Boasting miserly fuel consumption and an enviably-low CO2 output, Vauxhall's latest Corsavan with its restyled exterior and improved interior (changes include new seats with more travel) ticks these boxes very neatly.
Launched in Britain earlier this year at the Commercial Vehicle Show held at the National Exhibition Centre, it has one rather important drawback for a van however. With a load cube of under a cubic metre and a payload capacity that isn't vastly above the half-tonne mark, it doesn't carry all that much.
But does that really matter? To some operators, it clearly does not.
How much space do a couple of boxes of vitally-important legal documents that need to be delivered urgently require after all? Do a couple of toolboxes whose contents are needed to effect an emergency repair really need to be transported in a full-size panel van that will burn a lot more fuel?
What we are saying is that there is still a role for small, three-door, car-derived vans, especially in a big-city context. Unfortunately light commercial manufacturers do not appear to agree.
Corsavan's only real rival is Ford's Fiesta Van. If you want to stretch the envelope a little then you could also include Dacia's car-derived Duster Commercial, although the East European newcomer has a five-door body shell.
After that, you have to go up a size to compact purpose-built vans such as Ford's Transit Courier or possibly to the sole microvan on sale in Britain today; DFSK's Chinese-built Loadhopper.
Musing on these thoughts, we took off in a 95hp Corsavan 1.3CDTi diesel in Sportive trim and equipped with Start/Stop with brake energy recuperation. Vauxhall's newcomer is offered with entry-level specifications as the sole trim alternative.
The 95hp diesel is also available in low-energy ecoFLEX guise if you really want to take an axe to your fuel bill and CO2 footprint. A 75hp 1.3CDTi with Start/Stop is listed too, as is a 70hp 1.2-litre petrol engine.
Pop open the rear hatch with its heated window and its wash/wipe system and you are looking at a
0.92 m3 cargo bay that will swallow rather more items than might be supposed at first sight. Partly that is because it has a comparatively-tall interior.
Payload capacity is up by 21kg as a result of the recent redesign. The load box's sides are well-defended against minor scratches and scrapes but a rubber mat to protect the cargo bed will set you back an additional £45.
There are four tie-down points. Anything that breaks loose and starts sliding towards the cab is likely to be stopped in its tracks by a half-height steel bulkhead.
It can be topped by a mesh grille for an extra £65.
Glazed rear hatches bring security risks, but Vauxhall has answered this by providing a multi-section load cover for an extra £45 so that cargo can be concealed from prying eyes. It will not cover tall items however and is awkward to remove and replace.
The closest rival to the subject of our test is Ford's Fiesta Sport Van. Load cube is a little higher than Corsavan's at a full 1.0cu m but gross payload is lower, at 500kg.
At 95hp power output is the same but you only get a five-speed gear box. However at 94g/km, the latest 1.5-litre TDCi Euro 6 diesel's CO2 output is a commendable 7g/km lower than the Vauxhall's and in list price terms the Ford is marginally cheaper.
Cab and equipment
Looking for a smart, stylish interior? Then look no further because the latest Sportive's black and red dashboard trim is a knock-out; and we're quite taken with the neat red stitching on the gear shift and handbrake lever gaiters too.
Oddment storage facilities consist of a tray between the seats, a glove-box, a bin in each door, a couple of cup-holders at the bottom of the dashboard and two more to the rear of the handbrake lever; a reminder that Corsavan is based on a passenger car with rear seats. You'll find a 12v power point at the bottom of the dashboard.
Corsavan is groaning with laudable safety features.
Aside from Electronic Stability Programme Plus with Active Rollover Protection, the long list includes Hill Start Assist, Brake Assist System and Hydraulic Brake Fade Assist. It also embraces Straight Line Stability Control, Cornering Brake Control and Drag Torque Control, with six airbags fitted in case things get really out of shape despite all this comforting technology.
Tyre Pressure Monitoring is included in the package. Each tyre's pressure is monitored continually and displayed individually on the instrument panel.
Even small vans can end up getting their rear ends bashed if the load area is stacked so high with cargo that the driver cannot see through the back window. Fortunately our Corsavan was equipped with optional reversing sensors and an optional - and highly-effective - rear view camera which displayed whatever was behind us on the optional 7ins IntelliLink infotainment touch-screen.
All Corsavans come with electric windows, electrically-adjustable exterior mirrors and a height- and reach-adjustable steering column. Also installed is a DAB radio (you'll find remote controls on the steering wheel) complete with a CD/MP3 player, an aux-in socket, a USB connection with iPod control and Bluetooth connectivity.
Step up to Sportive and you get to enjoy air-conditioning, 16ins alloy wheels, and a heated windscreen with rain-sensitive windscreen wipers. The exterior mirrors are heated too.
Thrown in as well are comfortable sports-style front seats (the driver's is height-adjustable), leather trim for the steering wheel, LED daytime running lights and front fog lights with chrome-effect surrounds among other goodies.
Corsavan Sportive's Euro 6 common rail four-cylinder 16-valve diesel is fitted with a variable geometry turbocharger with an intercooler and is married to a six-speed manual gearbox. Entry-level Corsavans take a five-speed.
Top power bites at 3750rpm while maximum torque of 210Nm makes its presence felt across a 1500rpm-to-3000rpm plateau.
A warning that the vehicle's diesel particulate filter, which usually regenerates automatically, needed clearing prompted us to take Corsavan onto the M50, drop it down a gear then accelerate hard. The filter cleared and the warning vanished.
Chassis and steering
Independent suspension is fitted at the front with MacPherson struts plus an anti-roll bar while a compound crank axle helps support the rear. Our demonstrator was shod with Continental Conti Eco Contact 195/55 R16H tyres and came with a space-saver spare wheel; entry-level Corsavan gets a full-size one which would always be our preference, despite the extra weight. The new, speed-sensitive, electric rack-and-pinion power steering offers a 10.6m kerb-to-kerb turning circle.
With 95hp on tap from a willing engine, a light commercial the size of Corsavan is never going to lack get up and go.
Having pulled strongly away from rest you can accelerate quickly through the gears. Once you've reached the maximum top speed the only difficulty you will face is reining the vehicle in; which is why you should make judicious use of Sportive's cruise control and speed limiter.
The precise, quick, gear change helps you make rapid progress and you are unlikely to be disappointed by the handling. The combination of a lower centre of gravity, a recalibrated suspension system and steering that has a direct, positive feel to it should help you get through tight bends without having to back off too much.
Recalibrating the suspension has enhanced the ride too - it can cope with almost everything bar the most heavily-ridged of surfaces - while re-designing the engine mountings has helped reduce noise, vibration and harshness. In-cab noise levels are well-muted overall.
Corsavan is highly manoeuvrable at low speeds but if you genuinely need a bit more help then you can always quietly press the City Mode button on the fascia. By doing so you are giving the steering a touch more assistance.
Buying and running
Service intervals are set at 12 months/20,000 miles and Corsavan is protected by a three-year/60,000-mile warranty with no mileage limit in the first year. Roadside assistance for the first year is included in the deal and a six-year body panel anti-perforation warranty is provided too.
At the time of writing however Corsavan was being marketed with what appears to be a near-permanent 4+4+4+4 offer (subject to various terms and conditions) of four years' warranty, four years' breakdown assistance, four years' free servicing and four years' 0% finance.
At 74.3mpg, the official fuel economy figure is without doubt impressive. Not surprisingly, the real-world figure isn't quite as good, but at 64mpg - which is what we achieved - it should nonetheless help you keep your costs down. Start/Stop's presence undoubtedly contributes.
Sportive's door handles, front and rear bumpers and mirror casings are all finished in the same colour as the body. Seems a pity that the body is not protected against minor damage by side rubbing strips
Remote central locking is fitted and you can lock and unlock the doors by hitting a button on the dashboard.
Vauxhall Corsavan Sportive 1.3CDTi 95hp Start/Stop
Price (ex VAT) – £13,875
Price range (ex VAT) – £11,175-£13,875
Gross payload –543kg
Load length – 1257mm
Load width – (min/max) 969mm/1264mm
Load bay height – 921mm
Load volume – 0.92cu/m
Loading height – 532mm
Rear door aperture – 771mm x 650mm
Gross vehicle weight – 1720kg
Braked trailer towing weight – 1250kg
Residual value – 16.93%*
Cost per mile – 29.25p*
Engine size/power – 1248cc, 95hp @ 3750rpm
Torque – 210Nm @ 1500-3000rpm
Gearbox – 6sp
Fuel economy – 74.3mpg (combined)
Fuel tank – 45 litres
CO2 – 101g/km
Warranty –3yrs/60,000 miles
Service intervals – 1yr/20,000 miles
Insurance group – 2E
Price as tested – £15,305
After 4yrs/20,000 miles
IntelliLink - £750
Full-height mesh grille - £65
Load compartment cover - £45
Load area rubber floor mat - £45
Provisions for cargo net - £25
Cargo net - £25
Rear view camera - £225
Rear parking sensors - £250
A praiseworthy package that is exactly what you need if you're looking for a cost-effective urban runabout. Make sure you check out Fiesta Van too though.
Vauxhall's pedigree in the small van market stretches back several decades and some readers may of course remember the Bedford Chevanne.
Probably the smallest vehicle ever to wear a Bedford badge, it was derived from the Vauxhall Chevette car. Back in the day Bedford was of course the UK van and truck arm of General Motors.
Chevanne was ultimately succeeded by the Novavan in 1990, with Vauxhall dropping the Nova badge it had used on Corsas when the Mk II Corsa car debuted in 1993. It was followed by the Mk III, Mk IV and Mk V models in 2000, 2006 and 2011 respectively, with the van version dutifully making its appearance in each case.
Throughout these evolutions What Van? usually concluded that Ford's Fiesta Van remained the best bet in this sector of the market. Today however the Big Blue Oval's advantage isn't quite as marked and there is a case for according the two little load luggers equal billing.