No matter which industry you work in, chances are that a van is used in one form or another to either deliver stock or carry cargo from site to site, especially in today’s society where most items are a click away from being delivered in a van. The commercial vehicle is an important part of everyone’s lives, so if you’re after one, which ones should you be looking at? We tested two of the best European commercial vans on the market: the 2021 Volkswagen Transporter and the 2021 Peugeot Expert to see which one is best.
These two vans are relatively new to the market (both in their current iterations are less than three years old) and both are offered in different variations. We will be comparing the base specifications of both vans. In this circumstance this means the 2021 Volkswagen Transporter TDI250 and the 2021 Peugeot Expert 150 HDI. Rivals to these vans also include the Hyundai iLoad, Renault Trafic, Mitsubishi Express and Toyota HiAce.
Price & Equipment:
There was a time where commercial products didn’t come with a whole lot, this time wasn’t even that long ago. Vans from this era didn’t come with air conditioning, power windows, automatic transmissions or even power steering. Luckily that time is over and vans now a days come with just as many features as their passenger car counterparts.
Prices for the entry level vans are quite similar. The 2021 Volkswagen Transporter TDI250 will set buyers back $38,990 plus on-road costs while the 2021 Peugeot Expert 150 HDI is $1,000 more expensive at $39,990 plus on-road costs.
Standard equipment shared between the two vans is 16-inch steel wheels, remote central locking, automatic halogen headlights, rain-sensing wipers, auto-folding exterior mirrors, colour touchscreens (6.5-inch for the VW and 7.0-inch for the Peugeot) with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, cloth upholstery, rubber cabin floors, manual air conditioning and power windows.
Safety features that are shared between the two vans are rear parking sensors with a reversing camera, cruise control with a speed limiter, forward collision alert, blind-spot monitoring, driver attention detection and autonomous emergency braking (AEB).
The Volkswagen has six airbags to the Peugeot’s four, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear mud-flaps, heated exterior mirrors and a heat insulated windscreen.
But the Expert has a surround view camera that uses the rear camera to track where the van moves, front parking sensors, three seats to the VW’s two, a charcoal filter, front fog lights and speed sign recognition.
So is the Peugeot worth the extra $1,000 over the Volkswagen? Well it certainly trumps the Volkswagen for features so we would say in the way of specification yes, the extra $1,000 for the Peugeot is more than justified. It is also worth noting that there is higher up models of both of these vans that come equipped with more features.
Performance & Economy:
Both vans come with 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel four-cylinder engines that drive the front wheels through standard manual transmissions.
The 2021 Volkswagen Transporter TDI250 makes 81kW of power and – as you may have guessed by the name – 250Nm of torque out of its engine and it is paired to a standard five-speed manual. There is no automatic variation of the TDI250 Transporter, but moving to the model up (TDI340) gives you the option of a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
The 2021 Peugeot Expert 150 HDI is more powerful than the Transporter with 110kW of power and 370Nm of torque. Power is also sent to the front wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox. Optional on the Expert 150 HDI is an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission, which was equipped to our test car. The automatic Expert comes at a $2,500 premium over the manual.
Both engines are quiet and rather premium feeling for the segment. There is none of the typical loud diesel clatter from the engine bay when in the cabin. You can hear the engine but the noise isn’t overpowering, unlike some of the other offerings in the market. The engine in the Peugeot is a little smoother and linear than the Volkswagen but both engines are more than acceptable for a commercial vehicle.
The engine in the Transporter is less powerful than the one in the Expert with 29kW less power and 120Nm less torque. But this lack of power really isn’t felt too much when behind the wheel – it is not as spritely as the Peugeot, but the 2021 Volkswagen Transporter still feels peppy. The Peugeot is quick in the van world. It offers a relatively light body with decent power and a fair bit of torque.
The five-speed manual in the 2021 Volkswagen Transporter is not as smooth as we would have liked as it’s a little clunky and we found it hard going from first gear to second as it would often not allow us to go into second. When you’re out on the move the transmission feels great, it’s easy to change and the clutch feels responsive and easy to operate. The Peugeot’s manual transmission does have an extra ratio as it is a six-speed, which allows for lower revs at highway speeds. The eight-speed auto in the Expert is smooth and offers very gentle changes – some cases of transmissions with more than seven gears can feel fidgety, but the auto in the Peugeot feels great.
Fuel consumption for these vans are not as close as you may think. The 2021 Volkswagen Transporter TDI250 has a claimed average fuel consumption figure of 6.9L/100km although in our time behind the wheel of the VW we achieved an average fuel consumption figure of 7.4L/100km, so not far off the claim at all. Although the 2021 Peugeot Expert 150 HDI with the manual transmission has a claimed figure of 6.2L/100km, choosing the automatic Expert brings the figure up to 6.4L/100km. We achieved ___ in the Peugeot.
The 2021 Peugeot Expert takes the clear win here as it is gruntier but more fuel efficient and has that extra ratio in the manual gearbox to help with highway cruising. This isn’t to say that the driving experience in the Transporter is bad because it is far from it. Both vans perform very well but the one that performs better is the Peugeot.
Ride & Handling:
Typically, vans with no cargo in the rear will ride on the harsher side due to their harsh rear suspension but this is no longer the case with both the 2021 Volkswagen Transporter and the 2021 Peugeot Expert. With no cargo in the rear, the Volkswagen rides rather well and it soaks up bumps without a fuss. The Peugeot has the same ride characteristics and of the two vans, the Peugeot’s ride is more composed and refined. There is less harshness in the ride and it is a joy to drive around the city streets.
Vans have never been known for their handling either, but times have changed. The two vans in this comparison can hold their own in the twists and turns. There is a slight bit of body role which is expected from cars that are essentially the shape of a box. But in saying this it’s not enough to concern the driver as both vans fill you with confidence when cornering.
An important aspect to any van is the turning circle. The 2021 Volkswagen Transporter has a turning circle of 11.9 metres, while in comparison the 2021 Peugeot Expert has a turning circle of 12.4 metres. This isn due to the Transporter’s new steering rack that makes the steering feel smooth and solid while providing a smaller turning circle.
Of the two vans the Peugeot has the more compliant ride but the Volkswagen has a smaller turning circle. Both vans are good in their own ways and it is up to personal preference as to which one comes out on top.
Interior & Practicality:
Because both of these vans are European, you would expect them to have nice interiors and with the 2021 Volkswagen Transporter and the 2021 Peugeot Expert don’t disappoint. This duo of commercial vehicles have interiors that are well thought out, well presented and intuitive in nature. They offer a blend of durability and relative luxury for a commercial vehicle.
Both vans feature touchscreen infotainment systems. The one in the Volkswagen is easier to use but it is smaller than the Peugeot’s screen with a 6.5-inch screen – the Peugeot has a 7.0-inch screen. Both of these screens come with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is a big plus in a commercial vehicle. Both vans come with rear view cameras while the Peugeot comes with what we would call a faux surround view camera. It uses the rear view camera to fill in the surroundings as you reverse.
As far as practicality is concerned, there is one clear winner and that is the 2021 Volkswagen Transporter as it has endless amounts of storage in the cabin. There is a large glovebox, three cupholders (although the ones on top of the dash are quite shallow), a storage tray above the glovebox, deep door bins, more storage trays in the tops of the doors and another storage tray that runs the length of the dash. The 2021 Peugeot Expert does have a fair amount of storage with there are shallow cup holders in the dash, a storage cubby in above the centre screen and another below it to store a phone or wallet as well as some large door bins.
Both vans have interiors that feel like passenger cars. Yes they both have plastic floors and plastic door panels but the seats, dash and gauges all make you feel like you are in an SUV. The 2021 Volkswagen Transporter’s plastics feel durable and like they will stand the test of time. The Peugeot Expert on the other hand had a slightly more bland interior. One thing we aren’t a fan of in the Peugeot is that the interior seems to be all the two shades of grey whereas the Volkswagen shakes it up with some piano black surrounds and different colours.
Opening the rear doors on these vans opens up a large amount of cargo space. Interestingly, the Peugeot Expert has dual rear sliding doors as standard whereas the Transporter only has a passenger side rear sliding door. Optioning the driver’s side sliding door adds $1,300 to the price of the VW. The Expert also has rear barn-style doors as standard, while the Transporter has a standard tailgate-style rear tailgate.
The back of the Transporter can handle 5.8 cubic metres of cargo in the short wheelbase van (which the TDI250 is) and interestingly, the Expert can also handle the same 5.8 cubic metres of space. The payload of the 2021 Volkswagen Transporter TDI250 is 951kg, which doesn’t seem like a lot but it is more than the Expert’s 847kg equivalent. The TDI250 Transporter’s cargo area measures 2,572mm in length, 1,700mm in width (1,244 between the arches) and 1,410mm height while the Peugeot Expert’s cargo area measures 2,512mm in length, 1,636mm in width and 1,640mm in height.
The Volkswagen seems to take the cake here as it has a better quality interior, larger cargo capacity with a higher payload although the Expert can seat an extra person and has dual sliding doors. We do think that the Transporter is a nicer place to spend time, especially on longer trips.
Service & Warranty:
Both the 2021 Volkswagen Transporter and the 2021 Peugeot Expert come with five-year warranties but the VW’s is unlimited kilometres and the Peugeot’s is limited to 200,000km. Peugeot also offers five years of roadside assist with the Expert but unfortunately Volkswagen only offers 12 months of roadside assistance with the Transporter. The Transporter requires being serviced every 12-months or 15,000km, whereas the Expert requires servicing every 12-months or 20,000km.
The cost to service the 2021 Volkswagen Transporter over the span of five-years or 75,000km is $2,942, which averages out at $588.40 per service. Compare this to the $3,049 it will set owners back of the 2021 Peugeot Expert to service over five-years or 100,000km and the cars seem pretty on par with costs. The Peugeot is more expensive but you can go further between services so it evens out. In saying this, the pair are not cheap to service compared to passenger cars.
Which is Best? 2021 Volkswagen Transporter vs 2021 Peugeot Expert?
So you’re in the market for a European commercial vehicle that can carry a large amount of cargo. Well as you have read the 2021 Volkswagen Transporter and the 2021 Peugeot Expert are excellent options. The Volkswagen does lack power but it gains superior interior quality and comfort. The Peugeot may be $1,000 more expensive, but for the extra coin, you do get an extra sliding door and barn style rear doors which makes it more practical to load and unload. The value equation really puts this pair on par with each other as they get roughly the same amount of features and they cost the same to service.
So what would our pick be? Well we loved the softer ride of the Peugeot but the agile nature of the Volkswagen. Even comparing the drivetrains is more difficult than it may seem. Yes, the Peugeot has more grunt, but the VW’s engine is more refined and more quiet behind the wheel. In the end we would be walking into a Volkswagen dealer for the nicer interior, marginally superior engine and the more mature driving nature but the Peugeot is an excellent choice in this segment.