Saturday 22 February 2020

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Cork Independent


Best seats in the house

Thursday, 22nd August, 2019 8:52am

There’s a reason that, increasingly, celebrities have been turning to vans for transportation. Unlike a hulking great SUV, or a long limo, a van can glide through crowded streets without anyone giving it a second glance. A stretch Rolls-Royce attracts attention and lenses. A delivery van doesn’t, even if inside the van can (sometimes) be as luxurious as the posh car.

Of course, you don’t need to be a celebrity to appreciate the value of a van with windows. To put it bluntly, you just need to have been a bit busy after bedtime.

Many of us now have growing families that need space and seats. Back in the day, you could have three or four kids rolling around on the back bench of your Cortina, but in this time of safety first, everyone needs their own seat, and seatbelt, and quite right too.

Then there’s the dilemma of luggage space — in most conventional seven-seat family cars, be they egg-shaped MPVs or rugged-and-tough SUVs, there’s a conundrum. That conundrum is: seats or luggage space? Because, guess what, you can’t have both.

The Peugeot Traveller solves that conundrum pretty nicely, with the alacrity of a lifetime ‘Countdown’ viewer being presented with an easy anagram. It is, basically, a van, so roominess is its forte. But it’s not quite as simple as that.

Yes, the Traveller is a van — basically it’s the passenger version of the Peugeot Expert, and you can also buy one in Citroen, Toyota, or Opel flavours if you fancy — but its chassis is the same Efficient Modular Platform 2 (or EMP2) that you’ll find underpinning the likes of the 508 saloon or the 3008 crossover.

So instead of having to take a big, clunky, unrefined van and turn it into a refined set of family wheels, Peugeot is starting with something that’s already based on the architecture of its family cars.

You can have your Traveller in three overall lengths, running from 4.6 metres to a whopping 5.3 metres. If that sounds daunting, then it’s worth remembering that 4.6 metres is the length of an average family car, while 5.3 metres is about the same size as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class. So big, but not unmanageably so.

Into that length Peugeot has crammed space. Lots and lots of it. Our Allure-spec Traveller came with seats for eight, divided into two in the front, and then two rows of three seats each in the back.

You can also have a more luxurious Business VIP version that comes with two rear-facing ‘captains’ chairs and a three-seater bench in the back, but we decided that the family-friendly version was more appropriate.

The beauty of the Traveller is that you can stuff six people into the rear compartment, and they’ll find that those seats are comfortable and supportive.

On one run, with a full complement in the back, everyone there — from toddler to grown up — fell happily asleep as we drove. Not sure if that’s a compliment to Peugeot’s seats or an insult to our powers of conversation, but there you go…

Better still, there’s space behind the seats (all of which recline, slide, and adjust and all of which have ISOFIX anchors) for luggage. A lot of luggage.

Even the short-wheelbase version gets a massive 750 litre boot (in five-seat mode), while our long-wheelbase test car expanded that to 989 litres with all eight seats occupied, and fully-back on their rails — surely enough for any family, especially as there’s also stowage space under the seats.

Up front, you face a very car-like dashboard. The Traveller doesn’t get Peugeot’s small-wheel, high-instruments i-Cockpit layout, which some of you may prefer, but there’s no doubting that some care and attention has been paid to making the drivers’ section feel relatively upmarket and well-made by van standards.

Allure spec gets you leather seats all-round, split-zone climate control in the front, with a separate rear air conditioning system, and a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system. That includes DAB radio, and Apple CarPlay.

Other standard equipment, in this trim, includes hill start assist, tyre pressure sensors, a neat heads up display for the speedo, cruise control with speed limiter, and a child surveillance mirror. There’s also a parking camera, and keyless entry and ignition.

You can even have massaging, heated seats. Rear seat passengers get slim, long sunroofs as well as window blinds, and even a 2 volt three-pin charging socket.

Up front, under that stubby bonnet, is Peugeot’s 2.0 litre BlueHDI diesel four-cylinder engine, and as with the rest of the Traveller, it’s surprisingly refined. Considering that this is a big vehicle, and you can pack it full of people and chattels, it’s reasonably sprightly, and fuel economy works out at a very decent 7.7 litres per 100km.

To drive, the Traveller is about as you’d expect, but a bit better than you might think. The steering is light, and a touch imprecise, but as a thing in which to waft down the motorway, it’s better than good.

The ride quality is yielding, wind noise is well-suppressed, and the Traveller feels stable and sure-footed. It’s actually quite un-van-like to drive.

Even with the long wheelbase, it’s not that awkward in town. Yes, you have to be aware of both the length, and the broad turning circle, but we got in and out of some surprisingly tight spots, including one spectacularly narrow gateway off an almost-equally narrow lane.

This rather luxurious version of the Traveller is priced at €51,360 which is quite a lot, but it’s worth remembering what you’d get for similar money in an SUV or MPV. The answer being not much, and actually one seat less.

The Traveller proves that, as we’ve noted before, supposed commercial vehicles can actually make the best family cars. C’mon, all the celebs are doing it…

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