The story of the light van sector is one of new models and new technology, writes Ian Shaw.
Originally launched in 1996, with more than 1.5 million units sold to date, the third-generation Citroen Berlingo Van has been announced.
Featuring technologies new to the LCV segment, such as an overload indicator – the first application of this technology in a vehicle of this type, Citroen claims – it is equipped with 20 driver assistance systems and four connectivity technologies.
The range boasts the latest-generation BlueHDi 1.5 diesel and PureTech 1.2 petrol engines, and Citroen’s new eight-speed automatic gearbox.
Available in two sizes – M and XL – dealers can place orders in the autumn. Lengths are 4.4m in size M and 4.75m for the XL, and both are 2.1m wide (including mirrors), with heights of 1.8-1.9m and load volumes from 3.3m3 to 3.9m3. Payloads range from 950kg to 1,000kg with a towing weight up to 1,500kg.
Naturally, the new Peugeot Partner offers similar basic figures, but as usual the two models will see some differences with regards to standard and optional features, which now extend to previously unprecedented levels.
The new PSA-spawned Vauxhall Combo is coming too, based on an all-new architecture and available in a selection of variants, including short-wheelbase, long-wheelbase and crew van. It can carry a load volume of up to 4.4m3 and a payload of up to 1,000kg.
Longer items up to 3.44m, such as pipes and ladders, can be stored safely and securely, thanks to the FlexCargo load-through hatch. Up to five occupants can be accommodated in crew van body style, while the load is safely stowed behind a partition wall.
In addition, the rear bench can be folded down and the partition moved behind the front seats if required.
The Combo also features a sensor-based load indicator. A white LED lights up if the weight exceeds 80% of the permitted payload or, if the weight is above the limit, an orange signal with an exclamation mark lights up.
As we reached the halfway point of 2018, light van sales were ahead of where they were at the same point last year.
In a sector where the latest technologies often find a home first, some 27,861 vehicles found buyers in the year to 30 June against 26,944 in the same point in 2017, which was a rise of 3.4%.
Entering the second half of the year, however, things took a turn for the worse with sales spiralling downwards by 28% year-on-year in July to 3,485, dragging year-to-date sales down 1.4% to 31,346 units compared to 2017.
Nevertheless, two vans from this sector made it into the top 10 overall bestsellers list: the Peugeot Partner taking fifth place over the first seven months of the year and its platform-sharing Citroen Berlingo claiming seventh spot.
Speaking of the market in general, Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, says: “While variations in buying cycles are a natural feature of the light commercials sector and demand is still at high levels, the overall trend is one of decline. Ongoing uncertainty and low business confidence are undoubtedly having an effect.”
As electric vans continue to make the news, large fleets are leading the way. The latest is Swansea Council, which has taken delivery of 40 Peugeot Partner Electric SE L1 vans, making Swansea the local authority with the largest electric light commercial fleet in Wales.
The order is also one of the largest single orders from a local authority for electric vehicles.
Citroen Berlingo Autumn 2018
Peugeot Partner Autumn 2018
Vauxhall Combo December 2018
Renault Kangoo Early 2020