Toyota has dipped in and out of the van market over the years. Hopefully, it is now here to stay, albeit with a rebadged product from another manufacturer rather than its own home-grown offering.
Having marketed the old Citroen Dispatch and Peugeot Expert under the Proace banner, it is repeating the same trick using the same name with their successors. The styling is a little different in each case – the Proace’s appearance is in tune with Toyota’s house style – but the basic vehicle remains the same.
Anybody who wants to sample a Dispatch/Expert/Proace will be looking at a van with one roof height, two wheelbases and three body lengths with up to 6.6m3 of cargo space.
Payload capacity has been increased by roughly 200kg compared with what was on offer previously and power is delivered by either a 1.6-litre (95hp, 115hp) or a 2.0-litre diesel (120hp, 150hp, 180hp) engine. The Proace is not offered with the two most powerful engines but you can obtain it as a double-cab and as a platform cab.
All models are front-wheel drive, whichever badge they wear. Having tackled Citroen’s 120hp Dispatch Enterprise M BlueHDi 120 van with the middle body length last year, we decided to get to grips with one of the smallest models in the three-manufacturer line-up.
We opted for the short-wheelbase (2,925mm), short-body Proace Compact Comfort 1.6D 95. With a 4.6m3 cargo area, it’s a chunky van with a chunky payload – we’re talking over a tonne – for a light commercial of its size.
Toyota describes it as having “the capacity of a medium-duty van within a compact van format”, which seems as good a description as any. Comfort is one rung above entry-level Base specification, which is the only other Proace trim choice.
Access to the load bay is by means of twin rear doors plus a sliding door on each side, all of which are opaque. The back doors can be swung through 90°, and through 180° if you release the door stays with their easy-to-see, easy-to-use, small yellow levers.
A full-height steel bulkhead with a window in it that enables the driver to see what is happening in the load area when the van is stationary and the doors are open is fitted as standard. The glass is protected against damage from anything that comes hurtling forwards in the general direction of the cab by a mesh grille.
Six cargo tie-down points are installed. Bar the odd hardboard panel on the doors and above the wheel boxes there is, however, zero protection against minor scratches and scrapes incurred during loading and unloading. This means the load area will have to be lined and a tailored cover will need to be laid down to protect the floor.
Toyota offers a package that meets these requirements for £250 (all prices quoted exclude VAT).
Illumination shouldn’t be too much of a concern, however, given that two lights are fitted – something more van manufacturers should consider doing.
Cab and equipment
It is hard to fathom quite why manufacturers try to shoe-horn three seats into cabs the size of Proace’s. The centre passenger inevitably ends up somewhat squashed and with limited legroom, and that is certainly the case here.
That drawback aside, what you are confronted with when you climb in and settle down behind the wheel is a practical and not-unpleasant working environment with a steering wheel and driver’s seat that are both height-adjustable. The latter features lumbar adjustment and an inboard armrest too.
There is certainly no lack of oddment stowage space. Each door has no less than four shelves and bins of various sizes in it, one of which is very roomy. It’s good to see that a capacious chilled glove box has been installed – just the place to keep your bar(s) of chocolate – while three shelves set into the dashboard are handy places to put pens and
Pull up the passenger seat cushions and you will find a large space that can easily swallow an anorak and a pair of wellies or perhaps power tools that you would rather keep hidden from unhealthily inquisitive eyes. A cup-holder sits at each end of the dashboard while a lidded compartment on top of the fascia forms part of the combined Safety & Security Pack & Premium Pack. For £2,245 the combined pack features a whole host of handy goodies.
The line-up includes a head-up digital speed display and a satellite navigation system with a seven-inch touchscreen. Standard features with Comfort trim include front fog lights, electric windows, and heated and electrically adjustable exterior mirrors along with a manual air-conditioning system. Also present are driver and passenger front and side airbags and a pair of 12V power points on the dashboard.
Buttons on the steering wheel set the cruise control, and the wheel also plays host to remote controls for the DAB radio. A USB port is provided and the cab is Bluetooth-enabled.
As well as ABS and Vehicle Stability Control, the line-up of electronic safety measures includes Brake Assist and Hill Start Assist. The aforementioned optional pack makes the van even safer thanks to Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning and Pre-Collision System.
The first-named module ensures that you remain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead at all times. The second warns you if you are getting too close to traffic ahead – possibly as a consequence of not engaging Adaptive Cruise Control and sitting behind the wheel day-dreaming – and will eventually apply the brakes automatically if you fail to react.
The third will halt your progress if you are driving through a busy town centre and somebody steps out in front of you from behind a parked car. Also included in the pack deal are cornering lights and rain-sensing wipers.
Kicking out maximum power at 3,750rpm, the Proace’s 1.6-litre
four-cylinder diesel generates maximum torque of 210Nm at 1,750rpm and is married to a five-speed manual gearbox
Compliance with the Euro6 exhaust emission rules means that the van will have to be topped up with AdBlue periodically. The reservoir’s filler point is concealed by the passenger door.
Chassis and steering
Courtesy of the combined option pack discussed earlier, our Proace sat on 17-inch alloy wheels shod with Michelin Agilis 215/60 R17 C tyres. MacPherson-type suspension
is installed at the front with an anti-roll bar, while wishbone suspension with trailing arms helps support the rear.
Disc brakes are fitted all round – ventilated at the front, solid at the back – and power-assisted steering delivers a 11.3m turning circle between kerbs, increasing to 11.8m between walls.
With 95hp under the bonnet,the Proace Compact can be a touch slow away from rest and through the gears, especially when you’ve got a bit of weight in the back. The lack of a sixth gear hampers its motorway performance but is obviously less of a hindrance around town, while the lowest-powered Compact is designed primarily for urban delivery work.
The steering could tighten up and be a little more responsive when you are taking bends at speed, but the assistance it offers makes it easy enough for the driver to swing into a city centre parking space. That said, we would like to have seen reversing sensors fitted – essential in our view for a van with opaque rear doors.
In-cab noise levels are kept well under control – the sound-insulating acoustic windscreen clearly helps – and the ride is acceptable, although not quite as good as what is on offer from its longer-wheelbase stablemate.
It might be worth considering moving up to the 115hp Proace unless you are confined solely to city streets. That way, you will enjoy better performance on motorways and dual–carriageways – you get a six-speed gearbox as standard into the bargain – as well as being more than able to hold your own in the maelstrom of urban traffic.
Buying and running
The Proace comes with a praiseworthy five-year/100,000-mile warranty. Roadside assistance is included for the first 12 months. To that can be added a three-year paintwork warranty and a six-year anti-corrosion perforation warranty. Service intervals are set at two years/25,000 miles.
We averaged around 46mpg, some way behind the official combined fuel economy figure of 51.4mpg, but still respectable. Side-rubbing strips are set low down on the van’s sides and should help protect the vehicle from minor damage. Like the mirror casings and the door handles, they were colour-keyed to match the rest of the vehicle, which was finished in optional metallic paint.
A full-size spare wheel is included in the deal – always better, in our
view, than an inflator with sealant. Finally, if the standard onboard tyre pressure monitoring works to good effect then hopefully you will not need to use it.