Vans of the Year

Date: Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Piaggio Porter

It might look rather like a big packing case on little wheels, but we’ve still got a soft spot for Piaggio’s inexpensive and highly manoeuvrable Porter. That’s why we’ve awarded it our Microvan of the Year accolade, admittedly in the face of very thin competition.

One reason for our support for the compact load-lugger is its availability with environmentally friendly maintenance-free lead-gel-battery power. The batteries sit beneath the vehicle and as a consequence do not steal cargo space. Use a 13 amp socket and it will take eight hours to charge them up fully. That falls to a modest two hours if you can plug the battery pack into a three-phase supply.

Either way, a full charge will cost you just a few coppers and will take you up to 85 miles before the pack needs charging up again. What’s more, you don’t have to pay Vehicle Excise Duty or the daylight-robbery London congestion tax.

Porter isn’t available solely as a panel van in miniature. It’s also up for grabs as a tipper, as a dropside with two different sizes of body and as a chassis cab. You can order it as an MPV too, believe it or not, and Porter is also marketed as a 4x4 complete with an electronic locking centre differential.

Porter van is produced with a 3.0m3 cargo bay that can be accessed from three sides. You’ll find sliding doors on each side of the cargo box plus a hatch-type door round the back.

Looking across the line-up, maximum payload capacity ranges from 440kg to 685kg, and over the years the Italian-built Porter has proved to be a handy platform for a variegated assortment of specialist bodywork. It’s appeared as everything from a refuse collection vehicle to a cherry picker.

If battery power isn’t suitable for your operation, then the only alternative is a 1.3-litre 64hp petrol engine married to a five-speed gearbox.

While the lack of a diesel may prompt many operators to cross Porter off their shopping list immediately, those 64 horses are more than enough for urban delivery work; and it’s on the mean streets of Britain’s big cities that the Piaggio comes into its own. Taking up so little space that it can squeeze into gaps that would defeat bigger vans, and some cars for that matter, it’s easy to park. It’s easy to enter and exit the cab too.

Once you’re behind the wheel, don’t expect to be cosseted. The politest way to describe the cab’s interior is minimalist, with precious little in the way of goodies and extras. At least the driver’s seat is comfortable and vision to either side at T-junctions could scarcely be bettered.

You wouldn’t want to spend your life trundling up and down the motorway in a Porter, but if you’ve got an urgent delivery to make in the middle of Birmingham in the rush-hour, then it could be just the tool.


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