and a solid black front bumper, this integrating air inlets across the entire width of the vehicle and aiming to emphasise what Peugeot hopes is a robust appearance. Visually, it's quite hard to pigeon-hole this vehicle into a particular market category. You can see that it's bigger than something like a Berlingo or Kangoo-sized Peugeot Partner but you might question whether it has the volume to take on medium range vans of Transit or Vito size. As we'll see, it has.
On board, Peugeot's designers have concentrated on improving ergonomics and driving comfort this time round. You get the usual high seating position and three-person bench. And there's certainly more cab storage space - 49-litres of it in the standard van version. Providing you haven't bought in with entry-level trim, the first thing you'll probably notice about the restyled interior is 7-inch colour touchscreen that's now been added. It can work with voice control and offers the usual 'phone and media features, plus an optional 3D Navigation system.
Despite the recent growth in sales of ever-larger compact vans, you can see why so many operators still choose to play it safe and opt for a larger but still relatively light and manoeuvrable LCV like this one. The Expert's designers have clearly looked very closely at what modern businesses need and this smarter new generation Euro6 version makes even more sense on the balance sheet.
It's more than competitive against the Transits, Vivaros and Trafics of this world, but whether you'd want one over its Citroen and Fiat design stablemates will depend as usual much upon the deal that you're offered and the proximity of your local franchise. Still, Peugeot's huge dealer network and tight pricing sets it up nicely here. It's user-friendly - just like this van.Click here to find out more about our Peugeot Expert range
The Vauxhall Vivaro is back; bigger and better finished than ever before. There's a choice of two lengths and two roof heights for the panel vans. The interiors are a good deal more comfortable and practical and the engines comprise either a 1.6 turbodiesel or a 1.6 twin turbodiesel, both powerplants available with two different power outputs.
The engines that power the Vivaro are both 1.6-litre turbodiesel units, but aside from that, they deliver very different results. Most buyers will probably opt for the 1.6-litre CDTi unit, available in either 89 or 113bhp power outputs. In order to match the sort of power outputs Mercedes can deliver with the Vito, Vauxhall has also introduced the 1.6-litre BiTurbo CDTi engine, available in 119 or 138bhp guises. Powered by two turbochargers working together, this engine combines excellent performance with decent fuel economy. From just 1,500rpm, the 119bhp BiTurbo generates an impressive maximum torque of 320Nm, while the 138bhp variant delivers 340Nm. From just 1,500rpm, the 119bhp BiTurbo generates 320Nm torque, while the 138bhp variant delivers 340Nm, so there's plenty of muscle even if you're fully loaded.
The driving position, though not as lofty as in some models nevertheless affords a decent view up the road. You get big door mirrors to help with manoeuvring and tried and tested transmissions.
The Vivaro looks anything but another anonymous panel van. There's a bluff Vauxhall front end, with plenty of chrome and huge headlight pods set in high-gloss black mouldings. The LED daytime running lights come with signature Vauxhall wing graphic design. Move round to the side and you'll spot the crisp blade feature flowing from under the side mirrors back to the rear wheel-arches in the same style found on the Insignia family and Astra GTC models.
The new Vivaro colour palette comprises eleven standard colours, with five solid and six two-coat metallic finishes. The cabin is much improved as well, with better refinement, a focus on utility, plus darker and more durable materials used throughout. Comfort has been improved as well, with seats that rake back and more adjustability for the steering column. There are also some neat touches like a detachable clipboard and a place to hide your laptop.
It's often the case that a manufacturer with a successful model on its books succumbs to paralysis; afraid in many ways to kill a goose that lays golden eggs. The Vivaro has been just such a model for Vauxhall and while the company has taken a very long time to launch a replacement, the changes to the second-generation design are well-judged and ought to continue the Vivaro's strong sales.
Is there really that much to choose between panel vans? After all they're merely boxes of fresh air on wheels. Perhaps the answer to that is that when it comes to operating a fleet, even small differences rapidly add up and Vauxhall's claim that the Vivaro delivers the best fuel economy in its class has to be taken seriously. With a broad and versatile range, clean and powerful engines, distinctive styling and a more comfortable interior, it's hard to see how this one can fail to score.Click here to find out more about our Vauxhall Vivaro range
The revitalised Mercedes Vito van offers an efficient range of powerful frugal diesel engines, smart styling, a quality cabin and decent levels of equipment. Buyers get a choice of 1.6 or 2.1-litre diesel power and there's the option of either front or rear-wheel drive. As a result, Stuttgart's medium-sized Crew Van contender looks better equipped than ever to take the fight to an increasingly impressive array of Volkswagen Transporter and Vauxhall Vivaro-sized rivals.
The big news with this modern-day Vito range is the option it offers of front-wheel drive, a format that comes mated to a 1.6-litre diesel engine borrowed from Renault's Trafic. There's the choice of it in either 88bhp '109 CDI' form or in 114bhp '111 CDI' guise. Beyond that, as before, the powerplant that forms the backbone of the range is a redesigned version of Mercedes' stalwart 2.1-litre four-cylinder common rail diesel borrowed from the larger Sprinter model, an engine which has already gained a good reputation for its combination of performance, economy and refinement and, almost uniquely for a four cylinder LCV diesel, is fitted with balancer shafts to eliminate vibration and improve what were already class-leading levels of refinement.
As with previous Vito models, this 2.1-litre unit comes in three states of tune, the options beginning with the 136bhp '114 BlueTEC' entry level version. Beyond that, there's a 163bhp '116 BlueTEC' model and a 190bhp '119 BlueTEC' flagship diesel variant. The latter model comes only with 7-speed '7G-TRONIC PLUS' automatic transmission, the most sophisticated auto gearbox in the segment. It's an option for '116 BlueTEC' customers.
And over bumps and around corners? The ride might be a slightly firmer than you're used to but it's an undeniably supple and well-controlled one you'll quickly adapt to and appreciate. There's also the fact that, a little unusually in this class, this van is rear rather than front driven, meaning more rewarding handling than you might be expecting and a tighter turning circle.
The face of this generation Vito has a chunkier, more robust look that takes its cues from the current Mercedes passenger car line up.
Rear twin doors are standard for the van models, which can be opened back to the 180-degree position or locked in place at an angle of 90 degrees. A tailgate is standard on the crew van and Tourer models, as well as being a no-cost option for panel van models. Easy access is also achieved to the load space via side sliding doors, fitted to both sides of the vehicle as standard, with a wide entry. In addition, a full-height bulkhead is fitted to panel vans as standard.
The Vito's wide door opening and well-placed step mean that getting in to the cabin is a simple enough manoeuvre and once seated aloft, you'll find a cab with three-abreast seating that's closer than ever to Mercedes-Benz passenger car standards thanks to the introduction of higher quality fabrics. It helps that the smart steering wheel isn't set at such a bus-like angle as you'll find in some competitors, with further car-like cues found in the way that most of the controls are located on a neatly presented centre console with the re-shaped gearstick protruding from the dash below.
The biggest compliment I could pay the revised Vito would be to suggest it to be the least van-like van I've driven to date. Transit-class designs don't usually also have to function as luxury, up-market people carriers as this one does and the difference in build excellence is obvious as soon as you take a seat inside. But nice though it is to have a quality feeling behind the wheel of one of your company's LCVs, that doesn't pay the business bills. So, Mercedes has looked at the best that its competitors can offer and borrowed high technology from its luxury car line-up in order to match them.
The result is a benchmark among vans that you can buy with head as well as heart and one that can carry heavier loads with more speed, less noise, greater comfort, sharper handling, reduced fuel consumption and cleaner emissions. Medium range Transit-class customers will always have cheaper options of course. Nearly all though, are lacking this van's one most crucial ingredient: Star Quality.Click here to find out more about our Mercedes-Benz Vito range