Fleet News

Road test: Iveco Unijet HPI

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ON the assumption that standing still in the fast-moving world of light commercial vehicles is in fact moving backwards, Iveco has turned up the pressure by launching a new set of engines for the Daily panel van, along with enhanced specification and a new Combi range.

At the heart of the development is a new 2.3-litre Unijet HPI engine, which will be offered in either 96bhp or 116bhp guises. The smaller version has 177 lb-ft of torque and the larger version 199 lb-ft.

Unijet is Iveco's name for common rail and the new engine – second generation technology – turns up the pressure to 1,800 bar, leading to finer atomisation of the diesel fuel. This, in turn, means better fuel economy, more power and lower emissions.

The Daily's old 2.8-litre engine will still be available, offering a choice of 125bhp or 146bhp. The new range will be on sale in January 2003 and prices are expected at the end of October.

In addition to the new engines, a Combi version will be available for the first time, with seating for up to nine people plus a generous space for luggage or cargo. This version features the more powerful 2.3-litre unit and two roof heights and wheelbases are available.

In the cab, the noise level has been reduced by two decibels, which may not sound much but Iveco says it in fact means a 40% reduction in perceived cab noise. The cab is further enhanced by a new range of colours and finishes and extra sound-proofing has been added under the dashboard. There is also a locker for sunglasses and a mobile phone. Suspension has also been improved and gearchanging has been made slicker with the addition of a synchronised reverse.

On the technology front, Iveco has leapfrogged the opposition to offer a unique computerised system which is sold to the customer, rather than coming as an added option on the van. The CompuDaily is a removable unit that is a combined telephone, pocket PC, barcode reader, trip computer and navigation system.

On maintenance, the new engine needs an oil and filter change every 25,000 miles and a timing belt change every 150,000 miles.

At a press event to launch the new range at Segovia in Spain, commercial operations general manager Alessandro Cicchetti said: 'The basic requirements of the haulier are well-known. Today it is increasingly important to offer a flexible engine which requires fewer gearchanges, an onboard environment which reduces fatigue and telematics equipment that allows the job to be managed from within the vehicle.

'Our response is to offer an agile vehicle that is capable of carrying the large loads of a truck in maximum safety, offering a range with 2,500 possible configurations, quiet and clean engines with low fuel consumption and long maintenance intervals and a cab environment that features car standards of silence and comfort.'

The 96bhp unit is designed for urban use, where the torque curve means fewer gear changes are needed.

Iveco sees this model as particularly useful for door-to-door deliveries, hotels, restaurants, florists, greengrocers and bakers et al. The 116bhp unit is for longer haul use for cargo or people and with nine seats, it can be driven on a standard driving licence. Here, Iveco sees sales to couriers, ambulances, logistics services and – for the Combi – hotels, holiday centres, taxis and for the disabled.

The warranty for all models is three-years/ 100,000-miles.

Behind the wheel

SEGOVIA, some 70 miles north of Madrid, proved an ideal testing ground for the new Iveco Daily Unijet HPI.

Not only is there a good mix of twisty mountain roads, narrow cobbled streets and wide open fast stretches, but the van is in its home territory, being built just down the road at Valladolid.

The Daily is a fine looking vehicle, somehow feeling chunkier and more solid than its rivals. The bottom of the vehicle is completely surrounded by plastic rubbing strips, which should ensure the van stays free of annoying scrapes and scratches during its working life.

Climbing aboard, the 'Yorkie bar' feel is enhanced with a massive dashboard curved around the driver in true trucker style.

The driver's seat is flat and hard and adjusts in all directions. There are plenty of pockets and cubbyholes but I was disappointed to see that, once again, a major van manufacturer has launched a new product with a driver's airbag as a paid-for extra. Iveco bosses told me there simply wasn't much of a take-up, which doesn't say a lot for Britain's van fleet decision-makers. In my book, professionals driving vans all day long deserve this safety device as a legal right.

At most press driving events, manufacturers offer their vans unladen, no doubt in a bid to show off their vehicles' power to its utmost.

Iveco, to its credit, loaded all the test vehicles down to the gills with bags of sand. Starting off on a fast trip on flat roads towards Valladolid in a 116bhp chassis cab version, I had to glance behind me to check that there was a load onboard, such was the amount of power on offer right through the rev range.

The improved gearbox has a short-throw gear lever mounted on a plastic-covered plinth.

Iveco made a fair song and dance at the event about how much better it was than the previous offering, but the three vans I drove varied in notchiness. Mind you, none had bedded in properly, with only a few miles on the clock, so I'd anticipate that things would improve with use.

The change was certainly better than in some vans I've driven recently.

Next came the urban drive in a 96bhp short wheelbase version, which saw me weaving carefully through the steep cobbled back streets of Segovia, some only just wide enough for a laden donkey to pass. Here, the lower powered engine proved a lively performer and as we skittered down one particularly steep hill between the town castle and cathedral I began to wonder whether the designers had somehow managed to engineer a bit of DNA from a mountain goat into the vehicle.

The satnav system came into play here and I managed to get back to base with no help other than its soothing voice.

A blast up the Navaserrada Pass in the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains saw my co-pilot clinging to his grab handle and begging me to slow down. He need not have worried – at no time did the vehicle put a foot wrong.

Driving verdict

A day behind the wheel of the new Iveco Daily Unijet HPI convinced me that its truck pedigree puts it at the forefront of the sector. With a new unique selling point in the hand-held computer system, Iveco can only be heading for a greater market share.

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