The Iveco Daily has retained the Large Van Award it took back from the Mercedes Sprinter in 2015 having previously captured the prize in 2013 with the last generation model.

The Daily’s case to be considered the outstanding heavy van operating in the market place has been much strengthened by the addition of the eight-speed Himatic auto transmission in the first quarter of 2015 to the 2.3-litre engine as well as the 3.0-litre unit to which it was initially exclusively wed. But curiously, while the manufacturer is offering Hi-matic with its 2.3-litre diesel engines with outputs of 106 and 126hp, it is not available with the m ore powerful 146hp derivative.

Nevertheless, Iveco is confident that the addition of the ZF-sourced gearbox will be a gamechanger. Admittedly it adds £1,500 to the final invoice for the vehicle, but Iveco contends that customers who specify it will benefit from a 4% cut in fuel usage and a 4kg weight-saving compared with the Agile automated manual box that was available in the previous model.

The brands’ two big supermarket customers, Tesco and Asda, have taken the system as a replacement for the far more rudimentary six-speed semi-auto Agile gearbox they currently used.

The supermarkets, which order Daily chassis cabs and then get converter Solomons to fit them with refrigerated bodies, prefer automatic transmissions because they cut down on the workshop bills caused by the battering clutches take from drivers using manual gearboxes on multiple drop delivery runs.

UK product boss Martin Flach reckons that within a year the Himatic will be the default choice for Daily operators, with only a minority specifying the manual and nearly all home delivery fleets going for the automatic. He also says the Himatic will open up the blue light sectors, which favour auto transmissions, to Iveco.

Making its debut in a large van, the sumptuously smooth ZF system has quite a pedigree, it has already been utilised in premium brand cars from Jeep, Maserati, Bentley and Rolls Royce.

Himatic comes with a choice of Eco or Power modes, the former is designed to be suitable for the majority of assignments while the latter holds on to gears for a fraction longer to enhance performance and is handy, for example, when climbing steep hills with a heavy load on board. A third option, manual mode, permits sequential shifting via the gear stick.

However, unless you needed to hold onto a gear in icy conditions, for example, we can see no reason why manual would be the preferred choice. Sharp and precise steering compliments the excellence of the automatic transmission and, combined with the sure-footed lack of roll when cornering, the Himatic Daily can claim to be among the best models to drive in the large van sector.

The new RWD Daily has a lighter suspension system than its predecessor, which has improved payload by 44kg, and is up for grabs in a wide range of configurations. Payloads go from 1185kg up to 1500kg and load volumes start at 7.0m3 but expand to a cavernous 19.6m3.

Flach says the “sweet spot” appealing to most customers is from 10.8m3 to 12.0m3 load space with payloads of 1220kg to 1420kg.

In November Iveco supplemented the new Daily line-up with an electric version. The van features regenerative braking, with adjustable settings allowing the driver to choose strength of braking when they lift off the throttle (adding charge back into the battery). The vehicle is also fitted with a pedestrian warning system as standard, which is activated when driving at speeds of up to 18mph. Inside, The cabin comes with a detachable seven-inch tablet computer, and a TomTom satnav system.

Daily customers benefit from the provision of 24-hour servicing, courtesy of Iveco’s HGV heritage and the brand is now working on increasing its high street presence with the establishment of a Daily sub-network, says Flach.


Did you know?

Iveco claims the electric Daily has a battery range of 173 miles from a full charge.


Highly Commended

Taking the runners up spot for the second consecutive year is the excellent Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, like the Daily a rear-wheel drive model, although it is also available in all-wheel drive.

Something else the Sprinter has in common with the Iveco van is the availability of automatic transmission, which is still a rarity in the light  commercial world but an option favoured by many operators on multi-drop deliveries. The big Merc van is up for grabs with the seven-speed 7G-Tronic ‘box. The Sprinter was the first LCV to meet Euro6 emissions standards and boasts a wealth of safety equipment including Crosswind Assist to keep the van stable in high gusting winds, Blind Spot Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Highbeam Assist and Collision prevention Assist to protect against rear-end shunts.