By Wayne Gorrett
A reasonably priced, efficient, five-seater load sponge that offers pretty much everything you’ll ever need. It’s very easy to drive, to live with and is flexible to most lifestyles.
We took a shining to….
* Hugely practical * Spacious cabin * Flexible, comfortable, user-friendly seating *
* Goodish drive * Good turbo-diesel * Good interior quality *
…but noted that…
* Motorway wind and road noise * Pricey in this top-spec Outdoor guise *
* Citroën’s Berlingo Multispace does the same job, better * It’s no looker *
☀ ☀ ☀
Dagnammit, let’s put all the van talk into a sealed box right here at the top of the show. Like its Citroën cousin – the Berlingo Multispace – both of which share C4 and 308 underpinnings – the Partner Tepee may well look like a two-box van with windows (so do the Land Rover Discovery and the Range Rover), but both were designed from the outset as load-lugging, multi-passenger cars.
Introduced to the UK market as far back as June 2008 (replacing the Partner Combi), the Peugeot Partner Tepee is as spacious and practical as medium-sized cars go and a viable alternative family car. It’s also surprisingly fun to drive, has good grip, decent handling, the engines are smooth and it feels solidly built. However, on the entry-level versions you’ll have to spend a bit extra on desirable comfort and safety kit. It doesn’t deal too well with Pothole Central UK and most of the cabin plastics can be a tad harsh. But then, you don’t go all touchy-feely in your car every day and those you do happen to make contact with are just fine. Buyers of this car don’t buy it for what they want, they buy it for what they need. The power-steering is quite light and while handy for parking manoeuvres, it’s a little too responsive at A-road or motorway speeds.
To state the bleedin’ obvious, this is not a car for Sheddons or Schumachers. What it is, is an every-day car for those who need to get from A to B and back. The ‘B’ is likely to include the local skip, the school run, assembling the bridge club or just a summer’s day out with the family – with plenty of room left over for Shep. The mid-power 1.6-litre 115bhp diesel engine is a little chatty but is adequately punchy and you won’t have to work it hard to keep pace with most traffic. Its torquey, low-rev pull reinforces its suitability to the car.
Behind the wheel, the steering wheel adjusts for rake and reach, but some drivers will want a more upright ‘sit-up-and-beg’ angle. It’s otherwise easy to get comfortable, and the large windows mean excellent visibility. The controls while utilitarian, are simple and easy to use, although you wouldn’t use the word ‘stylish’ too frequently. Noise levels are well-suppressed for what is a cavernous car.
Space is where the Partner Tepee excels and is its primary raison d’etre. There’s plenty of room for five, with very generous headroom. Sliding rear doors make it easy to get in and out in tight spaces, too. The huge boot will swallow everyone’s luggage, and the low sill makes loading a cinch. Three independent folding/removable/adjusting rear seats are optional on most of the range, but standard on the Outdoor as tested.
When it comes to moving quickly through air, a box shape is not conducive to efficiency, yet buyers will benefit from vast space and stowage, plus great accessibility and versatility. Sliding doors are a boon in tight supermarket car parks. Roof rails are standard fit across the range, so carrying additional items on top of the car is easy, and there’s the overhead storage system inside, too. Our top-spec Outdoor version had chunky black plastic body cladding and a 10mm ride-height increase, giving it the look of a junior SUV and further enhancing practicality.
Through most of the range, the Partner Tepee is not a generously equipped car. It gets remote central locking, electric front windows and a front overhead storage compartment, but that’s about it. It’s much better to go for the mid-spec S, which adds a height-adjustable driver’s seat, a carpeted boot, electric door mirrors, extra storage space and the choice of more engines. Top-end Outdoor models (as tested) gain alloy wheels, air-conditioning, raised suspension and roof bars.
French cars are not traditionally known for being the most reliable or best built products. However, the Partner Tepee has an advantage in that its simplicity is certainly in its favour – there’s just less here to go wrong.
Driving fun is probably a low priority for Partner Tepee buyers but it handles with surprising agility. It shares many underpinnings with the Peugeot 308 and corners more like a car than a van. It is lower and wider than the Partner Combi (which it replaced) and body roll is only apparent on severe twists thanks to its better poise. The power-steering is very light – useful for parking manoeuvres but a little too responsive at higher speeds.