Rarely, if at all, will you find vans in the visitor’s car park at Raymond Blanc’s celebrated restaurant and hotel, le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxfordshire.
The very idea of commercial vehicle users wining and dining at one of Britain’s top eateries is absurd.
But there they were – a good dozen of so of them – all lined up with the Bentleys and Maseratis. And you know what? They fitted in rather well.
The vans in question were Peugeot’s new small sector contenders the Bipper and Partner and both are probably the most unvanlike vans you’ll come across, a new breed of chic, stylish vehicles that are aimed at not only keeping fleet buyers happy with low running costs but also keeping the drivers happy too with good looks, high specification and pleasing road manners.
So far, we had driven left-hand drive examples of Bipper and Partner but this was the first time we could get our hands on UK spec vehicles.
As our driving event invite came together with a night at Quat’ Saisons for myself and the mem sahib, it didn’t take long for us to accept.
I’d love to write here about the sensational taste experiences we had during our six course meal, and tell you about the fabulous bathroom in our room and about the visit to the kitchen, with its 47 chefs, hosted personally by the great man himself, but as this is a van magazine rather than a gourmet cooking rag, I’ll confine myself to comments about commercial vehicles.
All I would suggest is that anyone wishing to score a few million brownie points with the missus would be well advised to check this place out!
The new Partner is based on the 308 chassis and therefore is much bigger all round than the old model.
For the first time in a ‘small’ van, three seats are offered in the front and there are two load lengths on one wheelbase, meaning that load volumes increase from 3.0 cubic metres in the old model to 3.3 cubic metres in the smallest new model.
With the longer load length and a clever fold-down passenger seat specified, load volume increases to 4.2 cubic metres.
Payloads go from 625kg to 850kg.