The What Van? Road Test: Peugeot Bipper

Date: Monday, July 25, 2011

A betwixt-and-between-sized van, Peugeot’s Bipper slots in somewhere between light commercials derived from small hatchback cars such as Ford’s Fiesta Van and larger high-cube vans such as Volkswagen’s Caddy. It shares the same design as Citroen’s Nemo and Fiat’s Fiorino thanks to yet another joint venture between PSA, Peugeot and Citroen’s parent company, and the Italian giant.
The Fiorino differs from its two stablemates however because it is marketed with the 95hp as well as the 75hp version of the ubiquitous 1.3-litre Multijet diesel. The others have to be content solely with the latter power option. The Fiorino can also be ordered in Adventure specification, which gives it some limited off-road capabilities.
On offer in Euro5 guise, and also employed by Vauxhall, the 1.3-litre diesel is a new arrival in the Bipper and Nemo. It replaces the cheaper Euro4 70hp 1.4-litre diesel, which is still for the moment available.
The newcomer is accompanied by one or two other changes, including a 70kg payload capacity boost combined with Stop & Start as standard, which kills the engine to save fuel when the van is idling at the lights or in a traffic jam. You re-start by dipping the clutch. Stop & Start can be ordered in combination with either a manual or a semi-auto gearbox. The latter is referred to as 2-Tronic in Peugeot parlance. Stop & Start can be switched off, but our recommendation would be to leave it on at all times if possible.

Cab

We opted to get to grips with a manual diesel Bipper equipped with Stop & Start and tricked out in top-of-the-range Professional trim. The alternatives are entry- level S and middle-of-the- road SE. Whichever trim level you pick, you will not be able to make the cab any bigger. While headroom would appear to be adequate, we suspect that taller drivers might struggle a little with legroom. The seats should be fine however, if you happen, like the writer, to be vertically challenged. The driver’s perch is height- adjustable, as is the steering column, and boasts an arm-rest and a lumbar support.
Oddment storage facilities include a capacious lockable glovebox, bins in each of the doors with a moulding for a soft-drink can, and a couple of cup-holders between the seats. One feature we really like is an A5 document holder that pops up from the top of the dashboard and provides a handy home for directions to delivery points if you have left your portable satellite navigation system at home.

Load area

Access to the cargo bay is by means of a sliding nearside door and twin asymmetric rear doors, with the wider of the two on the nearside. Both the opaque back doors can be swung through 90°, and through 170° or so if you release the user-friendly stays.
All the Bipper’s doors come with big, easy-to-grasp handles – a boon if you are jumping in and out all the time.
For your money you get half-a-dozen load tie-down points and a half-height steel bulkhead topped off with a mesh grille. What you do not get is protection against minor scratches and scrapes other than the odd plastic panel dotted here and there. You will need to budget for some sort of lining, including a covering for the floor.

Powertrain

The front-wheel drive Bipper’s four-cylinder in-line 1.3-litre high-pressure common rail direct-injection diesel is married to a five-speed manual gear-box. Top power kicks in at 4000rpm while maximum torque of 140Nm makes its presence felt at 1750rpm.

Traction control is fitted, and can be switched off if needs be. In passing it is worth remembering that the van’s 1750kg gross weight means that it is subject to car speed limits rather than the lower ones that apply to most light commercial vehicles.

Chassis and steering

The Bipper’s nose is supported by independent MacPherson-type suspension with a lower wishbone plus an anti-roll bar. At the back you will find a semi-deformable axle with an offset Panhard rod plus coil springs.
Graced by neat trims, our Bipper’s 15in steel wheels were shod with Pirelli P200 185/65 R15 tyres.
With 2.75 turns lock-to-lock, the power-assisted steering offers an 11.8m turning circle between kerbs, and in this context it is worth noting that the Bipper has an almost non-existent rear overhang.

Performance

A bit slow away from rest, the diesel Bipper accelerates briskly through the gears once it is rolling and has little trouble maintaining the maximum legal motorway speed even with some weight in the back. A smooth, glitch-free gear-change helps progress, and following the prompts of the shift indicator on the dashboard should aid fuel economy.
Unfortunately, it is all accompanied by way too much wind, road and engine noise, and we cannot help but think that some of the measures that should have been taken to control noise, vibration and harshness have been sacrificed to keep the little van’s price down.
More worrying is the ride.
No matter whether the vehicle is empty or laden, it is choppy to say the least, so much so that on some stretches of road we had to drop some way below the speed limit to stop our fillings from being shaken out. We are talking about roads we have travelled down in certain other vans without suffering from the same problem. This drawback has to be set against the exemplary handling.
It is sharp and responsive, with plenty of feedback through the steering, and Bipper’s high level of manoeuvrability and compact dimensions – overall length is less than 3.9m – allow it to nip into kerbside slots that would be barred to many other light commercials. That is a key advantage if you are on urban delivery work, and the mean streets of Britain’s big cities represent the Bipper’s natural habitat.
Big cities are plagued by traffic congestion, and this is where Stop & Start comes into its own. As well as cutting fuel usage it reduces CO2 emissions and we believe there is a strong case for fitting such systems as standard on all light commercial vehicles.
Average diesel consumption was a very creditable 63mpg.

 

Equipment

Opt for Professional trim and you get a manually operated air-conditioning system plus Bluetooth, not to mention the electric windows and electrically adjustable and heated exterior mirrors that are also found on SE models. The mirrors are large but lack a separate wide- angle section.
You get an MP3-compatible radio/CD player too, with steering-wheel-based remote controls, but the tone is so poor that most drivers will soon be hollering for an upgrade. A 12V power point is fitted between the seats.

Buying and running

A three-year/100,000-mile warranty is provided, with Peugeot Assistance roadside rescue and recovery available free for the first year. It only responds if your vehicle has suffered “a warranty-based fault” (how can you tell if it is or if it isn’t when you’re stranded miles from anywhere?), not if you’ve run out of fuel or lost your keys.
Service intervals for the van are set at two years/20,000 miles and all 260 of Peugeot’s dealers can maintain Bippers.

Safety

ABS comes as standard as do ventilated disc brakes at the front and – surprisingly – drums at the back. A driver’s airbag is included in the deal too, as are deep side-rubbing strips that preserve the Bipper’s body from minor dings and scrapes.
If you want to lock all the doors, then hit a button on the dashboard. They all lock automatically at speeds above 12mph anyway.
Remote central locking is provided along with deadlocks and allows you to lock and unlock the cab and load area doors separately.

 

History – Start of the tiny urban pacesetters

Along with Fiat’s Fiorino and Citroen’s Nemo, the Peugeot Bipper broke cover in early 2008. All three are the fruits of a joint venture between Fiat and PSA Peugeot Citroen, and effectively created a new segment of tiny urban vans. Prior to the trio’s arrival, microvans such as the Suzuki Carry, Bedford Rascal and, more recently, Piaggio’s Porter were the main options for urban operators such as florists and sandwich-delivery companies.
The Euro5 changes, mainly concerning the arrival of new more efficient engines, represent the first significant alterations to the Bipper since its launch.
While Renault has pitched in with the Kangoo Compact, it is interesting to note that other key players have yet to challenge Citroen, Peugeot and Fiat in this sector of the market. The nearest we have are car-derived vans such as the Vauxhall Corsavan and Ford Fiesta Van, plus Fiat and Peugeot’s own commercial vehicle versions of the Punto and 207 respectively. VW could be the first, as it’s known to be looking at the possibility of a sub-Caddy model.

 

Verdict

In many respects the ideal city delivery van thanks to its compact dimensions.

 

 



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