The big news in the heavy van sector in the fourth quarter of 2011 is the launch of the Euro5 Ford Transit.
Ford shifted 26,590 heavy versions of the Transit last year – almost 12,000 more than its nearest rival the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter – and this year the manufacturer is 25% up in the year-to-date.
When a new version of the van that has dominated the market for nigh on half a century rolls off the assembly lines, the industry sits up and takes notice, but rivals shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of complacency by the lack of changes to the exterior. The £800 price rise across the range, which starts from £17,405 excluding VAT, and rises to £30,370, is not down to the introduction of a silver grille or the fact that the engine size now appears on a blue rather than a red badge.
The big changes to the van have happened under the bonnet.
In meeting the European Commission’s new emissions criteria Ford has taken the opportunity to introduce a new engine that it says will significantly cut down costs for operators.
A Duratorq 2.2-litre TDCi diesel has replaced the previous 2.2 and 2.4 diesels and is offered with power outputs of 100, 125 and 140hp for both front- and rear-wheel models and also in 155hp on the rear-wheel drive Transit.
Ford has signalled its determination to improve fuel economy by placing the Econetic badge on two models rather than just the one, as was the case previously. The green label now adorns not only the 280 Econetic short-wheelbase but also the new long-wheelbase, medium-roof 125hp 350 Econetic. The brand claims the 350 Econetic has 90% of the load volume of the rear-wheel drive 350 high-roof Transit and an increased payload, and is encouraging customers to opt for the Econetic version if they do not need a rear-wheel drive van for towing. The manufacturer claims such a decision would result in savings on fuel alone of more than £3000 annually.
Ford also says the SWB 280 Econetic is 8.5% more efficient than the Euro4 280 Econetic with consumption of 43.5mpg and CO2 of 178g/km, which can be cut by a further 5g/km by upgrading to the optional 62mph speed limiter (all Econetic models feature a switchable 70mph speed limiter as standard). Service intervals are up from 15,000 to 20,000 miles due to an increasing sump oil capacity.
“Service intervals are driven by degradation of the oil,” says commercial vehicle boss Steve Clary, who maintains the savings in service, maintenance and repair (SMR) costs outweigh the increase in the cost of a service due to there being more oil to put in.
Six-speed transmission is now standard across the 2012 Transit line-up, which also comes with daytime running lights. Options include hill hold assist, a rear parking camera and an audio system with DAB digital radio, Bluetooth and USB connectivity.

Engineered to…

Despite its domination of the sector, the Transit, of course, is not the only heavy van in town.
Volkswagen has recently revamped its Crafter, which now uses the 2.0-litre TDI engine seen across the rest of the range instead of the old 2.5 diesel unit. The new engine is Euro5-compliant with adiesel particulate filter and meets the EEV (Enhanced Environmentally Friendly Vehicle) standard. Power outputs are 109, 136, 143 and 163hp.
VW claims emissions have dropped by between 10% and almost 20% across the range. For example, the CR35 2.0-litre 163hp Bluemotion has CO2 output of 199g/km compared with 258g/km for the equivalent previous engine. It has also slashed fuel consumption by 29% to 37.2mpg on the combined cycle.
As well as the panel van the new model is available as a chassis cab and chassis double-cab. VW is marketing the tipper, dropside and Lutons under its Engineered to Go scheme while it is offering more bespoke conversions under the Engineered for You initiative.
 Minor adjustments have been made to the cab, including a gear change indicator on the dashboard to suggest optimum fuel economy.
Standard equipment includes electric windows, an MP3- compatible radio/CD player and a 12V in-cab power socket. But you’ll have to fork out £65 if you want a height- and reach-adjustable steering wheel. Other options are Climatic air-conditioning for £1025 and Bluetooth for £335.
Safety features include an electronic stability programme that adjusts according to the load, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Electronic Brake Assist.
New Crafter prices start from £20,450 and go up to £32,150.
The van the Crafter aspires to rival is the highly lauded Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. The well-upholstered Sprinter led the way in going Euro5 back in 2010 and also set the pace in introducing stop/start technology to commercial vehicles in the shape of its Ecostart system.
Citroen focuses strongly on the conversion market and has recently introduced new Citroen Contract Motoring (CCM) contract hire rates to its Relay conversion range. Under the terms, it says business customers can hire a Relay Specialist model from £305 a month, excluding VAT. The CCM covers several versions of the six-speed manual Relay 35, starting with the L3HDi 120 Dropside for £305. The L2HDi 120 Tipper is offered from £335 and the L3 HDi 120 Luton is up for grabs at £345 a month.
Fiat’s new, Euro5 Ducato arrived in UK showrooms in October. It is offered with three 2.3-litre Multijet 11 direct-injection turbodiesel engines developing 110hp, 130hp and 150hp respectively and as a 3.0-litre 180hp flagship model.
The 130hp derivative is the prospective best-seller – Fiat claims it is 8% more powerful
than its Euro4 predecessor and 9% more economical with fuel consumption of 39.7mpg and emissions of 186g/km. A 110hp version of the 2.3 engine has been developed exclusively for the UK and should arrive in the fourth quarter of 2011.
The new Ducato features a traction control system, Traction+, designed to give added grip to whichever front wheel comes into contact with a loose surface.

Flagship engine

Meanwhile, Iveco is to launch its new Daily in the UK this month. The van will be available with diesel, natural gas and electric drive configurations and will feature loading volume of up
to 17.2cu/m.
The flagship engine will be the new 3.0-litre Euro5 diesel, which will boast power output of 205hp and 470Nm of torque. The engine features twin turbochargers, one compact turbo to provide rapid throttle response from low speeds and a larger unit to supply the engine’s maximum performance.
Also available is the 2.3-litre powertrain with 320Nm torque and a new Multijet 11 fuel- injection system, which Iveco claims results in lower engine noise, improved fuel consumption and lower tail-pipe emissions. All diesel engines have enhanced  exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and a diesel particulate filter (DPF) as standard.
Safety enhancements include daytime running lights and a new fog light cornering device to ensure drivers can see and vans can be seen in poor visibility conditions.