This year's What Van? Live all-action driving event is appearing at an exciting new venue. It's taking place at the British International Motor Show, to be held at London's ExCel exhibition centre from 23 July to 3 August.
Visitors to this year's British Motor Show will be able to get behind the wheel of some of the UK's most popular light commercials and take them for a drive around a 2.2km purpose-designed course laid out within the complex's grounds. The course will include some tight bends plus the opportunity to execute a few quick lane-changes, the better to appreciate the van's driving dynamics.
All you need to do is bring your driving licence and you'll be accompanied on each drive by a representative from the vehicle's manufacturer ready to help you get the best out of the experience. But sorry youngsters; you'll have to be over 18 to participate.
Citroën, Ford, Nissan and Piaggio will all be offering visitors the chance to get to grips with their products, while Iveco's Daily — What Van?'s Van of the Year for 2007 — will be present as a static display. You can subject it to close scrutiny between drives and when you've done that you can check out the wares of the light commercial accessory suppliers who will be present too.
Those present include vinyl livery specialist Raccoon which is currently running a competition in conjunction with What Van? to win a complete van livery makeover worth in excess of £3,000.
If van fans all rush towards the Citroën stand brandishing their licences, then that won't be a surprise. They'll want to get to grips with the all-new Nemo and the latest Berlingo, while not wishing to neglect Dispatch and Relay either.
Compact but still a competent cargo carrier, Nemo is just about the ideal van for the urban environment. With a 2.5m3 load bay and able to cope with a 610kg payload, it can be ordered with either a 70hp 1.4-litre HDi diesel or a 75hp 1.4-litre petrol engine.
Diesel Nemo can also be specified with SensoDrive, Citroën's automated manual transmission — just the job for those mean city streets.
What with Fiesta Van, Transit Connect and the legendary Transit, Ford covers a sweeping spectrum of the market; and that's before we start talking about the rugged Ranger 4x2 and 4x4 pick-ups.
Don't be surprised if Transit and Transit Connect turn up in SportVan guise. Don't be surprised either if the new electric Connect — another van that's ideal for city centre work – puts in an appearance.
Known as the Ampere, and developed by Smith Electric Vehicles, it offers a payload of up to 800kg and a range in excess of 100 miles. Top speed is 70mph.
Nissan is becoming an increasingly important player in the light commercial vehicle sector, globally as well as in the UK. The marque's Kubistar high-cube van and Primastar and Interstar panel vans are already familiar sights in the High Street, the Navara pick-up has become something of a style icon and Nissan has recently expanded its range with the advent of the NP300 pick-up.
A minimal-frills workhorse evolved from the old D22, it's marketed as a 4x2 and 4x4 Single Cab, and as a 4x4 King Cab and Double Cab.
Nissan has also just launched a range of ready-to-go-to-work conversions on sale under the Good to Go banner. The range includes Cabstars bodied as a tipper with a cage body — just what you want if you're shifting loose waste paper — and as a box van.
Piaggio's Porter microvan has won a succession of awards from What Van? over the years, but the Porter range amounts to a lot more than just one model. It includes pick-ups, tippers and a wide range of specially bodied vehicles for a variety of niche applications.
Don't forget either that Piaggio markets an electric Porter; and don't be surprised to see it at ExCel given its suitability for town centre delivery work.
While you're examining what Piaggio has to offer, ask company representatives about a new model called the Truk; an example may be present. On offer as a dropside – a tipper is available too – and powered by a 500cc diesel married to a five-speed gearbox, it is assembled at the Piaggio plant at Pune in India. With an unladen weight of just under 660kg it will nonetheless handle a half-tonne-plus payload and is due to go on sale in the UK by the end of September.
ExCel London is on the eastern side of the capital, within the Docklands area and between Canary Wharf and London City Airport. It is easily accessible from the M25, M11, A406 and A13, but the number of parking spaces available is limited so it may make more sense to use public transport to get there. Fortunately there are two Docklands Light Railway stations on the venue's doorstep – Custom House and Prince Regent.
A not-to-be-missed event, the British International Motorshow is sponsored by Zurich Connect.