Richard Aucock
08/07/2009 06:00 | By Richard Aucock, contributor, MSN Cars

Peugeot Partner Combi 1.6 Escapade review (2003-2008)

On test:Peugeot Partner Combi 1.6 Escapade


Bodystyle: 5dr Estate
Engine: 1.6-litre in-line 4 cylinder
Fuel type: Petrol
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Date of test: 2003

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What is it?

Peugeot's van-based MPV - or a rebadged Citroen Berlingo Multispace. Cheap and practical, it's for people who want MPV-style flexibility but aren't prepared to pay MPV prices. Like its Citroen sibling, it's recently enjoyed a major overhaul, now looking far less utilitarian than before. There's a new dash, 4x4-style front and improved equipment levels. Peugeot has also finally endowed it with 1.6-litre petrol and 2.0-litre HDi diesel engines; originally, only 1.4-litre petrol and 1.9-litre diesel engines were offered. They still are, but are maybe best avoided, as performance is sorely lacking.

Where does it fit?

Naturally, it's a direct rival to the Citroen, though some may prefer the Peugeot for its beefier styling. Indeed, in the Escapade trim tested, it also benefits from a higher ride height than the equivalent Citroen, as well as underbody protection and headlight covers. It looks even more like a 4x4, despite it still firmly being a front-wheel-drive model. Visually, it's a rival to the Renault Kangoo Trakka, But perhaps the most capable rival is Fiat's Doblo. Funny-looking but enormous and very capable, it's also a bargain, being both cheaper and better-equipped than the Peugeot.

Is it for you?

It is if you want an inexpensive van-based MPV but also want to try and make a style statement. This is easily the most rugged of the breed, thanks to the 4x4 connotations, and would look pretty cool on the beach so long as you didn't get it stuck. Given its styling and rugged underbody, the omission of 4WD seems a little odd: but that's to the advantage in terms of both price and efficiency - and do you really need it anyway?

What does it do well?

The Escapade's 1.6-litre engine is surprising. Very smooth and acceptably fast, it's a real delight to use. It gives the car an eager nature which also-impressive handling seems to reinforce. Despite appearances, body roll is well-contained and the tall, square stance means it's surprisingly easy to thread across country lanes. Yet the ride rarely becomes crashy, dealing with scary-looking craters easily. Meanwhile, the interior is colossal, with a high roof and bags of comfort for five. The boot is also huge and sliding rear doors are exceedingly useful. Escapade trim adds grass-green carpet, dog guard and other spangley details, which are a matter of taste but certainly brighten it all up.

What doesn't it do well?

Noise levels are higher than in a traditional MPV, due to the tall roof and sheer space inside. Rattles are also a little too noticeable, though generally build quality seems acceptable. The gearchange is light but lacking in feel, brakes are grabby and the van-like driving position means some drivers have to stretch to spin the wheel around town. Over-the-shoulder visibility is restricted by a huge doorhandle, and seats are a little oddly-bolstered for real comfort. And there's always the feeling that this is a van with windows, despite the substantial savings…

What's it like to live with?

Quite apart from the many thousands of pounds you'll save over a regular compact MPV, the Partner Combi Escapade should prove inexpensive to run. Fuel economy form the 1.6-litre engine is good (possibly even better than the 1.4-litre - you don't have to drive it as hard to summon power) and service intervals are a lengthy 20,000 miles. Insurance ratings are low and the fact that it's so cheap initially means you'll never lose a packet in depreciation. Actual retained values are pretty good. However, it's appreciably more expensive than the Citroen, while Peugeot also fails to offer the cashback deals its sister company regularly does.

Would we buy it?

The Escapade is a good-looking vehicle which appears far more rugged than the usual breed of van-based MPVs. A taller ride height and other 4x4 connotations give it a harder edge, without destroying its considerable practicality. It also drives as well as standard Partners, surprising many people who are new to the breed. It can't match regular compact MPVs, but it's not far off. However, although the Escapade is impressive, we can't recommend it over the Citroen, simply because it's notably more expensive. Sure, with a Berlingo Multispace you don't get the rugged additions or a CD player, but you save plenty of money - and in this segment, value for money is what it's all about.

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