Over the last 18 months or so the market has been swamped by a tidal wave of new vans. Ford has introduced a new Transit, Mercedes has launched a new Sprinter, Volkswagen has replaced LT with Crafter… the list seems endless and there's a risk that the most recent offerings of some manufacturers will be overlooked.
That's unlikely to happen to the latest Iveco Daily however. Representing the culmination of a series of revisions to the Italian manufacturer's rear-wheel drive, chassis-based workhorse during the past couple of years, it comes with all-new exterior styling and a completely redesigned cab interior.
There are changes under the metal too, including a rejigged front suspension system, bigger brakes and a strengthened van cargo box.
So are all these changes enough to allow Daily to keep slugging it out with the competition on equal terms? We decided to find out.
Daily customers can't complain about a lack of choice. Gross weights range from 3.2 to 6.5 tonnes, buyers can pick from vans, chassis cabs and chassis double cabs, and van load areas extend from 7.3m3 to an echoing 17.2m3.
There's a good spread of engine power outputs too, and the technology is common rail diesel in all cases.
Married to a five-speed gearbox, the 2.3-litre HPI (High Performance Injection) is up for grabs at 96 bhp or 116 bhp. An HPT (High Performance Turbo) version of the same engine generates 136 bhp, the difference being that it's equipped with a variable, rather than a fixed, geometry turbocharger.
Its 3.0-litre stablemate can be specified at 146 bhp (HPI) or 176 bhp (HPT) and comes with a six-speeder. A six-speed automated manual AGile 'box is listed as an extra-cost option.
We ventured onto the roads of Lincolnshire (where you find some hills) and Cambridgeshire (where you don't) in a 136 bhp 35S14 3.5 tonne high roof van with a 3,300mm wheelbase and a 12.0m3 cargo body.
Its four-cylinder 16-valve engine pumps out maximum power across a wide 3,000rpm-to-3,900rpm plateau. Peak torque of 236 lb/ft makes its presence felt across an even wider 1,700rpm-to-3,000rpm range.
These days the front suspension is fully independent with a transverse leaf spring. At the back you'll find single-leaf parabolic springs and an anti-roll bar.
Our Daily's 16in steel wheels were shod with Bridgestone Duravis 225/65 R16C tyres. Rear axle ratio was 3.75:1.
Ventilated disc brakes are fitted at the front while solid discs are deployed at the back. ABS and EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) both come as standard. Our demonstrator was additionally equipped with ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) for a modest £260. All prices quoted here exclude VAT.
ESP includes a hill-holder function to stop you rolling backwards when you're trying to move away on an incline. ASR (Anti-Slip Regulation) is fitted too, and can be switched off.
Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering offers an 11.2m turning circle kerb-to-kerb rising to 12.4m wall-to-wall.
With a gross payload capacity of 1,345kg — not all that impressive for a 3.5-tonner — our Daily could tow a braked trailer grossing at 2,800kg.
Access to the cargo bay is by means of twin, unglazed, side-hinged back doors and a nearside sliding door.
The back doors will swing through 90° and 270°, and allow themselves to be latched to the van's sides with metallic catches if you release the door stays. A projecting rear step and an offside grab handle make climbing aboard a bit easier and the whole rear area can be illuminated by an exterior overhead spotlight.
Incorporated with a high level brake light this latter item costs an extra £100. You use a button on the dashboard to switch it on and off.
There's a step just inside the side door, and again there's a handily positioned grab-handle. Thinking about it, one on each of the A pillars would make cab access easier too.
The cargo bed is protected by a tailored wooden cover — an extra £220 — but half-height panels on the doors are the only protection against scratches and dents afforded the rest of the load area. A shelf above the cab accessible solely from the load bay looks like a handy place to stow load tie-down straps.
A full height solid steel bulkhead protects the cab's occupants from injury should anything not secured to the cargo lashing rings provided slide forwards under braking. Connectors for use by bodybuilders carrying out conversion work had been fitted for £35.
Maximum load length is 3,520mm. Maximum width is 1,800mm narrowing to 1,320mm between the wheel boxes, while maximum height is 1,900mm. Rear loading height is 695mm.
The rear door aperture is 1,780mm high and 1,540mm wide. Dimensions for the side door aperture are 1,780mm and 1,250mm respectively.
We were never that keen on the previous Daily's cab interior and the redesign is a vast improvement; especially the changes that have been made to the dashboard.
Large bins in each of the doors with room for a flask or a big bottle of water are supplemented by smaller bins higher up, and a lidded compartment in the middle of the dashboard will swallow a sheaf of A4 paper. The facia also features a whole collection of small shelves that can accommodate coins for parking meters, pens and so on.
Look behind you and you'll see a mesh pocket on the bulkhead. There's also space for a soft bag under the passenger seat.
After all that it's a bit disappointing to open the (non-lockable) glovebox lid and find such a pokey and oddly shaped interior.
Good to see a pop-out cup-holder at each end of the dashboard, even though they both look rather flimsy. Good too to see chunky, user-friendly, heating and ventilation controls.
The gearlever sits on a moulding that bulges out from the dashboard. Fortunately it only marginally obstructs cross-cab movement.
Protected by an airbag, drivers enjoy plenty of head and shoulder room, and a seat that's height-adjustable; just as well given that there's no adjustment in the steering column.
With a roomy cab that can accommodate three people — all of whom are held in place with lap-and-diagonal belts and supported by fixed, bottle-opener type headrests — our Daily featured the EXE pack for an extra £590. It includes electric windows, heated and electrically adjustable exterior mirrors, a lumbar support for the driver's seat, a shelf above the windscreen, an MP3-compatible radio/CD player and a colour-keyed front bumper.
The mirrors are enormous — just what you want on a big van — and feature separate wide-angle sections. In line with the current fashion, the casings incorporate turn indicator repeaters.
Hit a button on the dashboard and you can limit your speed when you, say, drive through camera-monitored road works; well worth an extra £90.
Daily's 136 bhp diesel offers ample performance right the way across the rev range and does so remarkably quietly.
A good all-rounder, it's as at home around towns or on rural roads as it is on the motorway, and the five-speed box's overdrive top gear meant that we didn't miss the presence of a six-speed box too greatly. It offers a crisp 'change quality too.
We'd no quarrel with the handling, with the slight roll when you push the van hard through corners proving to be a good thing because it deters you from doing anything too silly when you approach the next bend.
If we were really picky we might suggest that the steering could be tightened up a smidgeon to provide slightly better feedback. That would be being over-critical, however, because most drivers will be more than happy with it, and admire the way in which it makes the vehicle so manoeuvrable in tight spaces.
We tested its manoeuvrability when we had to turn around in the middle of Lincoln city centre having inadvertently tried to enter a pedestrianised area, avoiding mums with pushchairs and little old ladies. It came up trumps.
With too much bumping and thumping from the front suspension, the ride could stand to be better damped, and a drone that emanated from somewhere around the footwell at certain speeds could be annoying. That aside, our demonstrator proved to be a remarkably pleasant vehicle to drive.
As far as fuel consumption is concerned it averaged 33.0mpg during the test period with a half payload on board.
Remote central locking allows you to open the load area and cab separately. For the life of us we couldn't figure out why the latter's windows opened fractionally whenever the doors were unlocked and closed as soon as they were shut.
The van's wheelarches and sides are protected from minor damage by substantial-looking plastic mouldings and the hefty front bumper incorporates a step to make it easier for the driver to climb up and clean the windscreen. Reversing sensors — a further £200 — helped ensure we didn't back our demonstrator into anything.
Service intervals are set at 25,000 miles and the engine's toothed timing belt requires swapping every 150,000 miles. All Dailys come with a three-year/100,000 mile mechanical warranty.
With ample performance from one of the best diesel engines in the business, a smooth gearchange and dependable, drama-free handling, Iveco's 136 bhp 12m3 Daily is a class act. Add to that a well-designed cab interior and greatly improved build quality and you've got a vehicle that can give the opposition a run for their money; and probably beat most of them. On the downside we weren't entirely happy with the ride and Daily suffers from the modern plague that afflicts all too many 3.5-tonners; insufficient payload capacity for a van of its size. It's well worth putting on your shopping list, though, and if you do, don't forget that it's sold through a dealer network dedicated exclusively to commercial vehicles; and that should mean a high standard of aftersales care.