The UK’s most influential LCV title honoured the industry’s star performers at a prestigious awards event that took place in the capital at the end of 2015, James Dallas reports
The most influential figures in the light commercial vehicle industry gathered together at the luxurious Brewery conference centre in the heart of the City of London just before Christmas to recognise the products and innovations that are set to have a major impact on the industry in the year ahead.
The exclusive venue hosted a luncheon to celebrate the 2016 What Van? Awards, the most coveted accolades in the market. For the 2016 event, What Van? saluted the outstanding performers in 13 crucial light commercial categories as well as unveiling the winner of the overall prize, the 2016 What Van? LCV of the year.
This year we also opened the doors to the What Van? Hall of Fame for the third time to welcome in another pair of worthy entrants who, in contrasting ways, have made huge contributions to the light commercial vehicle industry in the UK.
Following its successful introduction last year we continued with our reader-voted prize, which once more went to the most popular van converter chosen by our readership from a 25-strong shortlist compiled by our expert panel of judges.
The guests congregated for a champagne reception before sitting down to enjoy a first class meal washed down by the finest wines.
What Van?’s editor Paul Barker was joined on stage by Peter Bridgen, the managing director of Allstar Business Solutions, which sponsored the event for the first time in 2016, to present the awards either side of the main course.
Fuel card giant Allstar sees the LCV sector as a fertile area for growth and sees partnering the What Van? Awards as an ideal platform from which to launch itself into the orbits of the industry’s high flyers. Allstar is expanding through a strategy of
organic and acquisitional growth as well as widening the breadth of its product offering.
Of the UK’s 8100 fuel stations, Allstar is accredited at 7650 of them.
The Allstar One card covers all sites but the 1850 outlets belonging to the Keyfuel network offer customers a 2p per litre discount on diesel.
In the first quarter of this year Allstar is to launch a Visa-based product called Allstar Mobility. The card will expand beyond fuel payments to cover business travel expenses tailored to meet the needs of individual customers.
These could include rail travel, hotel accommodation, flights, vehicle rental or restaurants.
Bridgen set the ball rolling with an introductory speech before Barker announced the award winners.
Mitsubishi scooped the big prize with What Van? crowning its L200 series 5 pick-up truck the Light Commercial Vehicle of the Year 2016.
Obviously the L200 also took the best in sector gong and the manufacturer will feel the model is back where it belongs, with the previous generation truck having taken the top category honour for six consecutive years until 2012.
The new L200 is available now in double-cab format but single and club-cab versions will follow.
The Series 5 L200, which is more streamlined and less bulky than most of the other pick-ups out there, has upped its game in terms of performance, carrying capacity 4WD ability, driving refinement, styling, body and chassis strength, maneuverability and crucially, emissions and fuel efficiency. It has official fuel economy of 42.8mpg and CO2 emissions starting from 169g/km.
Mitsubishi has replaced the 2.5-litre engine in the Series 4 with a new common-rail direct fuel injection 2.4-litre unit with outputs of 151hp in the entry-level 4Life and 178hp in the Titan, Warrior and Barbarian derivatives.
A slick, six-speed manual gearbox is the norm but five-speed automatic transmission is also available with paddle shifters mounted on the steering column, a first in the pick-up market.
The well thought out, classy L200 has once more raised the bar in the pick-up sector and is a worthy winner of our LCV of the year for 2016.
A good year for Mitsubishi was enhanced with it also capturing the Green Award with its Outlander 4Work PHEV.
The five-door, all-wheel drive LCV qualifies for the Government’s Plug-in Van Grant – which covers 20% of the list price up to £8000 and is capable of travelling for 30 miles on battery power before switching to petrol-hybrid drive.
Ford did not have such a stellar year as in 2015, when the Transit Courier was crowned Van of the Year, the Transit Connect took the light van award and the Ranger was the top-rated pick-up, but the excellent little Courier did retain its position as the most highly regarded small van. What’s more, we welcomed the legendary Transit into the What Van? Hall of Fame in recognition of its peerless contribution to the UK light commercial industry over the half-century since its launch in 1965.
In the Light Van category, Fiat Professional’s Doblo Cargo returned to the top of the tree, having undergone a facelift early in 2015. The Doblo Cargo is now more economical and offers a breadth of choice other manufacturers do not match. It is available with two roof heights and two wheelbases and load volumes going from 3.4m3 to 5.0m3. Gross payloads range from 750kg to a class-leading 1005kg.
It was as you were in the Medium Van category with the versatile and practical Renault Trafic, together with its Vauxhall-badged equivalent the Vivaro, finishing ahead of the Highly Commended Ford Transit Custom (a previous double winner of the Van of the Year Award) and fending off competition from the new Mercedes Vito and VW Transporter.
With the addition of the superb eight-speed automatic Hi-matic transmission to the line-up, the durable and sophisticated Iveco Daily held off Mercedes’ Sprinter to retain the Large Van of the Year Award.
A new market entrant, the car-derived Duster Commercial, from Renault’s budget brand Dacia, won the 4x4 prize. The soft-roader is frugal, functional and more refined than its sub-£10,000 starting price may suggest.
The Innovation Award went to Dawsonrental/vans’ ingenious solution to the time consuming headaches caused by LCV servicing, a pop-up workshop called The Portable Auto Centre.
The new Mercedes-Benz Vito kept up its manufacturer’s excellent record in the field by taking the Safety Award, Citroen had the best website again, VFS came out as the top Van Converter, in the category that is opened up to the votes of our esteemed readers, the Vauxhall Vivaro won the Used Van Award and the Innovation Award went to Nissan for demonstrating its faith in its LCV line-up with a five year/100,000 mile warranty.
Last but by no means least, the irrepressible Mark Cartwright, architect of the Freight Transport Association’s Van Excellence safety standards scheme, accompanied the Ford Transit into the What Van? Hall of Fame.