Light commercial manufacturers are rather too fond of attributing car-like handling to their products. If they are talking about a small light commercial based on a hatchback then they may have a point – but they certainly do not if they are talking about 3.5-tonne panel vans.
Much bigger and heavier than a typical family runabout, they show markedly different on-the-road behaviour, especially if you throw one into a roundabout in the wet with a heavy, unevenly distributed load on board. It is then that you discover that your vehicle is a lot less forgiving than your next-door neighbour’s Mini as you career all over the highway.
If you are driving a Mercedes van, however, then the safety technology it boasts might just save a lot of embarrassment, not to mention your neck. In fact, the high level of safety equipment provided has won Mercedes our Safety award once again.
For a start, the Vito and Sprinter are both fitted with Electronic Stability Programme (ESP). It is designed to stop the van from rolling over if the driver has to swerve suddenly to avoid an obstacle and the road happens to be slippery. The system Mercedes installs is adaptive – in other words, it takes into account the size and position of any cargo being transported as it makes its split-second calculations.
What is more, it has the potential to keep your vehicle under control if any trailer being pulled starts to sway dangerously.
Other standard safety features include ABS, Brake Assist, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and ASR, an anti-skid package.
Both vans are fitted with a driver’s airbag, large, electrically adjustable exterior mirrors, a bulkhead either as standard or as an option, and lashing points in their load areas so that cargo can be properly secured where possible and practical.
It’s good to see that the options list includes, depending on which model you are looking at, a speed limiter, a light and rain sensor, cruise control, a tyre pressure monitor, reversing sensors, and a reversing camera. Passenger, thorax and window airbags are all to be found on the list, too, not to mention headlamps with a cornering function.
The soon-to-be-available Renault Kangoo-derived Citan light van will come with a comprehensive set of standard safety features as well, including ABS and adaptive ESP. Passive safety features will include a driver’s airbag.
Our Highly Commended accolade for this year goes to the latest Ford Ranger, the first pick-up to achieve a maximum five-star rating under the EuroNCAP crash-test protocol.
It scored 89% for overall safety, the best score ever earned by a pick-up and one of the highest scores recorded by EuroNCAP for any type of vehicle. Moreover, the new Ford Ranger achieved the highest rating of any vehicle ever tested by EuroNCAP for pedestrian protection, at 81%.
The organisation’s assessors described the Ranger’s test results as “remarkable” with “impressive” scores in all areas.
EuroNCAP secretary general Michiel van Ratingen added: “With such good pedestrian protection, the Ranger is undoubtedly raising the bar of safety.”