And indeed, climbing aboard the average Ford Transit or Volkswagen LT, you would doubtless be impressed by their solid feel.
But the Iveco Daily is simply in a different league.
While the Transit, in its bigger formats, is a small van trying to be big, the Daily tested here, in its tiniest format, is very much a large truck trying to be small. Its muscles ripple to bursting point.
The Daily, a product of the Italian truck giant, has been around in its larger incarnation for many years now but it was back in 1995 that models down to 2.8 tonne gvw were introduced, putting the van slap bang among a great many highly-prized LCV pigeons. It may sound a bit of a gamble, but it is one that has obviously paid off. Last year, Iveco sold 6,018 panel vans up to 3.5 tonnes - not a bad total by any means.
The Daily is available in a bewildering range of wheelbases, roof heights, gross vehicle weights, payloads and options, but to make things easier, Iveco has split its offerings into three classes — L, S and C.
L is the name for gross vehicle weights between 2.9 and 3.2 tonnes, with payloads ranging from seven to nine cubic metres. There are three engine choices - all 2.8-litre common rail diesel units offering 90, 105 and 125bhp and 154, 184 and 213 lb/ft of torque. The model tested here is the L spec Daily in high roof format with the 105bhp powerplant.
S class (haven't I heard that before somewhere?) is for 3.5-tonners, with the same range of engines as in L class but with an added 146bhp unit on top. Load volumes range from seven to 17 cubic metres depending on roof height and wheelbase. C class (hang on, this is getting very familiar!) is for the heavy end of 3.5-6.5 tonnes and upwards.
Prices range from £14,915 to £25,450 ex-VAT and the model tested here weighs in at £16,470.
In high-roof guise, this van looks big, tough and competent. Its massive side-mounted exhaust pipe adds to the feisty look and huge plastic panels go right the way round, totally eliminating the possibility of annoying scuffs and bumps that plague many van operators.
In the cab
It's only when you climb aboard the cab (and yes, it is a climb) that you begin to appreciate how different the Daily is from its rivals. The driving position is high and the dash is a massive wraparound affair seen in big trucks. It is so big that it looks as though it could have been carved from the side of a mountain.
Everything has that chunky, built-to-last feel, right down to the knobs and switches, and I gained the distinct impression that fleet operators won't need to call on the three year/100,000 mile warranty.
Unlike some manufacturers who load their test vehicles down with all the added optional extras, my test model came as it was, naked of any paid-for goodies. I suspect that's how many vans will be ordered.
As it was, the lack of luxuries didn't cause me any hardship, but I was concerned to note that you have to pay for a driver's airbag (£190) - and £380 if you want one for the passenger as well.
I've said it before and I'll keep saying it until something changes — in this day and age when health and safety at work are coming increasingly under the spotlight, driver airbags should be a standard fitment on ALL vans, backed by a legal requirement if necessary.
The argument by the manufacturers is that they provide a basic package and it is up to fleet operators to mix and match the various options to their particular requirements. I'd wholeheartedly agree with this strategy when it comes to items such as air conditioning and CD players, but with airbags we are talking about the possibility of a life lost. I get the distinct impression that some van operators think more of saving £180 than of saving a driver's skin.
Climbing off my soapbox and getting back to the van on test again, the Daily also offers a tachograph at £565, air conditioning at £580, satellite navigation at £995, heated windscreen at £90 (another safety 'must-have' item) and electric windows at £260 among its huge list of options.
Three large centre-mounted air vents complement the side ones to give a good flow of either hot or cold air round the cab and there are numerous cubby holes for a driver's bits and pieces, although the door bins only have room for a one-litre cola bottle — shock, horror! White van man wouldn't be seen dead with anything under two-litres nowadays. The Clarion radio/cassette player has a detachable front but proved to be adequate rather than amazing, with no adjustment for bass and treble.
There is also a large cab light which can prove a Godsend at night on the open road.
The driver's seat is hard and upright, with adjustment for height, reach and rake and after a 200-mile trip to the Peak District on Good Friday, I alighted as fresh as when the trip started.
My partner, too, had no complaints, which is a big plus point as, in many panel vans I have tested in the past, the dual passenger seats have been about as comfortable as a park bench.
In the back
Standing behind the Daily, the rear doors look as high as the side of a house. There are nine cubic metres of loadspace available inside and as the Daily has almost vertical sides, that space is eminently usable in everyday life.
The spare wheel is mounted on the nearside behind the wheelarch, which seems a shame as it takes up loadspace, but at least the local lowlifes won't be able to pinch it.
The test van was completely ply lined (another must in my book) and there are plenty of lashing eyes around the floor and sides.
A large step at the rear will help at loading and unloading times.
On the road
Iveco makes big play in its publicity brochures of the fact that this van is as drivable as a car, but I'm afraid I'd have to disagree. The Daily has its roots very much in truck territory but it is none the worse for that. After all, I can't see many shy retiring wallflowers needing to drive this vehicle.
The powerplant starts up with a mighty roar and seems intrusive at low speeds. But get up to 70mph and you'll be in for a surprise. My partner and I were able to converse in hushed tones throughout our Easter sojourn.
Gearchanging needs a particular skill and can be awkward and notchy if not carried out carefully and slowly. Try flipping the gearstick too quickly and it will end in tears. But clutch and steering are both light and easy and round-the-corner handling is deft and smooth.
There are many worthy contenders in this sector of the van market and most of them are top-notch performers. But as usual it is a case of horses for courses and if your job is to deliver bunches of flowers to local shops, I wouldn't recommend the Iveco Daily.
But for fleets wanting a rough, tough vehicle that will run and run, the Daily is your boy.
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