Sector Analysis: Medium vans

Date: Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Ford Transit Custom has bedded in well, Toyota is set to launch the new fruit of its partnership with PSA, and could there be a new VW Transporter in the pipeline? James Dallas investigates.
The much-anticipated one-tonne Transit, now dubbed the Transit Custom to distinguish it from its heavier two-tonne stablemate, finally arrived in Ford’s showrooms in January.
The Transit has dominated the UK market for 47 years and the medium van is currently the bigger seller – more than 27,000 units were shifted last year compared with just over 21,000 of the larger derivative. Having successfully kept its iconic model ahead of the field for almost half a century there was pressure on Ford to move the game on again and the Custom does not disappoint. It has already collected a succession of glittering prizes and is, indeed, What Van?’s 2013 Van of the Year.
The stylish front-wheel drive Custom is on offer with two wheelbases, one roof height and three different versions of the latest 2.2-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel engine (100hp, 125hp or 155hp). It can be ordered in Base, Trend, Limited or Sport trim, as a van, a Double Cab in Van, a Kombi or a Tourneo, and in low-CO2 Econetic guise.
The Custom is particularly impressive when it comes to interior quality and kit, taking its cues from Ford’s car range, and also boasts innovative features to increase functionality such as the load-through system that boosts load length via a flap in the bulkhead and the option of a retractable roof rack, which sits flush with the top of the van when not in use to allow it to fit under 2m-high car park barriers.

Collaboration

Toyota is to launch its new mid-sized van, the Proace, in July. It stems from a collaboration with PSA that is expected to last until at least 2020 and is based on the Peugeot Expert and Citroen Dispatch models. Like the PSA vans, it will be offered with three diesel engines: an 89hp 1.6 unit and a pair of 2.0-litre drivetrains with outputs of 126hp and 161hp. The Proace will be available with two wheelbases (L1, L2) and two roof heights (H1, H2) and, according to the manufacturer, customers will be able to choose from nine variations of panel vans as well as a crew van version, which seats six people and comes in a single configuration of L2H1 along with the 126hp 2.0-litre engine.
As for the panel vans, standard wheelbase (L1) models measure 4805mm overall with a 3000mm wheelbase; the longer versions are 5135mm long with a 3122mm wheelbase. The standard height (H1) is 1942mm with a higher roof (2276mm) available with the L2 wheelbase. In L1H1 specification, total load space is 5.0m3; in the L2H1 vans this increases to 6.0m3, with the L2H2 offering 7.0m3.
Panel van payloads are 1.0- or 1.2-tonnes and prices, excluding VAT, start from £17,840 for the 89hp 1.6D L1H1 panel van and rise to £22,240 for the crew cab. The top-priced panel van is the L2H2 161hp 2.0D at £21,200.
The 1.6-litre engine produces maximum torque of 180Nm and is mated to a five-speed manual transmission. The 2.0-litre versions get six-speed manual gearboxes with peak torque figures for the 126hp and 161hp versions 320Nm and 340Nm respectively. Toyota claims the most efficient 2.0-litre models achieve combined cycle fuel consumption of 44.1mpg and CO2 emissions of 168g/km.

Peugeot facelifted its Expert last year with a series of aerodynamic and engine tweaks that put its CO2 output and running costs in line with the forthcoming Toyota. Along with the rest of the range, the Expert now has a redesigned Peugeot badge and a new grille with chrome edges. It is now also available with the brand’s ATV (all-terrain vehicle) grip control system, which adds £600 to the asking price.
Citroen’s version of the van, the Dispatch, received a pre-Christmas boost when IT services provider Wincor Nixdorf took on 50 HDi 90 manual L1H1 1000 Enterprise vans.
The VW Transporter is often credited with setting the benchmark for quality in the medium van sector and at the Geneva motor show in February the manufacturer revealed the concept of an electric delivery van that could set the template for a future mid-sized light commercial.
Although a spokesman for the brand told What Van? the e-Co-Motion is a unique model that cannot be compared with existing commercial vehicles, it appears to be similar in size to VW’s current Transporter van, albeit slightly more compact with a payload of 800kg and load space of 4.6m3. VW said the e-Co-Motion was the basis for a van that would be highly manoeuvrable with a small footprint and a high seat position to offer good all-round visibility. It stressed the importance of good seat ergonomics and walk-through access between cabin and load area.
Dr. Eckhard Scholz, spokesman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said: “Loading should be made easy by a low cargo floor height, and the vehicle should also offer a large cargo capacity. Ideally, the overall concept should be implemented as a uniform platform that could serve as a basis for as many derivatives as possible − for a wide variety of body concepts and customer solutions.”

Trio of vans

Vauxhall is to start producing its next-generation Vivaro at its Luton plant next year, but in the meantime it has extended service intervals on the current model from 12 to 24 months or 25,000 miles.
UK versions of Renault’s Trafic, which was formerly built alongside the Vivaro in Luton, are now being assembled at Nissan’s plant in Barcelona, Spain but from 2014 Renault will produce its new Trafic in Sandouville, France.
The third van in the trio that share the same DNA but wear different badges, the Nissan Primaster, has recently enjoyed a boost from British Gas, which has enlisted 138 models onto its service fleets.
Less encouraging for the threesome, the Trafic scored just two out of five stars in Euro NCAP’s first crash tests for vans, which it carried out in December 2012. The Ford Transit Custom was the only LCV to get the maximum five stars.


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