A host of new models has raised the quality bar for mid-sized vans in the last two years and more new product is in the pipeline. James Dallas reports
The ultra-competitive medium van sector has embraced some high quality additions over the last couple of years and is gearing up to welcome more prominent new models.
The highly acclaimed Ford Transit Custom took the sector by storm when it burst onto the scene in late 2012, making its mark by taking the What Van? Van of the Year Award for two consecutive years in 2013 and 2014, on the back of also topping the Medium Van category.
For the 2015 awards however, the Custom was usurped by a pair of high profile new arrivals.
The Renault Trafic and its Vauxhall-badged equivalent the Vivaro offer new engines and an interior that is designed to double up as a mobile office with a pull-down desk in the middle seat.
Both vans house a 54-litre stowage space beneath the passenger seats.
The vans are up for grabs with a choice of four engines. Renault’s existing 1.6-litre dCi 90 and dCi 115 units are joined by two new twin-turbo drivetrains, the 1.6 Energy dCi 120 and 140 engines. The powertrains deliver fuel economy gains of at least 5mpg across the range compared to the current single-turbo drivetrains, with the newly developed twin-turbos the most frugal.
The 120hp BiTurbo engine is the most efficient of the line-up, with an official fuel economy figure of 47.9mpg.
High-roofed versions of the Renault and Vauxhall vans will arrive next year and Renault is launching minibus versions of the Trafic with two or three rows of seats early in 2015. The Trafic Passenger will be available in short and long wheelbase formats with prices starting at £20,145 and rising to £25,345 excluding VAT.
The minibus comes in two trim levels with Renault providing a choice of 11 Business six Sport specifications. Business models are offered with the full engine line-up but the entry-level dCi 90hp unit is not available with Sport versions.
The next big hitter on its way to the mid-sized van segment is the Mercedes Vito, although we will have to wait until May 2015 for it to go on sale in the UK.
For the first time the Vito, traditionally a rear-wheel drive stalwart, will also be offered with front-wheel drive.
The Vito will be available with two wheelbases, three lengths, three weights but just one roof height and will come as a panel van, crew van and passenger-carrying Tourer. There will be a choice of two turbo diesel engines with five power ratings.
The Vito 109 CDI gets a 1.6-litre 88hp unit and the 111 CDI has increased power of 114hp. A 2.1-litre engine is available with outputs of 136hp on the 114 CDI, 163hp on the116 CDI and 190hp for the flagship Euro 6 Vito 119 Bluetec.
Six-speed manual transmission is standard on lower powered models but the 7G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission is an option on the 114 CDI and 116 CDI and standard on the 119 Bluetec.
Mercedes offers service intervals of two years or 24,000 miles and has placed much emphasis on safety. The brand claims the Vito is the only model in its class to provide airbags and a seat belt reminder for both the driver and passenger as standard while all vans also get Attention Assist, Crosswind Assist and a tyre pressure monitor.
Active Parking Assist, Collision Prevention Assist, Blind Spot Assist and Lane Keeping Assist are optional.
Next year will also see VW introduce the long awaited T6 incarnation of its Transporter, having spent much of this year celebrating the legendary van’s 60th anniversary. No date has been set for the launch but the manufacturer admits it will not come in time for the Commercial Vehicle Show in April.
VW did reveal the 4motion Tristar pick-up concept in Hanover in September, which it says offers clues as to the appearance of the T6. The Tristar is powered by a 2.0-litre 200hp TDI engine wedded to seven-speed DSG transmission and has a payload of 950kg.
Looking further ahead Fiat Professional is to replace its Scudo medium van in 2016 with a model that will result from a partnership with Renault. UK boss Seb Fedrigo expects the new van to be slightly bigger than the Scudo in line with the current market leaders such as the Ford Transit Custom, Renault Trafic and Vauxhall Vivaro.