A few years ago the line between van and car began to blur. A significant group of consumers found they needed the interior functionality and driving experience of a car and also the load carrying capacity of a van, on a regular basis. While this used to mean buying one of each, the financially sensible option is now easily available in the form of van-based MPVs.
A driving force behind most MPVs is to minimise the evidence of their van-like origins and emphasise their car-like qualities. However, for those who are buying for purely practical purposes, who have no car-snob inhibitions, there is a hugely useful group of vehicles that is unashamedly van-like yet also works well as a car. Peugeot has been leading the way in this sector for a long time now.
2008's massively practical incarnation is dubbed the Partner Tepee so called to distinguish it from the small panel-van, Partner Origin. It follows on from the successful but basic Partner Combi, offering the same utility in a smarter package. The economy end of the market was filled by the oddly named and slightly smaller Bipper Tepee, allowing the Partner Tepee the luxury of comfort and convenience features, yet still with the same van-based blueprint.
There is a well planned range of engines available: 1.6 litre 16v petrol units in 89 and 120bhp guises, or three 1.6 litre HDi options at 75, 90 or 109bhp, all with a five-speed manual transmission. The original five-seater became an optional seven-seater in 2009.
Bang for your buck
The point of van-based MPVs is unequivocally their practicality. They can and do carry lots of people, comfortably, along with a large payload of luggage. It's not just open space, either. All the crevices and crannies have been utilised – underseat drawers and an internal roof rack are good examples.
Peugeot Partnet Tepee Trim levels start with Urban, then S and the ruggedly styled Outdoor. ABS, EBD and EBA are all standard, while ESP is an optional extra. Entrance to the rear is through useful side-sliding doors and the rear seats are foldable and completely removable.
The Partner Tepee is also a particularly good-looking example of this class of car. As a van with clear sides you'll never be able to call it sleek or elegant, but the Partner Tepee is about as smart as these things get and the materials used are of a higher quality than the cheaper Bipper Tepee.
What you'll pay
Partner company Citroen's Berlingo has always been more visible than its Peugeot counterparts, so you will find plenty of them on the market but the Partner Tepee is essentially the same car. Early examples are now available from £6,000, going up to £7,000 by 2010 and £10,000 for last year's nearly new models. It's beautifully affordable.
What to check
The used Peugeot Partner Tepee for sale boasts the robustness of a van and sound engineering. No known faults are reported so go for a full service history and give the interior a thorough going over – unfortunately cars made to be treated roughly often are.
You'll get a pair of brake discs for £25 and pads for £40 for the front, shock absorbers come in at about £30, a new battery £60 and a timing belt in the region of £80.
How it drives
A range of five engines sounds varied enough, but realistically they are all 1.6 litre units and none of them will get you anywhere fast – 14 seconds from 0-60mph is as good as it gets. However they are smooth enough – obviously the more powerful units are far better for motorway use or heavy loads than the entry-level models.
While the car-like properties of this van are lauded, it's actually more a case of a van being based upon a car, with the Tepee riding on a Citroen C4/Peugeot 308 chassis, giving it a more comfortable suspension set-up and a quieter ride than your average van.
While this is certainly not a car you buy for the driving pleasure, it does an excellent job of advancing the reputation of van-based MPVs. They hold an increasingly secure place in the market and are an ever-improving market sector, of which Peugeot have been a mastermind since 1996.