Named after a tent and based on a van, unfettered luxury might not be on the agenda in Peugeot's Expert Tepee but it fills the role that families and businesses need it to. Jonathan Crouch reports on the improved version
Ten Second Review
It might be named after a tent but Peugeot's improved Euro5-compatible Expert Tepee is light, airy and seriously spacious. If anything, its commercial vehicle roots serve as a strength, the voluminous interior, tough build and uncomplicated design proving ideal for family buyers who'll happily shoulder the slight ride and refinement issues.
Peugeot's improved, sleeker-looking Euro5 Expert Tepee might be a van with extra seats but could its robust practicality be preferable for some families over the niceties of a purpose-built MPV? If your family life feels more like hard graft than domestic bliss, this converted commercial vehicle has all the attributes to ease the burden. Letting on that its latest large MPV is based on a commercial vehicle was once a sure fire way for any manufacturer to hole the product below the water line before anyone had even ventured aboard. The perception being that vans were second class citizens in the automotive world and no amount of seats or windows was going to turn one into a passable family runabout. Such views were not without merit but modern vans, of which Peugeot's Expert is one, have progressed beyond the iron maiden ergonomics and Ozzy Osbourne refinement that characterised their forbears. Peugeot certainly deems the Tepee worthy of a place alongside its passenger-carrying models.
Citroen's offers a pair of its HDi diesel engines with the Expert Tepee and both are well-suited to the role. The 1.6-litre 90bhp offering has its work cut out on paper but 180Nm of torque helps and owners will be rewarded for their patience as it plods up steep inclines with low running costs. The more expensive 120bhp 2.0-litre unit has 300Nm to play with and is the one buyers planning on venturing beyond the school run and the supermarket should try and stretch to. Space is all important for any MPV but the bigger these vehicles get, the more important it is for them not to feel bulky to drive. The Expert Tepee manages this feat well with a surprisingly, low and car-like driving position that gradually massages away the realisation that you're at the wheel of a five-metre long minibus. The Tepee uses independent suspension at the front but the rear retains the torsion beam that the van version needs to carry its weightier loads. The result is a ride that's on the firm side and can be jarring on poor surfaces. It's acceptably smooth on good roads, however, and gives a good degree of composure in corners that, once again, belies the vehicle's prodigious size. A product of the Expert Tepee's low driving position, large dashboard and comparatively long front overhang is that it can be difficult to gauge where the nose of the car actually is when parking or squeezing into small gaps in traffic. The steering is on the light side but this is a welcome quality when running the gauntlet of the town centre at rush hour and isn't too off-putting on the open road.
Design and Build
Sharply angled windscreen and beefy frontal treatment notwithstanding, the Expert Tepee isn't what you could term pretty but then, how many large MPVs are? Who really cares anyway, when the Tepee's boxy shape yields an interior of supreme spaciousness - especially if you opt for the long wheelbase model. Every one of the seats is a proper adult-sized affair and can be folded down or removed completely, so it's perfectly possible to undo Peugeot's best efforts and turn the Tepee back into an Expert van again. The seats don't swivel or fold flat to the floor in the manner of those in some big people carriers but the raw space of the Tepee means it lacks little in terms of versatility. The long wheelbase model's ability to carry nine people and over 1,200 litres of luggage really is an eye-opener for those with super-sized families or companies that had been resigned to running a full-sized minibus. Access to the rear seating is via twin sliding side doors with the outside seats in the middle row sliding and tilting to let passengers get at the third row. The Expert Tepee's commercial vehicle origins are reflected in the tough plastics and hard wearing materials employed but it all means that this vehicle is one tough cookie with no trace of gimmicky design features or flimsy detailing. What you see is what you get. Storage runs to a lockable glovebox and overhead compartments plus front door pockets that could be wider and very handy bins in on the sides of the rear seats that will each take a half litre drinks bottle.
Market and Model
The model range is a straightforward affair. Pick one of the two engines, one of the two wheelbase options and one of the two trim levels. The L1 short wheelbase Expert Tepee is still a prodigious 4,805mm from nose to tail with the long wheelbase L2 derivative measuring in at 5,135mm. The Comfort trim level forms the entry point and is fairly stingy by passenger car standards. ABS with EBA and a driver's airbag are included along with a CD stereo and electric front windows but it's hardly the Ritz. Leisure trim is more like it with body-coloured bumpers and mirrors, air-conditioning, passenger and side airbags, electric folding door mirrors and a heated rear screen, although the third row of seats is optional here. The Tepee offers good, solid three-star accommodation and it seems churlish to grumble when the Leisure with the HDi 120 diesel engine comes in at that asking price.. An interesting option is the pneumatic rear suspension that lets you lower the vehicle's height to 1,894mm thus allowing access to many height-restricted car parks. Buyers can also specify part-glazed five or six-seater models with a panelled over luggage bay for extra security.
Practicalities and Costs
The Expert Tepee's Euro5 engines have been chosen with operating costs rather than performance in mind and this will suit businesses as well as families with a firm grip on their finances. Combined fuel economy is pegged at over 39mpg for the 90bhp engine and the 120bhp option sups from its tank at exactly the same rate. Emissions can be as low as 172g/km which is best-in-class. Choose the long wheelbase version and these figures suffer by 2mpg or so but it's still a strong showing. Insurance group 7E is decidedly wallet-friendly as well.
Bridging the gap between Peugeot's passenger car range and the marque's light commercial vehicle line-up, the Expert Tepee has a big job on to convince the public of its large MPV credentials. In the past, seasoned industry observers had a well-practiced sneer held in reserve for any commercial vehicle that tried to pass itself off as a passenger car, but times have changed. Modern light vans have reached levels of sophistication that aren't a million miles away from the passenger car average and we've seen in the smaller van-based MPV sector that there is an eager market for affordable, utilitarian people carriers. The Peugeot Expert Tepee takes the voluminous interior of its commercial vehicle progenitor and does enough to make it presentable and comfortable for business or family usage. It also borrows the Expert van's mix and match range structure, giving excellent flexibility for customers to specify the vehicle in the way they want. With rugged build, competent driving dynamics, strong economy and attractive prices, it seems well-suited to its target markets. With low emissions now a part of the deal too in Euro5 form, it could well be worth a look for larger families.