Peugeot brings us its first really serious stab at the super-large luxury MPV market in the form of this model, the Traveller. Jonathan Crouch looks at what's on offer.
Ten Second Review
This Peugeot Traveller might be fundamentally based on the marque's medium-sized Expert van but it's undeniably sophisticated as well as being light, airy, and seriously spacious, with room for up to 9 people. 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.
It's the age-old problem if you've a very large family and want an MPV. Even large examples of the People Carrying breed can't take much luggage if you fill all seven seats up with occupants. Which leaves you having to struggle with a roof box or fitting a trailer, neither of which you'll regularly want to be bothered by. The answer is a super-large MPV - one of those based on medium-sized vans. Typical entrants in this segment include Ford's Tourneo Custom and Hyundai's i800 or, if you've a little more to spend, Volkswagen's Caravelle or Mercedes' V-Class. The vehicle we look at here, Peugeot's Traveller, is the most recent entrant in this class, based on a design also shared with the Citroen Space Tourer and the Toyota Hiace Verso. The Traveller is based on the latest generation version of the French brand's Expert van, just as its predecessor was, that vehicle badged rather awkwardly as the 'Expert Tepee'. That was just an Expert LCV with seats, windows and a few extra niceties. Peugeot though, is telling us that this 9-seater Traveller model is more than that. Is it? Let's find out.
Engine choice in a Traveller model 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 people carrying duties 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 150 or 180bhp, the most powerful unit mated to the brand's efficient EAT6 auto transmission. A key factor behind the success of this vehicle's Expert Tepee predecessor was the way it remained compact and wieldy in the manner of smaller, more car-like MPVs from the class below. This model should retain much of that same usability around town and will certainly ride much better thanks to more sophisticated suspension and a stiff EMP2 platform. Special wishbone filtering is provided to dampen the impacts from our country's terrible tarmac and the variable stiffness springs and shock absorbers should deliver decent levels of comfort whether the vehicle is loaded or unloaded. Peugeot also claims that refinement is much improved this time round. 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.
Design and Build
This Traveller certainly looks much more of a car-like thing than its Expert Tepee predecessor with its sharply angled windscreen and smart frontal treatment. Under the skin, this MPV utilises the acclaimed 'Efficient Modular Platform 2' (EMP2) as the basis to combine its relatively compact exterior dimensions with maximum roominess. Inside, this model can offer up to 9 spacious seats with 1,500 litres of boot space - or up to 4,900-litres of luggage space if you take out the removable seats. Available in three defined lengths, ranging from 4.60m to 5.30m, the Traveller's height of 1.90m is low enough to guarantee entry into covered car parks - a relatively rare attribute in this segment. The 'M' and 'XL' length versions of 4.95m and 5.30m will be the variants chosen by most buyers, but even the shortest 4.60m-long 'XS' version can comfortably accommodate up to 9 people in all seats. There's also a top 'Business Plus VIP variant which provides its rear-seat passengers with a 'four face-to-face' seat configuration, each occupant treated to their own individual leather armchair. There's also a multi-function roof with tri-zone climate control and soft air diffusion, plus mood lighting for even greater luxury. Across the range, most models get hands-free electric sliding side doors which can be activated with a wave of the foot.
Market and Model
Think in terms of a £30,000-£35,000 price point for plusher versions of this Peugeot Traveller, once you've chosen the spec to your liking and you shouldn't be far out. The basics of specification are worth repeating here, so there's a choice of three vehicle lengths - 4.60m 'S', 4.95m 'M' and 5.30m 'XL' - all of which can be configured as 5-to 9-seaters. Inside, all models get a 7" infotainment touch-screen. This setup's voice recognition provides additional security for using the Navigation, Telephone and Media features without taking eyes off the road. Traveller buyers can also specify sophisticated connected 3D navigation as part of a package that includes TomTom Traffic real-time traffic information and, via Peugeot's 'Connect2' media package, access to information like the location and prices of service stations and car parks, weather forecasts and local search of points of interest. The Peugeot Connect Nav system also integrates a MirrorScreen function so that you can use functions from you smartphone on the centre dash 7-inch screen. Latest generation electronic driving assistance devices include a 'driving time warning system', 'Driver Attention Alert', a 'Road sign reading with speed limit recommendation system' and an 'Active Safety Brake' set-up. You could also add 'Blind Spot Monitoring' and a 'VisioPark surround view camera system - both useful on a vehicle of this size.
Cost of Ownership
The Traveller's Euro6 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 51.3mpg on the combined cycle, along with 144g/km of CO2 for the 95bhp 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesel model, figures you can improve to 54.3mpg and 135g/km if you go for the same variant fitted with an ETG6 auto gearbox. We'd want a little more power and would opt for this engine in 115bhp guise, in which form you're looking at 55.3mpg and 133g/km. Go for the 2.0-litre BlueHDi 150bhp derivative and the figures are 53.2mpg and 139g/km, while even the top 2.0 BlueHDi 180bhp EAT6 auto gearbox variant returns 48.7mpg and 151g/km.
Bridging the gap between Peugeot's passenger car range and the marque's light commercial vehicle line-up, the Traveller 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 Traveller 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 and as a result, could well be worth a look for larger families.