The emergence of compact cube vans is changing the shape of the baby van market but there’s still a place for traditional car-derived models, as James Dallas discovers
A gentle evolution has been taking place in the small van sector since the PSA partners Citroen and Peugeot together with Fiat Professional introduced their respective compact cube cans, the Nemo, Bipper and Fiorino back in 2008.
These vans offer a more practical load proposition than the car-derived vans that have traditionally dominated the segment and are essentially small hatchbacks with their rear seats taken out and side windows replaced with body panels.
Ford took its time weighing up the impact of the new baby vans before launching its own take on the emerging genre in 2014 in the shape of the Transit Courier, the last model to arrive in the brand’s overhaul of its LCV line-up.
Once more the blue oval got it right and we were so impressed we crowned the Courier the What Van? Van of the Year for 2015.
We described the Courier as “a good-looking, stylish and classy little van”, and noted that it’s a different proposition to the car- derived Fiesta Van that continues in the Ford range.
Like the Fiat and PSA vans, the Courier is aimed at customers who need a nimble city vehicle and do not want to drive around with wasted space in their vans but who need a bit more cargo capacity than they’d get from a CDV.
With a payload of up to 660kg and loadspace of 2.4m3 the Courier is in the same ballpark as its Franco-Italian rivals but it offers more choice when it comes to engines.
While the Peugeot and Citroen vans only have a 75hp diesel engine option, and the Fiat as well as Mercedes’ Citan Compact – the only other small van in the segment – have 75hp or 95hp diesels, the Ford can match those two and also offer the 100hp Ecoboost petrol powertrain that’s aimed at the urban operators most likely to be employing this sort of van anyway.
Ford claims: “Transit Courier has quickly taken leadership in its segment.”
It defines this segment as distinct from the CDV one the Fiesta Van occupies but says in December 2014 the Courier outsold the Fiesta Van with 403 registrations compared to 395, giving the vans respective market shares of 40.5% and 61%. For the year overall Ford sold 4044 Fiesta Vans and notched up 1549 Courier sales from its launch date in July.
But although the Courier and its direct competitors may signal the direction the small van sector is taking, Ford shows no inclination as yet to put its successful Fiesta Van out to grass. Indeed, the manufacturer says it is set to get a Euro6 petrol engine as part of the transition to stage 6 across the LCV range in the next 18 months.
By their definition car-derived vans are not the most expensive models to produce – requiring fairly straightforward adaptations to the passenger cars on which they are based – and Vauxhall’s launch of its new CorsaVan is further proof that there is commercially viable life in the business model yet.
Prices for the Corsavan start from £11,858 for the entry-level 1.2-litre 70hp Corsavan, step up to £13,108 for the 1.3 75hp version with Start/Stop, move onto £13,558 for the 1.3 95hp Start/Stop Ecoflex, which is the most economical derivative with official CO2 emissions of 90g/km and combined cycle fuel consumption of 83.1mpg and peak at £14,558 for the 1.3 95hp Corsavan Sportive with Start/Stop.
The most economical version of the previous Corsavan had official CO2 output of 89g/km, but a spokesman for the brand says the transition to Euro6, which slashes diesel particulate NoX pollution, had caused the marginal increase.
Mandatory ESP brings with it standard safety features such as straight line stability control, cornering brake control, drag torque control, brake assist system, active rollover protection, hydraulic brake fade assist and hill start assist.
All models also get six airbags, electric windows and door mirrors, an audio system with aux-in, DAB and Bluetooth, a tyre pressure monitoring system and speed sensitive power steering.
Vauxhall claimed the Corsavan offers 12% more carrying capacity than its key rival, the Ford Fiesta Van, with a payload of 571kg compared to the Fiesta Van’s 508kg.
The brand also highlighted the Corsavan’s service intervals of 20,000 miles/12 months, next to its competitor’s 12,500/12 month schedule.
Elsewhere in the small van sector, DFSK plans to grow the retail network serving its Loadhopper microvan range from 34 to 80 outlets by the third quarter of 2015.