Peugeot's Bipper van is available with an automatic gearbox that will drive down running costs. Matt Low reports
No longer content with providing three or four types of easily-pigeonholed vehicles, van manufacturers have gone all diverse. The boffins at companies like Peugeot, Citroen and Fiat have been busy designing new types of van to corner all sorts of niche market sectors most of us didn't even know existed. One of these market sectors to emerge is the sub-compact van sector. And into this market, Peugeot have launched the Bipper 2-Tronic with its automatic gearbox. Green, economical, and alarmingly big inside, the Bipper 2-Tronic returns excellent mileage and has very low emissions. But will white van man take any notice?
The Bipper was one of the first vans through the door in the sub-compact van sector and alongside sister models, the Citroen Nemo and Fiat Fiorino, it will be tussling for sales in this newly inaugurated market. Aside form its Tardis-like cargo area, it markets itself on its green credentials. In fact, if it were any greener they may as well have called it the Peugeot Lettuce. With the 2-Tronic gearbox onboard the fuel consumption and mileage return figures are excellent. The Bipper 2-Tronic's compact design and resultant modest carrying capacity means it only needs a small, economical engine. Underneath the bonnet you'll find a 1.4-litre HDi diesel unit that's good for 70bhp. It's proven, refined and reassuringly high-tech, using an advanced common-rail fuel injection system. This unit makes its maximum torque of 160Nm at 1,750rpm and keeps the majority of it on stream up to 2,750rpm for strong acceleration when laden. Its fuel consumption rate of 63mpg is outstanding especially if you're looking to cut costs. The Bipper 2-Tronic has a highly user-friendly element to its character out on the road. The steering is an electro-hydraulic set-up that keeps you thoroughly abreast of what the front wheels are doing and is light enough to make parking exercises a breeze. It also affords good visibility for the driver with its truncated nose helping with the tight turning circle that can make the lives of urban drivers so much easier.
"There's little doubt that Peugeot's Bipper 2-Tronic does what it sets out to do very efficiently"
Buyers considering the Bipper 2-Tronic will be acutely aware of the capacity issue. Considering that the vehicle is well under four metres in length, its 1.523mm load length is pretty good. Better still, there's an optional folding passenger seat that in creases the available load length to around 2,490mm. The load volume is 2.5m3 without said seat folded or 2.8m3 with it in the down position. The tough torsion beam rear suspension allows the Bipper to carry up to 690kg. These dimensions clearly position the Bipper between the smaller car-derived vans and the larger compact vans in terms of capacity but being designed as a commercial vehicle from the outset, it shares far more with the compact vans on grounds of practicality. There's a good amount of storage space in the cabin and the materials have been chosen for their durability. Operators will also appreciate the upright driving position and the supportive seating. The Bipper 2-Tronic's load area is uniformly-shaped and easily accessible through rear doors and an optional sliding side door. Make no mistake, it is smaller than vans in the compact sector but if you can make do with its dimensions then you'll find the cargo area agreeable. There's some wheelarch intrusion with the potential to hamper anyone trying to squeeze in bulkier objects but 1,046mm between the arches isn't too bad. The rear doors open to 180 degrees and are asymmetrically split to improve access with just one door open. Peugeot has worked hard to minimise the Bipper's running costs and 2-year/20,000-mile service intervals help here. Another bonus is that the replacement of key components has been timed to coincide with service intervals in order to reduce the time the Bipper is off the road. CO2 emissions of 116g/km and a fuel consumption rate of 63mpg on the combined cycle mean that running the Bipper 2-Tronic will be an extraordinarily cheap affair. For busy urban drivers, the automatic transmission provides convenience if you're creeping along in jams. Available in one solitary trim level, and priced around £1,000 more than the manual-transmission model, the Bipper S 1.4 HDi 70 2-Tronic comes with a reasonable amount of gear as standard. One-touch electric front windows and remote control central locking with separate cargo area and cab locking all figure in the price. As do electric heated door mirrors and automatic door locking over 12mph. Making the choice between the Peugeot Bipper 2-Tronic and its key rivals in the sub-compact sector isn't easy because they're virtually identical. The Citroen Nemo and Fiat Fiorino are built on the same production line and it's really only the badges that differentiate them. Calling its model the Bipper looks to be a brave move on Peugeot's part. It's certainly cute, in keeping with van's styling, but if the stereotypes are to be believed, the average UK van driver would prefer to be driving something that sounds little bit more masculine. Peugeot Geezer was a popular suggestion around the office. There's little doubt that Peugeot's Bipper 2-Tronic does what it sets out to do very efficiently. Despite its compact external dimensions, the van maximises space inside for passengers and cargo. It's also extremely economical and very comfortable to drive. The only doubt surrounds its positioning in the market. The choice for small van buyers is growing ever more diverse, so will enough operators find that the Bipper 2-Tronic is the perfect package for them? There will always be those who play it safe and go for a small van with a larger payload than the Bipper despite the fact that they'll rarely, if ever, use it. Those who can make do with a 690kg payload and 2.5m3 load volume will find very little cause for complaint. The Bipper is cleverly designed around the needs of business users and deserves to find a ready market.
Facts At A Glance MANUFACTURER: Peugeot MODEL: Bipper 2-Tronic BHP: 70bhp - 75bhp PAY
LOAD CAPACITY: 690kg LOAD VOLUME: 2.5m3 GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT: N/A LENGTH: 3,860mm WIDTH: 1,680mm HEIGHT: 1,780mm August 21st 2008