The overall market is enjoying growth but operators seem to be sidestepping small vans for alternative products, James Dallas reports
New van registrations reached a record high in the UK last year – but small vans were conspicuous by their absence among the big hitters.
According to LCV industry watchers, such as the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, two factors were mainly responsible for the sales boom: the recovering economy, leading to healthy demand for traders and their vans, and the relentless swing towards dotcom shopping.
But it would seem that parcel-delivery companies tend to favour large and, even more so, medium-sized, vans, and that while utility firms and the likes of plumbers, electricians and carpenters may want something smaller, they are likely to choose a light van over a more compact model.
In 2015 there were no small vans in the list of the 25 best-selling models. Even Ford’s well-received Transit Courier was left out in the cold. Its big brother, the Connect, however, was in at number seven and sandwiched between two other light vans: the Citroen Berlingo and Peugeot Partner.
Sales of vans in the sub-2.0t category, containing all small vans and a few light vans, increased by a modest 8.8% last year, according to SMMT figures, but this compared with overall market growth of 15.6%.
In January 2016, sales of vans weighing under 2.0t dropped 12% to 2486 units, making this the second-smallest category after the niche 4x4 grouping.
Fiat, which created the market for cubed-shaped compact small vans with the Fiorino back in 2008, a model that was quickly adapted by PSA brands Citroen and Peugeot as the Nemo and Bipper respectively, has said it will introduce a facelifted version this year; however, neither of the French partners have shed any light on when, or if, revised derivatives of their own products will break cover, despite the September deadline for Euro6 compliance approaching fast. Citroen did, though, introduce a Grip Control package for the Nemo last year to offer increased traction and also made a nearside sliding door standard on the entry-level HDi 75 X model as well as the higher-trim LX and Enterprise vans.
Ford, as is the case in every sector, casts a long shadow over small vans and occupies the two top positions in the sales charts with the enduringly popular car-derived Fiesta Van just about holding off the Courier, which it launched in 2014 and is closer in design to the Fiat and PSA models.
The Blue Oval’s reach into the market was demonstrated when the AA ordered 70 Courier vans in December 2015 for use by its agents selling membership across the UK.
Vauxhall has not been tempted to enter the still youthful compact cubed van sub-segment, preferring to stick with the car-derived Corsavan, now into its third generation as of March 2015 and which is the only like-for-like rival for the Fiesta Van.
The new Corsavan is far more sophisticated and refined than its more rudimental predecessor and boasts official CO2 emissions of 87g/km and combined cycle fuel consumption of 85.6mpg on the greenest Ecoflex version. In the tit-for-tat battle between the brands, however, Ford now claims figures of 88.3mpg and 82g/km for its Fiesta Van. Under the EU’s current 6.1 regulation, which runs until 2018, all Corsavan variants are Euro6-compliant without requiring AdBlue. When the 6.2 regulation comes in, however, diesel versions are likely to require the urea-based solution.
Niche microvan manufacturer DFSK is to reveal its new C35 panel van at the CV Show in April. It claims the compact model has dimensions smaller than those of a mid-sized family car yet offers a loadspace of 5m3 and a payload of 750kg. It will be priced from £10,995, excluding VAT and powered by a 1.5-litre 115hp petrol unit mated to five-speed manual transmission.
|What’s coming and when? Key dates|
|DFSK C35 panel van: April 2016|
|Fiat Professional Fiorino: Q3 2016|
|Citroen Nemo (based on Fiorino): not confirmed|
|Peugeot Bipper (based on Fiorino): not confirmed|