If you are a food journalist, you visit expensive restaurants. If you are a travel journalist, you visit exotic locations. And if you are a commercial vehicle journalist, you visit truck factories.

It was on just such an occasion many years ago that something struck me about the, then called, Turbo Daily vans being built before our eyes at the Iveco plant in Valladolid, Spain.

These were not big vans – they were small trucks. Totally against the grain of the rest of the 3.5t panel van market, the Daily is not of unitary, or unibody, construction, like a Ford Transit, Citroen Relay, VW Transporter et al. and every family car, but instead utilises a separate ladder-frame chassis, like a heavy truck. Old-fashioned, outmoded surely, but don’t be fooled – the ladder chassis, retained in the most modern embodiment of the Daily, is there for a reason: flexibility. Not only does it allow gross weights of up to 7.0t, but for chassis cab applications such as tippers, Luton vans, fridge units etc. it’s ideal.

At 3.5t, then, the chassis takes up a little more kerb mass and hence robs a bit of payload, but here the gains are real enough and the heavy-duty approach is not lost on some buyers. A fleet operator once told me the reason behind his affection for the Daily despite the payload compromise. “Citroen, Vauxhall and VW make cars,” he said, “but Iveco makes trucks.”

Although Iveco classes this as the third Daily, with facelifts we have seen six actual versions to date, and it claims a total of 8,000 possible factory configurations. These begin with three wheelbase options of 3.0m, 3.25m and 4.1m, giving load lengths from 2.6-4.1m.

Add three roof heights with internal dimensions of 1.45m, 1.8m and 2.0m and you can create load volumes from 7.3m3 to a warehouse-like 19.6m3. Payloads in the 3.5t models go from 1,030kg to 1,460kg. Gross vehicle weights start at 3.3t and climb to 7.0t.

All that will need some power and it comes from Iveco’s well-proven Sofim turbocharged four-cylinder diesel in 2.3- and 3.0-litre forms. The two sizes cover five states of tune, with 116-205hp on tap, offering torque figures of up to 470Nm in the 3.0-litre unit.

Kit levels are impressive, with DAB, connectivity for i-this and i-that, satnav and full telematics packages, a HiMatic eight-speed auto gearbox, and climate and cruise control.

We hear of a couple of issues around the parking brake, immobiliser and battery, but engines seem to stand mega-miles, with only some cab trim parts suffering over the years. Overall this is a great workhorse that’s under-appreciated – and overshadowed by the Transit – in the UK.

Five best options

  • 3.0-litre engine
  • HiMatic auto gearbox
  • LWB (also see ‘Best avoided’)
  • High roof (also see ‘Best avoided’)
  • Platinum model

Five best avoided

  • 116hp engine in LWB form
  • 116hp engine if towing
  • LWB at 3.3t
  • High roof at 3.3t
  • Non-approved chassis cab bodies