Commercial Vehicles: Five of the best vans
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Commercial vehicles special -five of the best vans
While utes crowd the top of the light commercial sales charts in New Zealand these days, the humble van remains a popular method of ferrying tools, tricycles, terrariums and anything else you care to mention.
In no particular order, here are five of the best on offer.
Still the Box Daddy in terms of sales, the Hiace (or Hi-Ace if you want to get technical) has been around in various guises for a surprisingly long time; it debuted for Toyota in 1967.
Like many light commercial vehicles, another aspect to the Hiace’s history is its long life between updates. The first generation lasted 10 years before being made over. The fifth generation, known to van spotters as the H200 model, has been around since 2004 and isn’t due to be updated until 2018.
There aren’t a huge amount of spy shots of the next Hiace on the internet (manufacturers don’t tend to test these things at the Nurburgring, do they?) but from the little evidence available, don’t expect anything too revolutionary for the next one.
Though most manufacturers have pushed the engine out in front of the passenger cell for safety reasons, it looks like the next Hiace will still be a traditional box on wheels. But thus far, the Hiace’s blueprint hasn’t been a barrier to sales. Hiaces, available in New Zealand in ZL and ZX grades, along with minibus configurations, sell extremely welland hold their value on the second-hand market, too.
Volkswagen, of course, has what’s known as form in the van department. The first Type 2 Kombi appeared in 1950 and the company has stuck with its commercial van line since. Of all the brands available today, maybe only the Ford Transit could also be called iconic with a straight face.
Volkswagen dispensed with the cab over style some time ago and has broadened the range to include small (Caddy) and XL-sized (Crafter) options as well as its Transporter mainstay. It hasn’t forgotten its roots either, with the excellent California Ocean (based on the T6 Multivan people mover) providing an out-of-the-box camper experience reminiscent of the Kombi campers of old.
Back in the true commercial sector, Volkswagen’s line-up of vans come with modern comfort and convenience stuff onboard, as well as gutsy turbo diesel engines packing plenty of torque (340Nm). They even look the part, with recently redesigned front ends that match their passenger car siblings in terms of style.
Few commercial line-ups in New Zealand can match the Volkswagen offering for sheer flexibility in terms of body options, either. Within the Transporter series alone you can order a standard, medium or high-roof model and in either short or long-wheelbase format, too.
The Transporter is the only van in its class that offers the option of all-wheel-drive thanks to Volkswagen’s 4Motion system.
Like every other aspect of the Hyundai line-up, its van offerings have stepped up as true contenders.
You can have a Hyundai van in either iLoad (cargo) or iMax (people-mover) and they share lengthy spec sheets, drawing comparisons in terms of kit with many of the carmaker’s passenger models.
Pitched firmly at the tradie market, the iLoad can be had as a three or five-seater. Both iterations are powered by the same 2.5-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel in two states of tune; in the iLoad with a six-speed manual transmission its good for 100kW and 343Nm, while the five-speed automatic box ratchets things up to 125kW and 441Nm of torque.
The manufacturer has shown off renderings of a lifestyle-orientated (read: huge wheels, small tray) ute, which would fill a missing component of its light commercial offering, but this hasn’t been confirmed as likely for the Australasian market yet.
Where do you start with Ford’s perennial Transit?
It shares a long and varied history everywhere that Ford (UK) has shipped its wares. In its native England it spawned the white van man tradie stereotype and has served as a means of ferrying drum kits and drummers alike up and down the motorways of Europe for any now-iconic rock band you care to name.
Amazingly, the Transit even enjoys the distinction of being a pin-up poster subject, essential to many a young 1970s and 1980s car fans bedroom wall; not so much because of its ability to ship bags of flour around Wellington or Wolverhampton, but because of its hot-rodded Supervan alter-ego. This saw a 400hp Ford V8 installed inside a conventional Transit shell.
The latest generation Transits are identified as Customs and bigger Cargos.
Within these strains of van, short- and long-wheelbase versions can be had, with the ability to accommodate between three and nine people.
Also, a bit like Fords efforts with its top-selling Ranger ute, the emphasis on interior comfort and convenience spec is just as frontline here as the emphasis on load-lugging ability. For example, Ford’s SYNC system is present and correct; this offers the driver voice control of features such as the Bluetooth-connected mobile phone and portable media devices. Handy for those constantly on the go. Even drummers.
LDV is a relatively new name in New Zealand, although the company can trace its path back a couple of decades to the old Leyland DAF marque.
Bought by Chinese company ECO Concept and then sold to the giant SAIC Motor Corporation in 2010, the takeover has signalled good things for the LDV brand on the global stage, with a broadened line-up and, locally, some pretty sharp pricing.
Now Kiwis looking to move stuff can choose from a variety of LDV flavours.
The V80 can be had as a mid-sizer, a large cargo van or as a couple of minibus options. The local distributor has dispensed with a reliability on distinct model names though, preferring instead to cut to the chase with Big, Bigger and Biggest as range identifiers. Outside of this formula there’s also the G10 delivery van, which features a lower roof line; think people-mover with blanked-out windows. Power comes courtesy of a 2.5-litre turbo diesel pushing out 100kW/330Nm, placing it lineball with most other offerings in the market.
The local distributor has done well with regards to accessories; bullbars, cargo barriers, towbars and even plywood cargo bay inserts are all available off the shelf, suggesting that though LDV might be the new kid on the block, its determined to stake its claim in the busy light commercial sector.