The smallest of segments in the light commercial vehicle market is set to be upset by a major new player coming in to shake-up the market. Paul Barker reports on the latest developments in the small van sector
This baby van segment can be split into two halves, with car-derived vans such as the Ford Fiesta Van – our Light Van of
the Year – Vauxhall Corsavan, Mini Clubvan and Fiat Punto Van vying for attention with more purpose-built little LCVs such as the Citroen Nemo, Fiat Fiorino and Peugeot Bipper triplets, Mercedes’ Citan Compact and DFSK’s Loadhopper microvan.
The latter half is the one that will enjoy possibly the most significant new product of 2014, when Ford’s Transit Courier is launched in early summer.
The Courier will be a new light commercial entry point for Ford, slotting in alongside the car-derived Fiesta Van and below the new Transit Connect to complete Ford’s new product revamp, coming to the UK after the new large Transit (see p12) and Transit Connect.
Ford is claiming class-leading load space, running costs and safety features for the new small van, which made its UK debut at last year’s CV Show at Birmingham’s NEC. The figures include a maximum payload of 660kg, 2.3m3 loadspace, load length of 1.62m, extending to 2.59m with the optional folding mesh bulkhead and fold-dive passenger seat, and engine options consisting of the 75hp 1.5 and 95hp 1.6 diesels or the 100hp Ecoboost petrol.
But it’s not all about the new arrival, with Ford’s Fiesta Van enjoying a sales growth of 19.5% last year to take more than half of registrations in the car-derived van segment. Having been facelifted along with the Fiesta passenger car at the beginning of 2013, with Ford’s new large flat grille supplanted onto its nose, the Fiesta was the only light van to make it into the top 25 biggest selling models, scraping in at position 25.
That illustrates that this is not a segment that accounts for the largest volumes, but is still highly
competitive with plenty of good- quality options, none more so than the highly commended model in our 2014 What Van? Awards Light Van category, the Mini Clubvan. The little car-derived van is now properly established in the market, with nearly 700 registered last year.
But the established players are also enjoying success. Registrations of Citroen’s Nemo baby van were up 77% year-on-year in January 2014 as Citroen jumped up to third place in the UK LCV market for the first month of 2014.
Late last year, Citroen also confirmed a 40-vehicle Nemo deal, with vehicle parts distributor Mill Autoquip (pictured, above right) taking 40 models, along with six larger Berlingos. Based in the south-west of England, Mill expects its vehicles, which were bought outright, to cover 100,000 miles over the next 3 years.
A newer name to the small van arena is Chinese brand DFSK, which brought the Loadhopper
microvan over to the UK at the end of 2011 and has recently revised the budget panel van, window van, dropside, fixed-side and tipper – the latter three as single- or double- cab models – with new light clusters, bumpers and tweaks to the interior, as well as the addition of a new 50hp 1.0-litre engine.
The upgrades haven’t finished for DFSK though, with a Big Cab variant offering larger interior space and extended load bay due in the UK during 2014, while the larger V-series range should also make its long-awaited arrival this year.
Looking further ahead, Vauxhall’s Corsa passenger car is due to be replaced late this year, but there’s no word yet from the manufacturer about what hat means for the future of the car- derived van in terms of if and when it would be replaced. And though there’s nothing concrete and no word since, Volkswagen admitted in 2010 that it was looking at the business case for a small van.