Friday, November 23, 2012

It might be a van with windows, but I'm a convert

JUST call me Jean-Jaques and pass me a beret. This week, I've fallen for that most French of motoring institutions.

I know that the small-van-with-windows format is offered by all sorts of manufacturers these days - Ford with its Tourneo, Fiat with the Doblo and so on - but really it's the Gallic trio of Citroen, Renault and Peugeot who've made it a hit with motorists on this side of the Channel. Now, thanks to a week with a Partner as my partner, I can see why.

I've entrusted it with a several missions, including a trip to the tip to get rid of a few bits of household clutter simply too big for the Rover 214 to deal with, but the assignment on which it's impressed me most was conveying a carload of petrolheads to the NEC in Birmingham for last weekend's Footman James Classic Motor Show. Normally, this would be a job given to either my Rover or my mate's turbodiesel Saab 93, but it seemed almost rude not to use the big Pug instead.

Each and every one of us - a group of car enthusiasts who'd usually value the small, the sporty and the quick - left impressed by the Partner's almost ruthless approach to practical, family-friendly motoring. Up front, I loved the way it disguised its considerable bulk with its sweet handling, my turbo nutter, Saab-owning pal liked its mid range punch, and everyone else seemed slightly lost with the vast amounts of head and legroom.
In fact, the only real gripes were the popout windows in the sliding rear doors, which left them with a slightly stuffy feel on the long trip.

Admittedly, the boxy shape - especially in the delightfully Seventies shade of brown the car I've just tested came in - isn't going to keep you awake at night, and nor is it going to thrill you on the Buttertubs Pass, but I'm a small-vans-with-windows convert, because these things do the job they're designed to do brilliantly and unpretentiously.

Now, what's the going rate for a secondhand one?

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