The Vauxhall Movano, Renault Master and Nissan Interstar are basically the same vehicle with three badges and all take the heavy panel van sector another step forward in terms of comfort, safety, drivability and cost-effectiveness.
The van was designed, developed and built by Renault and is badged as a Vauxhall Movano under a contra-deal which sees the Luton manufacturer building the Vivaro light panel van to be rebadged as the Renault Trafic.
Nissan gets its own version, the Interstar, thanks to its financial tie-up with Renault.
The new van gets a fresh, more business-like front end with restyled headlights and a huge wraparound plastic bumper.
With rear plastic mouldings and hefty side rubbing strips, the new model offers protection all round from knocks and dents.
Inside, the cab has been completely redesigned too. The dash now looks more like that of its smaller brother the Vivaro/Trafic/Primastar and the gear lever moves from the floor to the dashboard.
Power steering and a driver's airbag are standard.
There are two-litre drink bottle bins in each door, stowage places for papers and drinks cans and spaces for satellite navigation systems and tachographs.
ABS brakes come as standard, along with electronic brakeforce distribution, and in tests of stopping distances, the makers claims the van has proved to be best in class.
Under the bonnet, the new van is powered by three diesel engines: 1.9, 2.5 and 3.0-litres. The old 2.2-litre unit has been dropped.
The 1.9-litre unit offers 80bhp and 147lb-ft of torque, the 2.5-litre engines have either 100bhp or 115bhp and 192lb-ft or 214lb-ft of torque and the range-topping 3.0-litre unit has 135bhp and 236lb-ft of torque.
Vauxhall's prices range from £13,895 to £21,995 ex-VAT, Renault's from £13,940 to £22,040 and Nissan has yet to announce its pricing structure.
On the eve of the launch, Vauxhall's national sales manager, vans, Ian Hucker said he believed the new Movano would help the manufacturer close the gap between itself and Ford, the number one van seller in the UK.
He said: 'September continues the record growth in LCVs and our sales were up 74% in September over last year, raising our market share from 11.1% to 16.1%. Year to date, our sales are up 60%.'
|Movano/Trafic/Interstar fact file|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||82/3,500||100/3,500||115/3,500||136/3,600|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||147/2,000||191/1,500||213/1,600||236/1,800|
|Prices (ex-VAT):||Movano £13,895-£21,995||Trafic £13,940-£22,040||Interstar TBA|
Behind the wheel – Vauxhall Movano
Within 12 hours of the first new Vauxhall Movanos hitting Britain's shores, I was behind the wheel of two different models, testing their mettle on the roads around the firm's Luton headquarters.
##AmsterdamMov int--none--Movano interior##
From the outside, the Movano has gained a chunky new look with angled headlights which give the van a look more in keeping with the Vauxhall family, the Renault family or the Nissan family, depending on which manufacturer you are talking to.
There are subtle differences, however.
Vauxhall's grille boasts a massive V housing the Vauxhall badge and the indicator lights are housed in the big plastic front bumper, whereas the grille in the Renault and Nissan versions are different and the indicators move up to just under the lights.
The Movano's bottom half is almost entirely encased in plastic rubbing strips and bumpers, which should keep the body free of scrapes and scratches during its life. Side mirrors are increased in size over the old model too.
Climbing aboard, the cab has been treated to a makeover which sees a more stylish dashboard and improved seats. The driver's seat adjusts three ways but there is no adjustment on the steering column.
I anticipated a problem here as I stand well over six feet tall and normally need the steering wheel in its highest position, but in the event I fitted comfortably behind the wheel. So if I fit, most other people should too. The driver's seat is a dream. Not only does it feature plenty of support under the legs but it hugs the figure right up to the shoulders.
I only managed a total of 100 miles on my test drive but I would not anticipate any back twinges over much longer distances. The passenger seats are moulded to body shape too and the dash-mounted gearlever means there is plenty of legroom for a third passenger. There are plenty of storage spaces in the cab, including an A4 paper sheaf holder in the centre, two-litre cola bins in each door and a docket clip.
A small but welcome touch which most manufacturers don't bother with is the inclusion of two coat hooks, which I suppose could double as takeaway food holders.
There is also a handy grab rail in the centre of the roof for middle seat passengers. Drivers will be pleased to note that a CD player comes as standard, as does a driver's airbag. In the old Movano, this basic safety device was a paid-for option. Also included in the basic price is remote central locking and an anti van-jacking device which locks all the doors when the van hits 5mph.
In the back, the Movano is much as it was before, although the rear doors are shaped now so that even when open to 90 degrees, the rear lights are visible behind the vehicle.
First up for driving was the 2.5-litre long wheelbase 115bhp version. The unit fires up with a nice meaty growl and the short-throw dash-mounted gearstick snicked into place nicely – gear changing requires only two fingers, such is the smoothness of the 'box. The steering wheel is almost horizontal, as in your average HGV and it gives the vehicle a satisfyingly truck-like feel.
Granted this vehicle was unladen but up hills and down dales, there was never any shortage of smooth pulling power. Even in sixth gear on a reasonably steep incline, the Movano pulled without complaining from 1,500rpm.
Climbing aboard a short wheelbase 1.9-litre 80bhp version, I was surprised to find that despite the fact that it only had five gears and a lower power output, it didn't feel significantly less powerful than the first van. Fleets would be advised to go for the meatier models if long haul business is the order of the day, but for short haul work, the 80bhp engine would be the model to choose.
Whether you are the fleet manager or the driver, this van is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. With creature comforts and safety features undreamed of 10 years ago, plus a set of cost-efficient, hard-wearing common rail diesel engines, the Movano looks like continuing its success story.
Opel chief predicts sales rise
IF Vauxhall's van sales are rocketing in Britain, the firm's European arm Opel is aiming for the stars on the Continent.
In an exclusive interview, Opel executive director of commercial vehicles Jean-Marc Gales said Vauxhall/ Opel's European market share was 6.7% in September, up from 5.2% in the same period last year.
'Not only have we got a superb line-up of vehicles, but our dealers have been performing excellently,' he said. 'Vivaro and Combo have both helped us increase our sales and high-roof Vivaro is now taking an 8% share of Vivaro sales. But surprisingly, Movano sold more than last year, despite being on run-out.'
The dealer network is now offering van users a same-day repair service and a courtesy vehicle which is guaranteed to be the same size as the van being repaired.
Gales said one of the reasons for Opel's success this year was a renewed focus on large fleet business across Europe. He said: 'We now have a European sales department based in Frankfurt, with five people specialising in talking to large fleets. Then there are dedicated key account managers in each country. With facilities like this, we believe we can grow our business even further. Big fleet deals mean visibility for the Vauxhall/Opel brand and visibility will generate more business.'
Vauxhall/Opel European sales last year totalled 122,000, rising to 150,000 this year. The forecast for next year is 200,000.
World premiere for new Volkswagen Caddy
THE world caught its first glimpse of the new Volkswagen Caddy at the show, a van which dwarfs its predecessor in terms of load carrying capacity and volume.
Unveiling the new model, Bernd Weidemann, head of the board of management for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, said: 'The new Caddy has only one thing in common with the old one and that is its name. This new van is functional, easy to handle and economical and features exceptional adaptability, agility and manoeuvrability.'
The front end of the new van is similar to the Touran, Volkswagen's new mini-MPV, but modified to suit the needs of van users. The body has been developed in-house. And by using 50% shared parts from the Touran and Golf, Volkswagen is promising that when the model goes on sale in spring next year, prices will be competitive.
The new Caddy has the typical chunky, hewn-from-rock Volkswagen look and is noticeably bigger and more macho than its predecessor. Load measurements are 1,340mm wide, 1,781mm long and 1,137mm high and the van will carry a Europallet.
A sliding side door is standard. Payload across the range is 750kg and load volume is 3.2 cubic metres, compared to 625kg and 2.50 cubic metres for the old model.
In the cab there are masses of cubbyholes for papers and the new model adds a large overhead shelf. The centre console houses two cup holders.
The steering wheel adjusts for rake and height and seats are hard and supportive in the typical German style.
Under the bonnet, there will be a choice of four engines: 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol engines and a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated or a turbocharged diesel, offering from 75bhp to 104bhp and 92lb-ft to 184 lb-ft of torque. There will also be a Kombi Caddy with seven seats.
Weidemann said of the Caddy: 'We are offering several vehicles in one – a useful member of the delivery fleet, an asset to every trade or business and transport for the family too. As a compact vehicle it is ideal for courier, express delivery and parcel services. It will appeal particularly to distribution companies and it can bring cleaning staff or repair services quickly to their place of work and carry all their equipment and tools with ease.'
|VW Caddy fact file|
|Model||1.4 SRE||1.6 SRE||2.0 SDI||1.9 TDI|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||75/5,000||102/5,600||70/4,000||104/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||92/3,300||109/3,800||103/2,400||184/1,900|
|Load volume (cu m):||3.2||3.2||3.2||3.2|
T5 extends Transporter's appeal
VOLKSWAGEN revealed the fifth incarnation of its Transporter light panel van at the show. The T5 extends the Transporter range right up to 3.0 tonnes gross vehicle weight and will offer a choice of two wheelbases, three roof heights and a set of new engines.
Top of the range is a new 2.5-litre common rail diesel unit pumping out 173bhp, making this van the fastest on the UK's roads. There is also a 2.5-litre unit offering 129bhp and two 1.9-litre units with 84bhp and 103bhp.
Prices range from £12,820 to £16,220 ex-VAT.
Included in the list of standard fittings are driver's airbag, ABS brakes and remote central locking. The T5 features variable servicing intervals so depending on driving style, a smart chip decides when a service is due. This can be anywhere between 9,000 and 18,000 miles or two years.
Nissan on a high as raft of new models rolls out
NISSAN had an upbeat message for Britain's LCV fleets at the show, with the new Interstar on display along with new Kubistar, Primastar and the Bee-Line concept. The Japanese manufacturer has benefited immensely from its tie-up with Renault and is now offering a full range of vans to customers.
But Mario Canavese, senior vice-president, sales and marketing at Nissan Europe, was quick to point out that Nissan was not totally reliant on its French parent. He said at the show: 'Nissan is one of the few manufacturers to grow in Europe this year. We are up 8% in a market that is down 2% and some of this is due to our increased presence in the van market.
'Sales of the Pick-up are especially buoyant and now, with new Kubistar and Interstar on board joining the Primastar, we are looking forward to even greater success.'
Canavese said Nissan had a strong LCV line-up even before the Renault link-up, and from six models now on offer, only three were 'cross-badged' – Kubistar is a Renault Kangoo, Primastar the Trafic and Interstar the Master.
He added: 'Renault and Nissan are two very different brands and even with the cross-badged models there will be styling and specification differences.'
In a bid to distance its LCV product from Renault's, Nissan is to badge all its vans either E or SE specification. E will be basic spec, while SE will add features such as ABS brakes, electronic brake distribution, electric windows and mirrors and CD player, while Primastar and Interstar SE spec will add a rear parking sensor and full bulkhead.
The extra price of the SE will be lower than the total cost of the extras.
Canavese also pointed out that Nissan's increased sales had not come at the expense of Renault. He said: 'We see our main competitors as Ford and Vauxhall. Don't forget, too, that we already had a loyal customer base with the Vanette. Many Vanette buyers have now moved to either Kubistar or Primastar.'
If Nissan is gaining benefits from Renault, then the new Master has also gained from Nissan technology for the first time. The Renault's new 3.0-litre diesel engine is a Nissan unit.
New Vito puts on the style
MERCEDES-BENZ has put the emphasis on style with its new Vito light panel van, which was launched at the show and goes on sale in the UK next month.
Two wheelbases and three vehicle lengths will be available from launch, along with standard and high roofs. A medium roof version will be added later. This translates to load volumes of between 4.65 and 6.49 cubic metres. All models are available with gross vehicle weights of either 2,770kg or 2,940kg and payloads range from 855 to 1,025kg.
Under the bonnet, the new Vito will be powered by a choice of three diesel engines. All 2,148cc four cylinder common rail units, they offer power of 88bhp, 109bhp and 150bhp and torque of 162lb-ft, 199lb-ft and 243 lb-ft. A V6 petrol version boasting a market-leading 190bhp will be available on special order but will not form part of the standard range. Liquefied petroleum gas and compressed natural gas versions will not be available at launch.
You want it? You can't have it!
FORD has denied on several occasions that it is about to launch a van version of the Focus to replace the now defunct Escort van, but an LCV version of Britain's best-selling fleet car was proudly displayed on the Ford stand at the show – in left hand drive format only.
The van is a Focus estate with the rear seats removed and a loadbed put in their place and features a range of engines from 1.4-litre petrol to 1.8-litre TDCi common rail diesel. Standard fittings include ABS brakes and air conditioning. Load volume is 1.8 cubic metres and payload is 500kg.