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Peugeot Partner Tepee Outdoor 1.6 HDi 110

Click to view picture galleryApart from the rather strange name
  for a car — Tepee
  alternative MPV/People Carrier is
  rather intriguing and a very practical
  family runabout

DISPARAGERS WILL INSIST IT'S A WINDOWED VAN (it's based on the Peugeot Partner commercial range) but then some 'vans with windows' — Volkswagen 'camper vans', for instance — have become cult vehicles in their own right. However, so car-like is the Tepee that it's quite misleading to describe it as van-based when, to all intents and purposes, it is a car — proof of which is its platform, which it shares with the Peugeot 308.

In the current economic climate not everyone wants, or can afford, to pay well over 20,000 for their family transport. The Tepee, as tested in range-topping Comfort spec, costs 15,545. Entry-level Tepee models start at 11,455. What you're buying here is space; lots of it. And every cubic inch of it is cleverly packaged for maximum usefulness.

Approach the Tepee and there's a hint of SUV about its nose crowned, as is the fashion for the latest Peugeots, with a large rampant lion. In fact, only viewed full side-on do you appreciate its tallness and squared-off silhouette all in the name of space-efficiency. Pronounced wheel arches and non-symmetrical side windows add visual interest and do a good job of making the Tepee appear smaller from the outside than it actually is. A set of 5-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels adds a bit more sparkle.

It's only when you open a door and sit inside that you realise just how much space the bodywork is wrapped around. If you were expecting utilitarian, look again. All five seats are individual chairs; well-shaped and smartly upholstered in a comfortable fabric with well-placed side bolstering. Both front seats also have their own captain's chair-style folding inner armrests, along with comfortable outer armrests on the doors. The three separate rear seats can be folded independently and their backrests offer limited rake adjustment.

The fascia is neatly laid out, with a protruding centre section below which is a raised gear lever housing a comfortable arrangement that puts the gear knob conveniently close to the driver's left hand. Located in the central fascia housing are an on-board computer display, radio/MP3-compatible CD player (with remote controls on the steering column) and the air conditioning controls, separated from the audio panel by an open storage cubby. Two small bottle holders and a pair of large any-which-way adjustable air vents are also incorporated into this housing, with another vent at each end. Switches for the one-touch auto up/down front windows, child-proof sliding rear door locks, hazard warning lights and master central locking are all sited on the gear lever housing, as too is a 12-volt socket all within easy reach.

Other kit includes drive-off automatic central locking, electrically-operated, heated and power-fold door mirrors (that also fold automatically when locking the car on leaving), auto lights and rain sensing wipers, cruise control with a speed limiter and power steering. The driver also gets a height-adjustable seat and there's generous height and reach adjustment of the steering wheel. Overall, there's a satisfying sense of being well looked after.

Also well looked after in the Tepee is your safety, with front airbags for the driver and passenger (the passenger's has key deactivation), side and curtain airbags, ABS with EBFD and EBA and disc brakes all round. The front seat belts are also height adjustable.

“Peugeot, it seems,
has thought
of everything
The tall body it's almost as high as a Range Rover means an abundance of headroom. Peugeot has made optimum use of all this vertical space by fitting a really useful overhead storage system that provides a full width front shelf above the windscreen. Available as an extra (550) is the Zenith Roof pack which provides a full-length overhead rack, rear air vents and a Parfums d'Ambiance air freshener along with four fixed glass roof panels.

Also fitted in the rear roof section above and behind the rear seats is a commodious (literally as big as a suitcase) overhead storage box that's accessible via two sliding doors at the front and which, when accessed from the back of the car with the top-hinged tailgate raised, drops down for even easier loading/unloading — brilliant for transporting a family comfortably with all their belongings safely stashed away.

And that's in addition to the abundance of storage cubbies dotted about the cabin. Look under the front seats and you'll find a decent-sized slide-out drawer beneath each; there's a lidded storage bin built into the facia top behind the instrument cluster, a good size two-tier glovebox and an open storage pocket on the passenger's side of the dash as well as accommodating door pockets. Each front seatback also has a mesh magazine net and a sturdy, fold-away picnic tray. As we said, loads of space; lots of storage.

All five seats in the Tepee have generous leg- and headroom. Visibility all round through the large windows is very good (all three rear head restraints fold down out of the way when not in use) and you're aware where all four corners are the very first time you drive it but the rear parking sensors still make life easy. Behind the rear seats is a big, regular-shaped and intrusion-free boot large enough to carry mountain bikes, camping gear and the like. With the rear seats in use there is 505 litres of load space; fold them, and this increases to an enormous 3,000 litres.

The boot floor is close to the ground and another nice touch the boot light is actually a large, automatically recharging and removable torch. A full-size spare is provided and stored under the boot floor. The good news, should you ever need it, is that you won't have to empty the boot first because it drops down externally.

If, however, you'd rather use this space for carrying people, a removable third row of seats is available as an extra-cost option. Sliding rear side doors (with electric child locks, controlled from the front by the driver yet another well-considered touch) add further convenience and versatility. Peugeot, it seems, has thought of everything! For the record, the sliding doors have side-hinged windows not only do they let air in but there's no buffeting.

The huge tailgate opens easily despite its size and, when fully raised, makes a great canopy under which to shelter from the rain while loading in stormy weather. For the record, the Outdoor spec model has raised suspension and an under-engine protection tray. All of which makes the Tepee a highly-practical purchase for 'active lifestyle' families or even keen outdoors types not yet saddled with a brood of youngsters.

On the road, the front-wheel drive Tepee is rather nice to drive. Driving dynamics are competent and it proved surprisingly civilised, riding smoothly on most everyday surfaces. Body roll is well-contained and, in spite of its height, the Tepee retains its composure in corners and through bends.

It also steers lightly and stops well and, in fact, doesn't seem that different from a family hatchback all-in-all, it's really fun to zip along in. Obviously, you won't be expecting this kind of vehicle to behave the same as a rip-roarin' hot hatch — but then where's the hot hatch that can touch the people-carrying and people-friendly Tepee for space and adaptability?

Adding to the Tepee's straightforward driveability is a 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine. With 107bhp and 177lb ft available from 1,750rpm, it's a smooth and willing motor that will happily move you and your family along while keeping pace with the other traffic, both in town and on the motorway, where it cruises fairly quietly. Making full use of the torque through the five-speed 'box is light work thanks to an easy gearchange action. Top speed is 106mph and it will cruise in top gear at the legal limit with an unruffled 2,500rpm showing on the rev-counter.

And it's not heavy on the juice, either. On paper, the combined economy is given as 50.4mpg, with 41.5 and 57.6mpg respectively for urban and extra-urban cycles. Our week's test average worked out at 44.2mpg. A Band C CO2 rating of 147g/km incurs a not-too-drastic 120 bill for a year's road tax.

There you have it. If you want a genuinely versatile vehicle that's as adept at transporting a family of five in comfort —along with all their trappings — as it is at lugging around masses of leisure gear, shopping or almost anything you can think of, a Tepee could be all the car you need.

Peugeot Partner Tepee Outdoor 1.6 HDi 110
| 15,545
Maximum speed: 106mph | 0-62mph: 14.3 seconds
Overall test MPG: 44.2mpg | Power: 107bhp | Torque: 177lb ft
CO2 147g/km | VED Band C 120 | Insurance group 4