In the past few years, we have seen the traditional sectors divided and sub-divided, while new models have spawned ever-more diverse niche versions to fill every possible transport need.
The Vauxhall Vivaro, the latest addition to our long-term test fleet, is a classic example of this new trend.
Launched in 2001, the Vivaro originally came with one wheelbase, one roof height and just two different engine power outputs.
Since then, we have seen a series of extra models, including long wheelbases, high roofs, minibuses and tippers.
But this test model, the crewcab, is something else again.
It is an example of the kind of van that fleets are demanding now – a van that will cover a multitude of jobs with the minimum of fuss.
The decision to include a commercial vehicle on our long-term test fleet was first made last year when Ford offered us a Transit for six months. This vehicle made such an impact, that we decided to make an LCV a permanent fixture and Vauxhall was only too happy to fill in the gap when the Transit went back in February.
If someone was to ask me to name my favourite van of all the ones on the roads today, it would probably be the Vivaro or its siblings, the Renault Trafic and Nissan Primastar.
On the outside it is a classy looker and on the inside, the cab is stylish and bright.
On the road, the Vivaro could for all the world be an overgrown car, such is its wonderful driving experience. To cap it all, it’s built at the IBC plant in Luton, so fleets which are still into buying British (are there any nowadays?) can rest easy in the knowledge that the Vivaro is home-grown.
Our test model turned up in smart metallic silver livery and sporting just 104 miles on the clock. It is powered by a 1.9-litre common rail turbodiesel engine pumping out 100bhp and features as standard a six-speed gearbox.
First impressions are good. The driver’s seat is wonderfully firm and figure-hugging with plenty of lumbar support and there is plenty of legroom for all six occupants. The surprise is that with all this space in the front, there is still a fair amount of room for cargo in the rear end, which boasts 4.2 cubic metres – enough for plenty of tool boxes and other paraphernalia a six-man crew might have.
Under way, the engine is silky smooth and, while 100bhp won’t exactly set the Tarmac on fire, it is easily enough for average fleet purposes.
ABS brakes come as standard – top marks there – but the CD player costs an extra £75, so nil points on the in-van entertainment front.
I have a few long-haul motorway trips to make in the coming weeks and will be parking up my test car in favour of this van to whack a few miles on its clock and help run it in.
I’ll be reporting on further driving impressions and fuel consumption figures next month.
I already have a queue of testers waiting to borrow the Vivaro for a weekend or two. It’s amazing what a diverse lifestyle our people lead – someone has a trip to Ikea planned, another is moving furniture, while a third is a motorcycle off-roading enthusiast.
One possible downside with this van is that with a second row of seats aboard and a full bulkhead, space in the back is rather more limited than in a traditional panel van.
The motorcycle, for example, is unlikely to fit in. But the interesting thing about this van is that most of our testers are unused to driving such a large vehicle, so their comments about its drivability will make worthwhile reading. My guess is that they will all be impressed with this nimble mover.
The side and rear glass makes for some easy manoeuvring, although I did notice that there aren’t any rear screen wipers on this particular model.
As overall keeper of the van in my capacity as editor of Fleet News’ sister title Fleet Van, I have laid down a few ground rules about what can and can’t be carried.
Furniture is OK by me and even a muddy motorcycle might just pass muster, but a few of our testers are keen gardeners, so I will be keeping open a wary eye for signs of the carriage of bags of manure etc.
Any such transgressions will be severely punished!
What we expect
THE Vivaro may not be everyone’s idea of delightful day-to-day transport, but when space is required – or indeed transport for six people – there is nothing else on the long-term test fleet that will do the trick.
On that basis, we are anticipating a busy time for the Vivaro. The van may not exactly rack up a lot of miles while it is with us, but it will certainly score highly in the ‘useful vehicle’ stakes.
The manufacturer’s view
THE Vivaro has been on sale now for four years and each year, sales have risen.
In 2003 we sold 10,000 Vivaros and in 2004 the number rose to 14,000, an increase of 44%.
The amazing thing is that of those 14,000, 10,500 were to fleets but a staggering 4,000 went to private buyers.
This demonstrates that the Vivaro really does drive like a big car. You would expect fleets to buy vans, but for private buyers to opt for a commercial vehicle for day-to-day use is nothing short of amazing.
From day one, the country has taken this wonderful vehicle to its heart.
Ian Hucker, national van sales manager, Vauxhall
Model: Vauxhall Vivaro crew cab 1.9 CDTi
Price (OTR ex-VAT): £16,315
CO2 emissions (g/km): n/a
Company car tax bill (2005/6) 22% tax-payer: £110 per year
Insurance group: 5E
Combined mpg: n/a
Test mpg: n/a
CAP Monitor residual value: £5,750/34%
Expenditure to date: Nil