Fleet News

Van makers gear up for another successful year

LAST year saw sales of light commercial vehicles rocket as transport companies rushed to buy a host of new models. In 2004, van manufacturers are aiming to keep up the pace.


The French manufacturer is notoriously cagey about its future products but is renowned for cut-price deals which have given it third place in the van sales charts. A spokesman said the five-model range had performed exceptionally well in a competitive market in 2003 and that it was 'reviewing the competition and developing the range during the year to maintain its stature in the market'.


As the new year dawns, Daihatsu's funky-looking Extol comes on stream at dealers, offering a bargain-basement front-end price and a good load volume. Costing £6,995 ex-VAT, the Extol features a 1.3-litre 81bhp petrol engine and includes driver and passenger airbags, power steering, central locking and CD player as standard. It has a payload of 615kg and load volume of 2.2 cubic metres. Load length is 1,700mm, width is 1,330mm and height is 1,175mm. The load area features twin sliding side doors and a rear tailgate. Warranty is three years/60,000 miles.


FIAT starts the new year with a new engine – the 1.3 JTD Multijet common rail diesel engine – being offered in Punto van. The powerplant offers 70bhp. February sees the launch of a facelifted Scudo small panel van. The new model features interior and exterior styling improvements, new bonnet, grille, headlamps and wings and a fresh set of colours.
In the cab, the seats are new and come with a standard armrest on the driver's side. Safety is enhanced with better braking and improved body protection.
Meanwhile, Doblo Cargo will be improved in June. In addition to a new instrument panel offering clearer dials, the van also gets the 1.3 JTD engine, along with a more powerful 1.9 JTD derivative, in which power increases from 100bhp to 106bhp and torque is raised from 147lb-ft to 151lb-ft. The new powerplant promises 10% better fuel economy.


With the full range of Transit Connects now on sale, Ford has turned its attention to the smaller end of the LCV market. As the new year started, a new Fiesta van was launched, with a sector-best load length and height and a level of drivability which is a quantum leap forward over the old model.
Two engine variants are available – 1.4 TDCi common rail diesel and 1.3 petrol – and although LPG versions will be possible as an aftermarket conversion, Ford won't be doing them. Standard equipment includes driver and passenger airbags, ABS brakes, remote control central locking and immobiliser. Payload is 494kg and load volume measures 1.01 cubic metres.


Following the acquisition of tooling valued at £125million, LDV has commenced the process of installing a new manufacturing facility to house its new range of light commercial vehicles. The new range will be introduced in 2004. The company says it will continue to launch model year derivatives on Convoy, with specific developments on its market-leading 17-seat minibus.


The first versions of the new Vito hit Britain in December, but only in standard roof long and extra-long wheelbase guises and without the range-topping 150bhp engine. The first quarter of the year will see the 'compact' versions arriving, along with high roof long and extra long wheelbase variants. By spring, the fastest Vito should finally join the line-up.
The new van offers a dashing look more in keeping with its car brothers and standard features include CD player, electric windows, remote central locking, ABS brakes and Mercedes-Benz's own ESP traction control system – the only van on sale to feature such a safety measure. Three power levels come from one engine – a 2.2-litre common rail diesel unit – but there are no petrol versions and therefore no LPG ones either. Due for launch in the first half of the year is a new factory conversion Sprinter minibus, offering up to 17 seats.


Nissan's link-up with Renault has given the Japanese manufacturer one of the widest range of commercial vehicles. As the new year dawned, the Interstar (a rebadged Renault Master) was hitting the showrooms and in the spring the range will be augmented by the 3.0-litre unit, which is in fact a Nissan engine. High roof versions will also go on sale as the year progresses. Meanwhile, Nissan is planning a special version of the Navara 4x4 truck which will be liveried to commemorate the Dakar Rally. And in the second quarter of the year, the evergreen Cabstar gets a range of minor interior improvements and engine revisions.


THE Expert light panel van is getting rather long in the tooth so expect a facelifted model to break cover in February, featuring styling improvements and better specification. Meanwhile, the 206 van gets standard sports seats along with the option of satellite navigation with hands-free phone, plus five-CD changer at a cost of £1,035.
Partner will be getting Euro IV-compliant diesel engines some time in the year, while Boxer will gain the same sat-nav pack as 206 (minus the CD player) plus a reversing camera, which can only be bought with the optional colour sat-nav.


With the myriad of different versions of the Trafic light panel van finally on sale this year, Renault turned its attention to the heavier Master. As the new year dawned, the new model went on sale, offering an improved cab, ABS brakes and a driver's airbag as standard and a new set of engines, including Nissan's 3.0-litre 136bhp unit. In summer, an automatic version will be available on the diesel units, while a 2.0-litre petrol engine will join the range, allowing for LPG conversions.


With the new year comes a new range of pick-up trucks from Indian manufacturer Tata. The new TL comes in single and double cab formats with both two and four-wheel drive and will be marketed in a new tie-up with MG Rover. Power comes from a 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine offering 89bhp and 140lb-ft of torque and payloads are 1,280kg and 1,030kg. Prices start at a bargain basement £7,495 ex-VAT.


While Vauxhall does not have any new vans being launched in 2004, there is no shortage of new derivatives of existing models.
The new Movano, which was launched late in 2003, will be getting a hefty 3.0-litre powerplant early in the year and there will be a factory-built minibus version on sale in the spring. Corsavan will see a factory-fit LPG version being launched in March while Combo is due to get Euro IV-compliant common rail diesel engines in the fourth quarter.


The German manufacturer has seen a flurry of activity in 2003 as it launched a brand new Transporter light panel van and announced a new Caddy car-derived CV. The new T5 Transporter came on stream at the turn of the year, but as 2004 unfolds a host of new variants will become available. Single and double chassis cabs will be here early in the year, along with the Shuttle minibus, offering seating for up to nine people.
After the 4Motion 4x4 vehicles hit Britain's shores, buyers will be able to order medium and high roof versions, long wheelbase variants and vehicles with gross weights of up to 3.2 tonnes.
Meanwhile, the new Caddy will be launched in spring. It is larger than the old model and is based on the Touran mini-MPV platform.
It will be powered by either a 2.0-litre SDI or 1.9-litre TDI powerplant (no petrol versions) offering 70bhp or 100bhp and torque of 103lb-ft or 184lb-ft. Load volume is 3.2 cubic metres and payload is 750kg. Expected prices are about £9,000 ex-VAT.

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