Vauxhall’s launch of the re- engined Movano couldn’t be more low-key if it tried.
Presumably because it doesn’t want to deflect attention from the, admittedly hugely impressive and British-built new Vivaro – winner of the What Van? Medium Van of the Year award for 2015 along with the near-identical Renault Trafic – the UK offshoot of General Motors has down-played the changes to the biggest model in its line-up.
At the time of writing, the online Movano catalogue on Vauxhall’s main website still only gave details of its predecessor, although the price guide had been updated.
That’s a pity because the latest Movano could do with a bit of a marketing boost if it is going to take on the other key players in its sector successfully.
A sound product that is often in danger of being overlooked, the Movano now comes with
a more powerful 2.3-litre CDTI diesel with outputs of from 110hp to 163hp on offer compared with the previous 100hp to 150hp power spread.
It’s the 163hp lump that powers our 3.5-tonne test vehicle, and it is admittedly a moot point as
to whether a 3.5-tonner needs quite so many horses. In most cases 120hp to 140hp is perfectly adequate. however, more muscle may be needed if you do a lot of maximum-payload intercity runs, if you regularly have to tackle hilly terrain heavily laden, or if you are constantly hauling a big trailer.
Equipped with twin turbochargers, the 163hp bi- turbo engine is designed to make all those activities a whole lot easier. Its 136hp stablemate boasts twin turbos too, but the 110hp and 125hp variants that are also listed have to make do with one turbo apiece.
Sharing the same basic design as Renault’s Master, the Movano comes with a standard six-speed manual gearbox, although the 125hp engine can be ordered with a Tecshift automated ’box as an option. Opt for either the 136hp or the 163hp diesel and stop/ start comes as standard, as does
a package of measures under the Ecoflex banner designed to cut fuel consumption and CO2 output.
Like the market-leading Ford Transit, the Movano is sold with either front- or rear-wheel drive.
In the latter case there is a choice between single or twin rear wheels.
Customers can select from four gross weights – 2800kg, 3300kg, 3500kg or 4500kg – while gross payloads extend from 1000kg to 2254kg. Load cubes range from 7.8m3 to 17m3 and encompass four lengths and three roof heights.
You can order your Movano as a van, a crew van, a chassis cab, a chassis double-cab, a platform cab and with various special conversions. The line-up includes a tipper, a dropside and a box van as well as more specialist models such as a mobile welfare vehicle for work gangs complete with cooking and heating facilities plus a toilet. The Movano is also marketed as a 4x4 thanks to a conversion sourced from off-road engineering specialist Oberaigner.
While Ford’s Transit will always be the key rival of any big panel van, aside from the Master sister vehicle, two other models are listed in the UK as having 163hp engines. One is VW’s Crafter, the other is Mercedes-Benz’s Sprinter, and both are marketed solely with rear-wheel drive.
The closest model to our demonstrator in the Crafter line-up is the long-wheelbase high-roof with Bluemotion Technology. With 14.0m3 to play with it has 1.0m3 more cargo space than Vauxhall’s offering and getting on for 600mm more load length. The load bay is 46mm taller than the Movano and 15mm wider, but there is 30mm less clearance between the wheel boxes. The rear-wheel drive Crafter is at a disadvantage too when it comes to rear loading height, which stands at 670mm compared with a less- arduous 557mm.
At a modest 1131kg, gross payload capacity is a considerable distance behind the Vauxhall’s. So is towing capacity at 2.0t.
Given that the two vans come with similar body shells it is not entirely surprising that the 14m3 long-wheelbase high-roof Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has similar dimensions to those of the aforementioned Crafter, and thus similar advantages and drawbacks when compared with the Movano. That goes for the permitted payload capacity too.
Indeed, if it is payload that matters to you above all else then you may care to investigate the Citroen Relay/Peugeot Boxer/ Fiat Ducato line-up. Sharing the same basic design, all three will carry more weight than the German offerings.
Cab and equipment
The Movano is sold with one level of specification and it is a reasonably comprehensive one. It includes a driver’s seat and steering wheel that are both height- adjustable, a driver’s airbag, two in-cab 12V power points, remote audio controls on the steering column and plenty of shelves, bins and cubbyholes for oddments.
Electric windows and electrically adjustable and heated mirrors come as standard, and the back of the middle seat in the three-seater cab folds down and turns into a desk complete with a couple of cup-holders.
Safety is well catered for with the usual collection of electronic gizmos – some a
legal requirement, some not – including ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution, emergency brake assist, hill-start assist and electronic stability programme with traction control. Disc brakes are fitted all round.
Vauxhall deserves a huge round of applause for equipping the Movano with a mirror in the passenger sun visor that enables the driver to spot anything lurking in the van’s nearside blind spot. An inexpensive, well thought-out measure, it is a potential life-safer and won What Van?’s 2015 Innovation Award, although it can make some passengers feel a little queasy.
Another neat idea is the way in which the display for the radio and the optional satnav system sits at the top of the windscreen, which makes it easy to see.
VW and Mercedes have adopted a one-spec policy with the Crafter and Sprinter too. Both get cruise control as standard while the Crafter comes with an electronic differential lock
and the Sprinter is equipped with Crosswind Assist, which is intended to prevent vans being blown into an adjacent lane if they are caught in a sudden crosswind on the motorway.
While the Crafter’s 2.0-litre twin- turbo diesel is smaller than the Movano’s, with 400Nm on tap
at 1800rpm, it generates more torque, although its maximum cuts in higher up the rev range.
At 2.1 litres the Sprinter’s twin-turbo sits between the two. At 360Nm across a 1400– 2400rpm plateau, its torque quotient is closer to the Movano’s than it is to the Crafter’s.
Unlike the Euro5-only Movano, the diesels for the Crafter and Sprinter are available to either Euro5 or yet-to-be- mandatory Euro6 specifications.
Like the Movano, both the VW and the Merc come equipped with a standard six- speed manual gearbox. Optional on the Sprinter diesels is a seven- speed automatic transmission.
Chassis and steering
MacPherson-type suspension is fitted to the Movano at the front with independent double wishbones, coil springs and telescopic dampers. Telescopic dampers are to be found at the back too, along with a tubular axle and variable-rate single-leaf springs, plus the van sits on 16-inch wheels and has a full-size spare.
The Crafter’s suspension set-up is similar at the back, but different at the front. Although independent, it employs a transverse leaf spring, and the Sprinter takes a similar approach.
Rear-wheel drive means that both rivals’ wall-to-wall turning circle is tighter than the Vauxhall, at 15.6m compared with 16.2m, despite their greater overall length.
With all those horses at our command we did not expect our Movano to hang about at the starting line, and so it proved. The twin-turbo engine digs in nicely as you accelerate away from rest and provides a steady and uninterrupted stream of power all the way up the rev range. As well as turning in a gutsy performance on A and B roads it easily holds its own in high-speed motorway traffic. Progress is aided by a slick gear change and drivers might be well advised to make use of the (optional) cruise control/speed limiter to ensure this Movano doesn’t run away with them.
For a relatively big van it handles surprisingly well, with plenty of feedback from a nicely weighted steering system that aids manoeuvrability at low speeds.
The unladen ride is a bit choppy and the cab could do with a bit more sound-deadening, but there are no complaints otherwise.
Buying and running
The Movano boasts a claimed 40.4mpg on the combined cycle according to official figures, which is roughly what our demonstrator delivered. CO2 output is set at 184g/km. The Sprinter comes in with quoted figures of 40.4mpg and 185g/km when fitted with a low-CO2 Blue Efficiency package. With Bluemotion Technology the Crafter weighs in at 35.8mpg with emissions of 208g/km. But always bear in mind that the vagaries of van operation mean that official fuel figures should only be taken as the roughest of guides.
Service intervals for the Vauxhall are set at 25,000 miles/two years. The Crafter’s
are at 24,000 miles/two years, while Mercedes points out that the Sprinter’s Assyst onboard maintenance computer permits an interval of up to an astonishing 37,500 miles. however the gap is likely to be considerably shorter if you happen to work in a particularly demanding trade.
The Movano comes with a three-year/100,000-mile warranty with breakdown assistance
for the first year. At the time of writing, however, it was being marketed with a special package that included a four- year/120,000-mile warranty with breakdown assistance for the duration plus four years of free servicing up to 80,000 miles.
The Volkswagen Crafter offers a three-year/unlimited mileage warranty with breakdown assistance on the same terms. The Sprinter’s is the same as VW’s, and under the MobiloVan banner Mercedes promises free lifetime assistance should your vehicle break down or fail to start.
Movano’s stop/start system helps keep diesel usage down, as does a light on the dashboard that tells you when to change gear for optimum fuel economy.
Impressive package offers the right combination of carrying capacity, economy and performance.
Vauxhall’s van line-up has its roots in the days when all commercial vehicles sold by GM in the UK bore the Bedford badge.
Launched in 1969 and succeeding the CA that had been around for 17 years, the Bedford CF was a popular fleet workhorse and an effective rival to Ford’s Transit, which had debuted four years earlier. It was available in electric guise for several years too.
Failure to develop the CF meant it fell further and further behind the Transit until it was killed off in the
late 1980s. The Bedford brand itself disappeared not long afterwards as GM looked more towards joint-ventures to develop a (Vauxhall-badged) light commercial line-up. One of its key joint-venture partners was (and is) Renault. The second- generation Master that debuted in 1997 was also marketed as the Movano, a policy that continued when the Master was facelifted in 2003 and when an all- new model broke cover in 2010.