Ford continues to steal the limelight by dominating the market, but there is plenty of other activity in the expanding mid-sized light commercial van segment, as James Dallas reports
The big news in medium vans this year has, of course, been Ford’s launch of its Transit Custom. The model has met with glowing reviews for raising the standard in terms of cabin quality, performance and innovation and we were so impressed we gave it the What Van? Van of the Year Award for 2013.
Ford has done a good job of keeping the Custom in the spotlight and the most recent addition to the line-up is a high-roof version, available in two wheelbases, which may particularly appeal to operators looking to downsize from the heavy van segment for financial, operational or environmental reasons. This model, says the manufacturer, offers 20% more load space than low-roof vans for an extra £500, excluding VAT. To go with its maximum load volume of 8.3m3, it also features a loading height extended by 370mm to give a distance from floor to roof of 1.78m. Ford claims the Transit Custom high-roof is the only model in the segment with an all-steel roof that offers more durability than a composite roof construction, alongside roof-rack compatibility with a carrying capacity of 100kg.
The high-roof Custom keeps the load space features included in the rest of the range such as the load-through hatch in the bulkhead, enabling pipes or ladders of up to 3.0m to be carried inside the vehicle; this increases to 3.4m in the LWB model. The cargo bay also comes with a one-piece load floor liner, which Ford says is durable and easy to clean, as well having four LED lights.
Official fuel consumption for the high-roof Custom is 40.4mpg for the SWB and 39.2mpg for the LWB with CO2 emissions from 178g/km.
The high-roof derivative follows the April launch of the Custom Econetic and Sport vans. In the green corner the Econetic offers fuel economy of 44.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 166g/km, whereas at the other extreme the flagship Sport Van uses the 155hp version of the 2.0-litre engine, and gets sporty styling features inside and out.
Ford claims to have sold more than 7500 Transit Customs since January.
A lower-key arrival was that of the Toyota Proace in July. Resulting from a collaboration with PSA, the van replaces the Hiace, which the Japanese brand withdrew in 2011.
The Proace has now secured its first major fleet deal, with Toyota Material Handling UK, a contract win the manufacturer claims was “no shoo-in”, despite the obvious advantage of being a related company. The sales and servicing provider for Toyota forklift trucks and warehouse equipment says it chose the Proace for its functionality and cost of ownership. The initial order is for 116 vehicles – all long wheelbase/ standard height models powered by a 128hp 2.0-litre diesel engine. These will be used by TMHUK’s engineers for the company’s national servicing, installation and repair operations, as part of a business fleet that numbers 400 LCVs. The vans, which have a 6.0m3 loadspace, have been fitted out with racking by Bott.
Citroen’s Dispatch, one of the vans, along with Peugeot’s Expert, that the Proace is based upon, enjoyed a strong performance in the first three quarters of the year with sales up 35% to 2384. From July, the Dispatch, in line with the rest of Citroen’s LCV line-up, has been available with an Upgrade to Business Class package for £249, excluding VAT. This includes the cost of servicing for four years or 60,000 miles and four years Citroen Assistance.
Mercedes introduced the Vito Effect at the CV Show in April, a special edition that it claims combines the driving characteristics of the Vito Sport with an efficient 113 CDI Euro5 engine. It features an exclusive body kit including chrome radiator grille, 18-inch light alloy wheels, colour-coded bumpers, and exterior side skirts as standard. The Vito Effect is priced from £21,150, excluding VAT.
VW promises to improve fuel consumption and CO2 on its 2.0-litre TDI Transporter Bluemotion from 44.8mpg and 166g/km to 48.7mpg and 156g/km early next year. In addition, the panel van will be fitted with lowered suspension as standard.
For Vauxhall, 2014 will be a key year when it starts production of the second-generation Vivaro at its Luton plant. In the meantime, the brand has celebrated a milestone this year with the 900,000th medium van based on the Vivaro platform rolling off the assembly line.
Whereas the Luton facility previously built Renault Trafic and Nissan Primastar vans alongside the Vivaro, from next year, while all three vans will be replaced and continue to share the same DNA, it will focus solely on the Vauxhall/ Opel model for the UK and mainland Europe.