When multi-purpose vehicles or “people carriers” first hit the market, their one-box forms were unceremoniously dubbed “vans with windows” by many.
Citroen and Peugeot countered this in the 1990s by releasing actual vans, with windows. It was a clever move – vans are very much known for their spacious interiors, hardy mechanicals and simplicity, and the Berlingo and original Partner sold well with budget-conscious buyers.
Fast forward to 2013 and both Berlingo and Partner remain. The trappings of “lifestyle” accoutrements are more apparent these days, but the ethos remains. We tested the Berlingo Multispace a few months back – how does its Peugeot cousin, the Partner Tepee Outdoor fare?
There’s no getting away from it – the Partner Tepee still looks very much like a van. How much weight you lend to that depends on whether you enjoy the Tepee’s chunky profile and imposing size.
If you accept the limitations of its van-like silhouette it isn’t such a bad looking thing, and the large plastic door strips, black bumper inserts, LED daytime running lights, chrome-ringed fog lamps and alloy wheels all lift it far above your average builder’s van.
It’s also worth noting that few MPVs are truly cool in the first place, so it seems a little unfair to mark the Tepee down in this respect.
If anything, it deserves extra credit for refusing to hide its roots. It is a vehicle designed to hold people and things, and the exterior styling is unashamed evidence of that.
Ah, so here’s where all that van-based lark actually makes sense. There’s no other way to describe it: The Tepee’s interior is enormous.
Rear seats up, you’ve 675 litres of boot space to play with. That’s double the space of most family cars, and makes the roof rails almost redundant for most – you’d have to take all your worldly posessions on holiday with you to fill the boot to any extent.
Drop the rear seats, which fold and tumble individually, and you could take days to find your way out again.
Wherever you sit there’s plenty of space too, and the upright position of all the seats is comfortable. It also affords a great view out whether in the front or back – the latter being important if you have children.
Visibility is excellent from the driver’s seat, with plenty of glass in every direction and a relatively high seating position. The driving position is – surprise surprise – a little van-like, but comfortable all the same.
Shorter drivers might have to stretch a bit to reach down for the handbrake, but a good range of seat and wheel adjustment will allow most to get comfortable.
Plastics lag behind the sort of quality Peugeot usually offers these days, but importantly everything feels sturdy. The dashboard too is a bit of a cliff face, but most controls are well-located and the large satnav pod on the top of the dash is easy to see.
Yes, it drives like a van too. A refined van, but a van nevertheless.
However, anyone who has ever had a van inches from their rear bumper on a twisty road will know they can be hustled around at quite a pace, and the Partner Tepee Outdoor is no different. The sizeable tyres provide plenty of grip and as long as the body roll and light, low-feel steering doesn’t worry you, it’s possible to achieve surprising cross-country pace.
Part of this is down to the ride quality, which is towards the better end of cars we’ve driven and has no problem dealing with ripples and potholes. It doesn’t bounce around too much on undulating roads either.
This ride refinement continues on the motorway, where you’ll also note a surprising lack of wind noise, tyre roar or engine grumblings. Maybe it isn’t that van-like after all…
Under the bonnet of our Tepee Outdoor was a 1.6-litre HDi turbodiesel, producing a modest 92 horsepower. Outright performance is unimpressive on paper – 60 mph in 14.3 seconds, and a 102 mph top speed – but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
The engine does all its best work low in the rev range. Keep it between around 1,500 and 2,500 rpm, where the engine is happiest, and it’s a strong, willing engine.
Noise is audible but not excessive and the five-speed manual gearbox is satisfyingly slick. It makes a bit more of a din if you keep your foot down, but there’s little point – by the time you reach around 4,000 rpm the engine is giving up.
Stay at low revs, and movement seems to come with minimal effort. The engine’s willingness to do all its work low down pays dividents with economy too. Officially the HDi will manage 54.3 mpg, and our car’s trip computer indicated a thoroughly respectable 48 mpg by the end of the week.
Value for money
You can look at this two ways. Our car’s 16,205 basic price tag – 18,045 with metallic paint, auto lights and wipers, parking sensors, cruise control and navigation – does seem a bit steep for an otherwise relatively basic vehicle.
But compared to normal, car-like MPVs, it’s a steal. The least you can spend on a 1.6 diesel version of Peugeot’s 3008 mini-MPV is 19,195. That car offers far less space, is only marginally cheaper to fuel and tax, and only a little quicker. Start loading it (or any other similarly-sized MPV) with toys, and you’re quickly into the mid-twenties.
And if all you need is the space and the same 1.6 HDi engine, Partner Tepees can cost as little as 14,555. Really cut back on kit and put up with a 1.6 petrol engine, and pricing starts at 12,995.
The Tepee HDi sits in band E for road tax, at 135 g/km. That means a 120 yearly bill, while the Pug’s standard warranty lasts two years and unlimited miles. Insurance is a sensible group 7E.
We really rate the Peugeot Partner Tepee Outdoor. Accept the limitations of its humble beginnings and it hits the targets in virtually every area – it’s economical, incredibly practical, comfortable, great value next to traditional MPVs and feels like it’ll take a good bit of punishment during the rigours of family life.
In fact, we’re tempted to recommend it as a serious alternative to Peugeot’s own 3008. We like the 3008 but slightly more car-like road manners aside (and the potential for higher trim levels) it doesn’t do the family car thing any better.
Ignore the van with windows slurs and enjoy all the benefits the design brings…
What the press think
The Partner Tepee gets good reviews, with plenty of praise for its comfort, practicality and driving manners. Some criticise the low kit levels of basic versions and recommend staying away from the petrol models, but in general the outlook is positive.
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