NOT so long ago no family was complete without a people carrier.
They were born in the eighties, the brainchild of Renault whose innovative Espace brought a whole new meaning to big family motoring. With seven comfy individual seats it was a bit like taking a trip in a miniature luxury coach.
The French company caught its rivals napping but habits change, the people carriers were a bit too big, not to mention expensive, and were pushed out by the smaller MPVs – Peugeot 5008, Ford S-Max, Vauxhall Zafira, Citroen Picasso etc.
All we are left with are the diehard Volkswagen Sharan, Seat Alhambra and Ford Galaxy.
Yet Peugeot has come up with a new people carrier. Well, sort of. The Traveller is not bespoke, it’s based on the Expert van, a very good one as it happens, brim full of cutting edge technology, and just the job for throwing in such luxuries as heated and massaging leather front seats, tinted windows, thick pile carpets and few more homely touches.
The PSA group – that’s Peugeot and Citroen – has joined forces with Toyota so if you think the Japanese company’s Proace, Citroen Space Tourer and Pug Traveller look like triplets you would be right because only the front grille and badge setting them apart, oh and Peugeot would say its Traveller is far more luxurious, and it would be right. More expensive as well.
Does it work as a people carrier? Surely the firm suspension needed for commercial work compromises ride comfort for passengers.
It might, except this is not a heavy duty van, so the starting point offers the best of both worlds. My first journey was solo along B roads and the van DNA was obvious. Road rumbles came up through the suspension and it became obvious that Traveller does not have the composure of a big car.
On decent A roads and motorways the ride is fine and it got better with six people and luggage to settle it down, in fact Traveller got universal praise for comfort from the four back seat passengers.
The seat configuration is two-three-three with the second and third rows each having a 70/30 split, all on runners so there are a multitude of combinations. Legroom is ample for all adults but be aware boot space is limited on the shortest of the three versions when all the seats are in play.
To maximise capacity for our trip one two seater was taken out so there was extra luggage space which was just as well given the boxes of wine that materialised. Versatility is the key here and movement between the rows is fairly easy. For carrying big items, and I mean big, all the seats can be lifted out but the doubles are heavy beggars so get a mate to give a hand.
Whether it is being used as a van or people carrier Traveller has car like driving habits. Driving position is good with adjustable steering column, nicely weighted steering, and dashboard mounted stick for the six speed gearbox.
My test car was the six speed automatic with a manual option operated from steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. The change is smooth enough but throttle response from start is a tad slow and can catch you out at busy roundabouts.
The features found on high spec cars are all here, electric windows, air conditioning, navigation, automatic wipers and headlights with auto dipping function along with a 360 degree rear camera which, incidentally, has brilliant definition.
Rear passengers get roof mounted heating controls, although it wasn’t that effective, but the wide opening powered sliding doors went down particularly well along with the glass roof panels which pour light into a dark area.
Another useful feature not found on many cars is cabin storage space. There are loads of cubbies on the Traveller.
Safety isn’t forgotten either with the excellent blind spot alert, a huge help on motorways picking up an overtaking car that can be out of site for a split second. Adaptive cruise control is another good safety feature on busy motorways as well as keeping the driver on the right side of average speed cameras. And should it snow the Traveller has Peugeot’s highly praised grip control system which does exactly what it says on the tin, providing extra grip in slippery conditions.
Top prize goes to the windscreen head up display, perfectly positioned in the driver’s eyeline for speed and navigation instructions. It’s a brilliant aid and the sooner it is standard on all cars the better.
There is performance aplenty from the most powerful engine option, a 2-litre turbo diesel, which averaged between 39 and 41mpg over 1400 miles.
Just a couple of irritations: Lighting is needed for the temperature switches on the dashboard and the cruise/speed limiter stalk is hidden behind the steering wheel and difficult to use.
I don’t see a lot of family’s heading for the Traveller. It might be well equipped but £39k will buy a very decent big SUV. But it is perfect for VIP travel and taxi work.
Peugeot Traveller Allure
£39,239 (starts £31,850)
2-litre turbo diesel 180bhp auto
151g/km. First year road tax £830
Insurance group 24