While the Expert offered just four cubic metres of loadspace and a payload of around 900kg, rivals like the Vauxhall Vivaro and Volkswagen Transporter could swallow up to 8.4 cubic metres and carry up to 1,200kg.
So while Peugeot catered very nicely for those fleets requiring only modest proportions, it missed out on the bigger end of the medium panel van market.
But with the launch of this new Expert, things have changed in a big way. The Expert now boasts short and long wheelbase models together with standard and high roofs, which now put it head-to-head with its rivals.
The model which has joined our test fleet is the smallest of those on offer – short wheelbase/standard roof – but with a 2.0-litre turbodiesel powerplant boasting 120bhp at 4,000rpm and 225lb-ft of torque at 2,000rpm. The basic price is £14,720 ex-VAT.
The first thing to notice about the new Expert is that despite its extra bulk over the old model, its exterior presents a very stylish and sophisticated face to the world. After all, it is based on the 807 people carrier, so it’s hardly surprising that it looks so good.
The exterior is practical, too. Unlike some of its rivals, the Expert has substantial plastic bumpers front and rear, together with side rubbing strips which should keep it reasonably free from annoying dings during its lifetime.
Climbing aboard, which is achieved via remote locking, the cab appears light and airy, while the dash is totally different from the 807’s, having been designed by Pininfarina.
On the minus side, the cab is still a good deal smaller than the Vauxhall Vivaro’s, and although there are three seats, legroom for the middle passenger is severely restricted by the centre console and gearbox. In the back, our van has optional ply lining which will not only protect it and make it worth more at selling time but also gives the whole van a pleasant woody aroma.
Peugeot has also thoughfully provided a pair of stretchy nets which hook round the rear load-lashing eyes (see picture).
They aren’t exactly on the options list but can be purchased from any Peugeot dealer and are worth their weight in gold.
If you have, for example, six bags of shopping to carry home from Tesco, you’ll find that if you put them in the rear of a van, they will be scattered the length and breadth of the load bay by the time you get home. Eggs will probably be smashed and milk will liberally be sloshing around the floor. Our simple little nets will stop this motorised scrambled eggs maker forever.
Engine-wise, our model sits in the middle of the range.
There is a 90bhp 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre 136bhp on offer, too, and both are cracking units. We chose the 120bhp as it is likely to be the big fleet seller.
Having driven all three, I’d say that for most fleet purposes, the 90bhp engine will prove adequate but drivers will certainly love you for choosing the more powerful unit.
It pulls smoothly even with a full load on board and driven empty, it is capable of some quite admirable feats of acceleration.
The 136bhp unit is really for the Expert variants that have seating for nine people so can all but be discounted for our purposes.
The van has been with us for a few weeks now and in that time I’ve noticed several other members of staff glancing across the car park at it with admiration in their eyes – it really is one sassy looking commercial vehicle.
And when it came to the first fill-up, the Expert went up again in my estimation.
Having completed a variety of trips from short-haul stuff to fast motorway blasts, it returned a very satisfactory 36.2mpg.
As the engine loosens up during its stay with us, we expect that figure to increase even more.
The manufacturer’s view
The new Expert is an important addition to Peugeot’s LCV line-up and has enjoyed strong sales since its launch earlier this year.
The market seems to be equally pleased with it – March sales finished ahead of plan and the order take is very strong, indicating that this performance will be continued. It is a van that offers maximum flexibility.
We expect new Expert to build on the success of the previous model and the early signs are that is exactly what’s happening.
Caroline Beaumont, LCV product and pricing manager, Peugeot
Equipment and options
Price (OTR ex-VAT): £14,720
Price as tested: £15,030
Price (ex-VAT): £14,720 (£15,030 as tested)
Company car tax bill (2007) 22% tax-payer: £55 per month
Insurance group: 6E
Combined mpg: n/a
Test mpg: 36.2
CAP Monitor RV: £4,750/30%
Contract hire rate: £463
Expenditure to date: Nil