Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Vince Pornelos | posted April 14, 2015 18:00
The Philippines is a place where 5 seater automobiles simply isn't enough for a typical family. The simple reasoning behind that is because a Filipino family is quite large given that there is generally no distinction made between immediate and extended relatives.
That said, this is a place where vehicles with large seating capacities generally thrive, especially if they can take on families of seven or more, and such is the rationale why Peugeot Philippines decided to offer the extra large Peugeot Expert Tepee van.
Technically the Peugeot Expert Tepee is a people-carrier derivative of the Expert; a long-selling panel van amongst businesses in Europe. The model being sold here is already the second generation of the nameplate; a generation that was launched in 2007. It's also interesting to note that the Expert line actually started life as the Citroen Jumpy van. The van was subsequently rebadged and marketed by Peugeot and by Fiat as the Scudo and later on by Toyota as the ProAce.
Given it's utilitarian origins the Expert Tepee isn't something we would consider to be stylish, but if there's one thing we're sure of is that you'll should have no problem finding it in a parking lot full of vans like the Toyota Hiace Grandia, the Hyundai Grand Starex and the Nissan Urvan. The look is so distinctly Peugeot with that front end, tapered headlamps and large grille, though that goes double for the proportions. As it stands, the Peugeot Expert Tepee measures in at a massive 5143mm long, 2176mm wide and (given that this is a high roof model) 1980mm tall.
Pop the driver's door and you'll be greeted by a predominantly gray cabin... actually it's purely gray. The dashboard design is simple and done in plastic, but the layout is surprisingly functional and easy to get used to. There are plenty of useful compartments all around for whatever loose items you may have in your pockets; there are even compartments on the ceiling above the front row.
Slide open the rear doors and there are two more rows of seats for three persons each. The seating position is quite upright similar to that of the Toyota Hiace Grandia, though passengers in the third row cannot get in or out without folding one of the middle row seats. Given the Expert's size there is space for 1195 liters of cargo, and that's with the third row still up.
Features-wise, the Expert Tepee covers the basics and then some. Power features include the steering (of course), windows and mirrors along with an alarm system and central locks. There's a multi-information display on the dashboard, an AM/FM/CD/MP3/USB/Aux audio head unit and a powerful dual air conditioning system. There are also vents on the high ceiling in the back.
Peugeot Philippines is offering the Expert Tepee with just the 2.0L HDi common-rail turbodiesel with a 6-speed automatic gearbox. It may sound like a tiny engine given the size and weight of the Expert, but the 163 PS and particularly the 340 Newton-meters of torque actually handles the van very well. What's also interesting to note is that the Expert is a front-wheel drive van while its contemporaries are all rear-wheel drive models.
In city driving the Expert is surprisingly maneuverable thanks to the superb visibility from those huge windscreens and the tall, upright driving position; no wonder it's so popular in European cities, albeit as a commercial delivery van. The ride comfort in the city is alright, though it gets a bit bouncy in the back if the van isn't loaded up with passengers. With 1 passenger and some luggage in urban driving, the Expert Tepee 2.0L HDi returned 9.7 km/l (22 km/h average speed).
Driving on the highway, the Expert Tepee proved itself to be a smooth cruiser. The Expert gets good marks when it comes to acceleration and overtaking, though the noise suppression (particularly wind noise) need a bit of work. Fuel economy on the highway is admirable given the Expert returned 15.1 km/l (84 km/h average speed).
The 9-seater Expert Tepee that is being offered by the brand's Philippine distributor performs its intended role as advertised: a practical, efficient and distinct people carrier for PhP 2.2 million. There is, however, one pressing issue: the market already has plenty of people carriers.
The 2015 Peugeot Expert Tepee strikes me as something a company would use to shuttle their foreign visitors or board members around town as opposed to something that the head of a family would choose to bring their kids to soccer (or is it football?) games and ballet classes. The interior is too business-like (particularly the upright seating) and needs a healthier serving of family-friendliness. There definitely is potential but, in this spec, I'm not so sure this French van has what it needs (apart from its look) to be able to truly stand out from the sea of Grandias, Urvans and Starexes.
Personally I think Peugeot should have specced the Expert Tepee with leather, captain's seats, in-car video and other premium appointments to compete more against luxurious people carriers like the hot-selling Toyota Alphard. It may drive the price up to go that route, but people do pay to own something different and people definitely pay for something more luxurious.