The What Van? Road Test: Vauxhall Movano

Date: Wednesday, June 22, 2011

With the launch of the latest Movano, Vauxhall signalled its intention to slug it out head-to-head in the panel van market with the likes of Mercedes-Benz’s Sprinter, Iveco’s Daily and – in the UK in particular – Ford’s all-conquering Transit.

Like its predecessor, the Movano is the product of a long-standing joint-venture with Renault that has also spawned the Master. It covers a wider range of gross weights than the old model however – from 2.8t to an unprecedented 4.5t – and unlike the old model it is up for grabs with a Ford Transit-style choice of either front- or rear-wheel drive. Load space goes up to an echoing 17.0cu/m and power comes courtesy of a 2.3-litre CDTI diesel at 100hp, 125hp or 146hp. Remember too that the Movano is produced in double cab, chassis cab, platform cab, crew cab and minibus guise.
We tried the rear-wheel drive 14.9cu/m 3.5t Movano van with the most-powerful diesel available.

Cab

There is no denying that the Movano has one of the best-designed three-seater cabs in the business, with no lack of storage space. The only difficulty a driver is likely to face is trying to remember where he put his pen or his sandwiches given the near-bewildering variety of pockets, cubby holes and shelves.
Enumerating the lot would take up most of this page, so we will content ourselves with highlighting the most useful. Our test van had three bins in each door – the large one at the bottom had a moulding that could hold a flask or a big bottle of water – shelves above the windscreen, including a slot for the driver’s sunglasses, and a roomy, lidded, glovebox. The selection of shelves on the fascia included one that could take an A4 clipboard while two more bins sat proud of the centre of the dashboard, one above the other, at about knee level. We also counted five cup-holders.
It should be stressed, however, that some of this storage – the clipboard holder on the fascia for instance – was provided as a result of our Movano being equipped with an Office Pack for an additional £465 (all prices quoted here exclude VAT). But even without the Office Pack the basic provision of storage facilities is pretty good.
Meanwhile, big doors aid cab access and both the steering column and the driver’s seat are height-adjustable.

Load area

Opting for the second-biggest Movano van of the bunch will not leave you short of carrying space.
The opaque back doors can be swung through 270° if you pay an extra £275, and secured against the vehicle’s sides with magnetic catches. If you do not want to push them that far, then you can latch them open at 90°.
There are 10 floor-mounted load-lashing rings plus one at the base of each of the rear door pillars and one next to each wheel box. A step aids access, although we would have welcomed a grab-handle too. There is also a nearside sliding door; again, a step is provided.
The rear door opening in particular is wide and high. A shelf above the cab, accessible solely from the cargo area, looks like a sensible place to stow small, vulnerable bits and pieces that you do not want squashed by any heavy items.
To line a load area this size requires a lot of timber. The protective cladding for the sides cost £550 with the anti-slip resin-coated ply floor adding a further £225.
While you get the space with a big 3.5-tonner like this, you do not get the payload capacity. In this case the gross payload is just shy of 1.2t, but the weight of a driver and two passengers could cut this to under a tonne. While the lack of payload capability need not be a concern for parcels work – space is more important – we wonder how durable the Movano would be in an intensive house-to-house parcels delivery operation. It is after all a re-badged Renault and as a consequence may not be the best choice if you want a van capable of withstanding a severe and unremitting daily hammering.

Powertrain

Complying with the new Euro5 exhaust emission regulations, the 146hp version of the four-cylinder, 16-valve, common rail 2.3-litre is equipped with a variable-geometry turbocharger plus an intercooler. The engine is mounted longitudinally. All Movanos are equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox, with a semi-automatic six-speed Tecshift transmission on offer as an alternative.

Chassis and steering

The Movano on test was a twin rear-wheel, rear-wheel drive model. But no matter where the drive goes to, all Movanos are fitted with MacPherson-type front suspension with independent double wishbones, coil springs and telescopic dampers. Telescopic dampers and a tubular axle are installed at the rear in all cases too, but rear-wheel drive variants come with variable-rate double-leaf springs – triple-leaf for HD versions like the one on test – rather than single-leaf springs.
The demonstrator’s 16in steel wheels were shod with Continental Vanco 2 195/75 R16C tyres, and a full-size spare is provided.
Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering comes as standard with 3.7 turns lock-to-lock and a 15.7m kerb-to-kerb turning circle. It increases to 16.2m wall-to-wall.

Performance

For such a big van – overall length is almost 7.0m – the 14.9cu/m Movano handles astonishingly well. Offering more than sufficient feedback, its direct, highly responsive steering ensures that it goes in exactly the direction you want, with no indication that it intends to wander off course. Nor did we have any complaints about the van’s straight-line performance. It pulls strongly away from rest and once into top gear you can cruise Britain’s motorways quite happily all day long.
The engine is flexible too, with no need to change gear all the time to get the best out of it. That is just as well given that the gear change was not the smoothest and the clutch tended to be on the heavy side.
On the other hand, the Vauxhall Movano rode better than we expected it to, soaking up almost everything the road network could throw at it without excessive rolling orlurching. It is not outstanding, but is without doubt competent.
In-cab noise levels were perfectly acceptable too. The extra soundproofing for the bulkhead that comes with the Office Pack doubtless helped.

Fuel economy

We returned a steady 30mpg – not bad for such a big van. A light on the dashboard advises when to change gear to keep diesel usage low.

Equipment

It seems a little odd that a relatively new vehicle should have to be promoted with a free Launch Pack said to be worth £1400 to pull in the punters, but that
was the case with the Movano. Including aircon, a multi-function trip computer and Bluetooth, the pack will be available without charge until the end of the year.
Electric windows and electrically adjustable and heated mirrors are included in the van’s basic price and the Movano comes with an aux-in socket on the fascia plus two 12V power points; one next to the gear stick and the other on top of the dashboard.
Despite its bulk, the L4 H2 Movano is remarkably manoeuvrable at parking speeds, but long vans with solid, full-height steel bulkheads and unglazed back doors are a recipe for reversing damage. Thankfully, ours was fitted with rear parking sensors – yours for £265 and well worth the money. Big exterior mirrors with a wide-angle lower section on the driver’s side make life easier too.
Returning to the Office Pack referred to earlier, it also includes an MP3-compatible radio/CD player – you will find remote controls on the steering column – with a remote display, mounted towards the top of the windscreen where the rear-view mirror would usually be, that can be swivelled towards the driver.

Buying and running

At the time of writing Vauxhall was marketing the Movano with four years’ free servicing, a four-year/ 120,000-mile warranty, four years’ worth of breakdown assistance and a four-year 0% finance deal. However, again it seems a little strange that a comparatively new light commercial should need to be promoted in this way.
Ordinarily it is protected by a three-year/100,000-mile warranty with roadside assistance for the first year. A six-year body panel anti-perforation warranty is provided in all cases.

Safety

Sizable light commercial vehicles can do a lot of damage if they run out of control, and so it is good to see that the Vauxhall Movano boasts plenty of safety devices. Anti-lock Braking System, Emergency Brake Assist, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and a driver’s airbag all come as standard, while Electronic Stability Programme and Traction Control are installed in all rear-wheel drive models. But shame on you Vauxhall – ESP is not fitted as standard on the front-wheel drive versions and it most certainly should be. Disc brakes, however, are fitted all round across the entire Movano range and the front ones are ventilated.
Remote central locking comes as standard on the model while there is a button in the cabin next to both the courtesy lights and the map-reading light that allows the locking of all the doors too.
Talking about lights, this particular Movano was fitted with a £245 lighting pack that includes front fog lights and rain-sensitive windscreen wipers.
Finally, side rubbing strips should help prevent minor damage and the protection provided is extended to the wheel arches.

 

Verdict

A valiant attempt to match the best big vans on sale. Cab design is class-leading, but jury out on durability.

 

History

The Vauxhall Movano’s roots stretch back to the 1990s, when Renault and General Motors, Vauxhall’s parent company, embarked on a major
joint venture.
The French manufacturer needed to replace its existing Trafic and its extremely Gallic, quirky-looking Master while GM needed something to
replace the ghastly Midi and succeed the by-then-defunct Bedford-badged  CF. A joint venture allowed both companies to cut their costs although it
was clear from the start that France was in the driving seat so far as product development and styling were concerned.
The new Master and a Vauxhall-badged version called the Movano duly appeared in 1998/9 and both received a facelift in 2003. Their completely redesigned successors debuted last year.
The new Trafic broke cover in 2001, with Vauxhall marketing a re-badged model called Vivaro, and has been revised several times since.
 

 

 

 



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