2019 Peugeot/Citroen laiunch event at The Venue, Alexandria, Sydney. (Photo Matthias Engesser/Narrative Post)

Peugeot is back in the light commercial vehicle game in Australia with the announcement  that it is relaunching the Expert mid size van range  and its Partner small van and Boxer big van ranges in the third quarter.

The announcement was made this week by Peugeot Citroen Australia’s new managing director Ben Farlow at a ‘Peugeot Citroen gala’ in Sydney aimed at selling a reborn and revitalised Peugeot Citroen operation to the media, dealers and staff.

Farlow who comes to the auto industry after being a global sales and marketing executive with both  Diageo and Bacardi Martini in the liquor industry strode the stage at the launch with a confident pitch, which at times bordered on religious fervour. If Peugeot’s latest rebirth in Australia doesn’t come off this time it won’t be through a lack of enthusiasm from its new Australian MD.

The Expert will be the first of the new Peugeot LCVs  to arrive hitting showrooms on 1 May  with a starting price of $36,490 plus on roads for the short wheel base 85kW variant.

The Australian Expert line-up will see three engine options along with two lengths and the choice of either a manual or for the first time a proper torque converter auto. Passenger versions of the Expert and  the bigger Boxer are under consideration for Australia, which could spice up the mini bus market for bus operators.

Peugeot will aim the Expert up against  the likes of VW’s Transporter, Renault’s Trafic, Hyundai’s iLoad, Ford’s Transit and  market leader the Toyota HiAce ( which is about to be updated for the first time in 15 years). Partner will be up against VW’s Caddy and Boxer will face off against VW Crafter, Benz Sprinter, Renault Master and Iveco Daily.

Although Peugeot has not sold the Expert here for a few years now this new generation model has been on sale in Europe for about three years.  Peugeot’s  local distribution has seen it change from Syme Derby to Inchcape  with a couple of different management regimes as well and its fair to say  the chopping and changing and varying plans have not helped the famous French brand’s sales fortunes here in recent times and as a result there is a fair bit if sales inertia to overcome.

The new MD, Ben Farlow is promising a new approach and says the company now has more commitment from Peugeot in France, which has also see a massive turnaround from near collapse only five years ago.

The PSA turnaround came under the stewardship of Carlos Tavares.

At PSA, Tavares did what many in the industry thought was impossible: turning around PSA, then repeating the trick by making the perennial money-loser Opel/Vauxhall profitable just a year after its acquisition from GM in 2017.

The executive pushed Opel’s unions to accept job losses and slashed costs on everything from printers to company phones — a method he had already used when PSA was near bankruptcy. R&D expenses at Opel were slashed by piggybacking new models onto existing platforms of the parent’s Peugeot and Citroen brands.

Tavares is doggedly pursuing global growth for the French maker  on the back of a revitalised product line up that may see its latest push in Australia succeed. Ask anyone involved in Peugeot it  years past and they will say PSA’s lack of commitment here has been the biggest hurdle and its clear Peugeot and Citroen would be eyeing  the Australian sales growth success of its French rival Renault with some envy.

A brief driver in and around Sydney last week revealed the new Expert is a great machine but its success in the market is dependent on a lot of other factors outside just its great design, engineering and performance.

Peugeot has finally realised that without an auto  in the Aussie van market  it is a struggle and  the new Expert has the option of an Aisin six-speed torque converter auto on both the 110kW and 130kW engine variants.

The auto and also the six speed manual is mated to a two-litre four-cylinder with 85kW/300Nm, 110kW/370Nm or  130kW/400Nm power options.

Peugeot is claiming the Expert can deliver fuel economy of as much as 5.2L/100km in the entry level 85kW manual with equally impressive emissions figures of just 137g/km CO2. The 85kW and 130kW are both Euro 6  spec while the 110 is at Euro 5 level.

The 85kW engine is only available in the short wheelbase model while the 130kW engine is only available in the long version while the 110kW is available in both.

The short wheelbase delivers a load length of 2.5 metres while the long variant boasts four metres of load length, which can be extended in both versions with what Peugeot calls the ‘Moduwork’ system, a removable trapdoor on the passenger side which combines with a fold up passenger seat to allow an extra 1.1 metres of load length through the steel bulkhead separating the cockpit from the load area.

In terms of cubic capacity the shorter wheelbase delivers 5.3 cubic metres of load space with the longer model boasting 6.6 cubic metres while payloads vary from 1000kg to 1300kg depending on the model. When it comes to towing the Expert has a capacity of between 750kg and 2200kg. he Expert offers 5.3 cubic metres of load space.

 The drive revealed that indeed the Expert does have car like handling  and performance. Peugeot has based it on its EMP2 platform, which also underpins the  308, 3008, 5008, 508 and Citroen C5 Aircross, passenger cars so it is not surprising that the platform delivers arguably the best handling available in  the van market.

Along with great dynamics  the Expert gets a whole raft of safety equipment as standard including city adaptive cruise control, Automated Emergency Braking, lane departure warning four airbags, auto headlights and wipers, auto high beam, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, front and rear daytime running lights./

It also comes with a very good 7.0-inch multimedia system which includes both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and is very tastefully laid out inside.

Peugeot will be selling Expert with a five year/200,000km warranty with roadside assist throughout the warranty period.

Peugeot’s pricing  for the Expert looks competitive  ranging as it does from $36,990 for the 85kW manual, through $39,990 for the110kW manual, $42,990 for  the 110kW Auto, $44,190 for the 110kW LWB auto and $45,890 for the top of the line 132kW LWB Auto.

As we said both the smaller Partner and the larger Boxer vans are set to arrive later this year and we wait to see if this latest Peugeot foray into the LCV market in Australia success, it could if the commitment is as strong as the launch .promised