As I stepped out the customs line in Zurich, I immediately heard it over the loudspeaker, "Mr. Andrew Meehan, please come to the information desk". Regardless of how this car would turn out, it seemed that the drop off would be one of the most seamless and efficient things I'd every experienced. What I would be picking up, however, would need to prove itself. The Peugeot Partner Tepee isn't just a car with a silly name. It's a silly car with a silly name.
Based on the "popular with the plumbing crowd" Peugeot Partner panel van, the Tepee is a consumer version marketed as a low-cost, high-versatility minivan for families on a budget. WhatÂ you're likely to notice first, however, is just how hideously ugly and awkward this car is - and how, in white, you will likely be mistaken for a local tradesman everywhere you go in Europe. But its utilitarian background has the benefit of ensuring this "car" will be incredibly practical. Taller than it is wide, the Partner Tepee has huge windows and a tailgate that's closer in size to a barnÂ door than a traditional hatch. The huge cargo area immediatelyÂ showed its worth as we crammed our little van to the gills with ourÂ oversized American suitcases (enough for a permanent move toÂ Europe), with 5 fitting easily in the trunk area under the cargoÂ cover. What I also realized is that the big stroller we'd broughtÂ along might not so easily fit back there, and I might need toÂ utilize one of the Partner's biggest assets - the easy-fold seat. As I had seen on the introduction video online, the rear seatÂ quickly folded up and out of the way (a la Honda Fit) and theÂ stroller easily was on board (unfortunately, the fold-down button broke just as easily when I put the seat back up later). The floor being higher than average,Â loading was easy and back-injury free.
The high load floor means the driving position isÂ somewhat like sitting on a bar stool with a steering wheel in yourÂ lap, but it wasn't uncomfortable on the hour-long drive. TheÂ adjustments seem quite limited, but I haven't had much chance toÂ further inspect the layout to see if maybe there's something elseÂ hidden deep within the slightly confusing French ergonomics. OnceÂ out of the airport (and fueled up with diesel for the long trip toÂ come), the 90bhp diesel engine surprised me with admirable low-endÂ grunt, and although it quickly became a bit rough and noisy atÂ highway speeds, it had no problems keeping up with Swiss highwayÂ traffic. So far, I'm pretty indifferent to my Partner Tepee. It'sÂ tall, ugly, and strange, but has enough personality andÂ "Frenchness" to possibly convert me. There will lots more drivingÂ to come, and many more bags to carry in the month I have the car.
Check back soon for more updates from the Tepee.