On the face of it the advent of a new breed of small van like Peugeot’s Bipper and Fiat’s Fiorino ought to spell the end for light commercials based on compact hatchback cars. Bipper and the rest of them have sensibly-shaped, easily-accessible cargo boxes, are pleasant enough to drive, and impressively frugal too.
Their drawback so far as many prospective buyers are concerned however is that they look like vans, and cannot be mistaken for anything else. From the viewpoint of these status-conscious customers something like a Vauxhall Corsavan is a far more acceptable sight on the typical suburban driveway and much less likely to cause talk among the neighbours. What is more, Corsavan — What Van?’s Small Van of the Year for 2008 — comes with all the virtues of the car on which it is based. As a consequence it comfortably outclasses Bipper and similar products so far as driveability is concerned.
As for keeping your fuel bills down, how does 56mpg grab you? That’s what we averaged in a road test of a Corsavan powered by the formidable 75hp 1.3-litre CDTi diesel engine. An 80hp 1.2-litre Twinport petrol engine is on offer as an alternative.
Vauxhall’s smallest light commercial comes with a 0.9m3 load box accessed through a top-hinged rear door and fitted with four load-lashing rings and a half-height steel bulkhead. The diesel will cope with a 550kg payload and tow a braked trailer with an all-up weight not exceeding 1,005kg.
A five-speed manual gearbox comes as standard as does an impressive portfolio of safety devices. The line-up embraces ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Emergency Brake Assist. If that’s not enough for you to be going on with, then you’ll be gratified to learn that the package also includes Straight Line Stability Control and Cornering Brake Control.
The former helps to keep you pointing in the right direction under heavy braking while the latter makes the vehicle easier to manage if you have to slam on the anchors half-way round a bend. You also get something called Drag Torque Control. It helps keep the van stable if you suddenly lift your foot off the accelerator.
Diesel Corsavan pulls away strongly from rest, maintains momentum without hesitation as you accelerate through the gears and is a more-than-competent high speed motorway cruiser.
If you’re in the market for something even livelier than the standard model, however, then you might care to get to grips with the Corsavan Sportive. It gets a 90hp version of the 1.3-litre diesel plus a six-speed manual ’box. The list of goodies provided includes air-conditioning, electric windows, sports seats, body-coloured side mouldings and door mirrors, 15in alloy wheels, a sports exhaust tail-pipe and front fog lights. That little lot ought to more than help keep your mind off the recession.
If Corsavan doesn’t float your corporate boat then check out Peugeot’s 207 Van, which collects our Highly Commended accolade in this category. Stylish, comfortable and practical, it delivers ample performance.