The UK’s number one name in LCV publishing rewards the industry’s top performers at a prestigious awards event. James Dallas reports
The most prominent figures in the light commercial vehicle sector gathered at the prestigious 1901 restaurant in the five-star Andaz Hotel on Liverpool Street in central London just before Christmas to recognize the leading products and innovations in the industry.
The exclusive venue hosted the luncheon for the What Van? Awards, the most coveted accolades in the market, which for 2015 saluted the outstanding performers in 13 crucial light commercial vehicle categories as well as revealing the winner of the prestigious What Van? 2015 Van of the Year. This year, we opened the doors to the What Van? Hall of Fame for the second time to welcome in two more worthy entrants and also added the first-ever prize to be voted for by our readers, in the shape of the Van Converter Award. We asked you to select the best LCV converter or racking supplier from a 25-strong shortlist brought together by our expert panel.
Following a champagne reception and a first class meal washed down by the finest wines, What Van? editor Paul Barker was joined on the stage by Mark Lovett the head of commercial vehicles at Leaseplan, which sponsored the event for the second successive year.
Since Leaseplan introduced a new commercial vehicle strategy in 2011 with the establishment of a dedicated CV team, the company has grown considerably in both the corporate and small business sectors – doubling the size of its LCV fleet.
Lovett kicked off proceedings with an introductory speech before Barker announced the winners.
Following its successful overhaul of its LCV line-up since 2012 Ford once more captured the prestigious What Van? Van of the Year prize. But this year the first out and out city van in the Blue Oval’s portfolio, the Transit Courier, was honoured, replacing the Transit Custom, which came out on top in the previous two years. Logically, the Courier also won the Light Van category.
The nation’s leading LCV brand added to its haul by making off with the Light Van prize for the new Transit Connect and the Pick-Up gong for the enduringly excellent Ranger.
Other big winners included Renault and Vauxhall, which shared the Medium Van Award with the French brand’s impressive new Trafic and its Vauxhall-badged equivalent the Luton-built Vivaro. The models are refined, equipped to serve as mobile offices and provide a generous number of storage options.
Renault and Vauxhall also shared the Innovation Award for the ingenious and effective Wide View Mirror that debuted on the Trafic and Vivaro and eliminates the blind spot to the rear on the passenger side. In addition, the Renault-developed twin turbo diesel engines used in the vans were Highly Commended in the Editor’s Choice category, which Renault scooped with its tiny electric Twizy Cargo – sure top of the Christmas wish lists for all urban pizza delivery firms.
Iveco’s durable but now more refined new Daily wrestled the Large Van prize back from last year’s winner, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter while the Mitsubishi Outlander 4Work, available as both a diesel and PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle), retained the 4x4 Award.
Nissan won the Green Award with its E-NV200, which, thanks to its presence on the British gas fleet, is rapidly proving the doubters wrong by demonstrating the practicality of an electric van in a real-world environment.
Having had to settle for the runner’s up slot in the Light Van sector with the Citan and the Used, 4x4 and Large Van categories with the Sprinter, Mercedes could celebrate a win by once more capturing the Safety Award – a field in which it continues to set the benchmark.
Volkswagen’s excellent and evergreen Transporter medium van took the Used Van Award, Citroen took the online honours with the best website and in its debut year at the What Van? Awards readers voted Tevo as the leading LCV Converter, ahead of CPD Bodies.
The What Van? Hall of Fame welcomed two new inductees this year, VW’s legendary Transporter model and the man who resurrected the Commercial Vehicle Show when the economic recession threatened its very existence – Bob Sockl.