Saturday 25 May 2019

CV Show review: LCV roundup

Steve Banner reports on the LCV offering at this year’s Commercial Vehicle Show

Electric versions of Citroën’s Relay and Peugeot’s Boxer made their global debuts at this year’s Commercial Vehicle Show, held as usual at the NEC Birmingham. Citroën and Peugeot are both owned by PSA, as is Vauxhall; and Relay and Boxer are identical apart from their badges.

The vehicles are assembled at the vast Sevel plant at Val di Sangro in Italy and converted to battery power by Turkish-owned BD Automotive.

They have a claimed range between recharges of up to 141 miles for the smaller L1 and L2 models, and up to 169 miles for their bigger s L3 and L4 counterparts.  UK buyers will be able to order them later this year.

The newcomers form part of a major roll-out of electric light commercials by PSA which will see battery-powered versions of Citroën’s Dispatch, Peugeot’s Expert and the latest Vauxhall Vivaro debut in 2020.

They all share the same basic design, as do the latest Citroën Berlingo, Peugeot Partner and Vauxhall Combo, with electric variants of these models in the pipeline for 2021. The battery versions of Berlingo and Partner on sale at present are based on the old models.

The new Vivaro van was launched at this year’s show with 100hp and 120hp 1.5-litre diesel engines and a payload capacity of up to almost 1.5 tonnes. Two lengths are available, and new Vivaro is being produced as a van, a six-seater double cab with a separate cargo compartment, and as a platform cab.

Produced with three different trim levels – Edition, Sportive and Elite – it can be ordered now and will arrive in Vauxhall dealerships in the summer. Elite gets the latest safety technology as standard including Lane Departure Warning, Speed Limit Information, Intelligent Speed Adaption and Blind Spot Detection.

Like its predecessor it is assembled in Luton, ensuring that Vauxhall retains its role as Britain’s sole volume light commercial producer. The investment being pumped into the Bedfordshire plant will help boost its output to 100,000 units annually and some 1,250 jobs will be secured as a consequence.

Ford was extolling the virtues of the latest incarnation of Transit, which goes on sale shortly. It has gone on a diet, with computer-aided design technology inspired by the aerospace industry helping it lose up to 80kg of flab.

In a bid to save weight it has become the first Ford light commercial in Europe to feature an aluminium bonnet, and is also being offered with a light-in-weight but high-in-strength composite bulkhead.

The lighter Transit is, the more it can carry, and that is vitally important to businesses looking to acquire it, says Transit global chief programme engineer, Michael McDonagh.

“Lighter weight also improves fuel efficiency and reduces CO2 emissions,” he observes.

Another development which should help cut emissions is the arrival of a 48v mild-hybrid variant. Transit also gets an upgraded 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine including a more powerful 185hp version, and rear-wheel-drive models are being marketed with a ten-speed automatic gearbox.

A pure electric Transit will debut in 2021, and could trigger a significant rise in battery van sales given Ford’s marketplace dominance.

If all that sounds a little worthy, it is also worth noting that Ford has created the most-powerful Transit Custom Sport ever by slotting in the aforementioned 185hp diesel. It heads a range of three models distinguished by their twin sports stripes.

Toyota is steady expanding its light commercial line-up, and used the NEC for the global launch of its Proace City. Representing the company’s first foray into the UK light van market for many a long year, it uses the same platform as Berlingo/Partner/Combo with load cubes of either 3.3m3 or 4.3m3, and payload capacities ranging from 650kg  to 1,000kg.

So far as purpose-built pick-ups are concerned, while the new Ranger Raptor that Ford exhibited generated plenty of excitement – the flagship of the revised Ranger line-up, it boasts a 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel with a healthy 210hp on tap – Fiat Professional announced that it was exiting the sector; temporarily, at least. It is dropping the Fullback, which is based on Mitsubishi’s L200, from its line-up.

“The relationship with Mitsubishi didn’t work commercially for us,” says UK head of brand, Richard Chamberlain.

So what could replace Fullback? Chamberlain points out that Fiat Professional is part of the Fiat Chrysler Group, which owns pick-up-oriented brand RAM; once known as Dodge RAM. There might be something suitable in the RAM portfolio that Fiat Professional could market.

Over on the Isuzu stand, the prototype XTR version of the D-Max was being celebrated. It features a bespoke suspension and brake system using components from Australia-based specialist Pedders.

The package gives XTR more suspension articulation which spells better off-road performance, with ground clearance increased to 250mm. New vented front disc brakes are fitted with ceramic pads.

For your money, you also get 17-inch alloy wheels shod with 32-inch tyres and a body kit plus side steps. If that’s not sufficiently over-the-top for you, then Isuzu was also displaying its new D-Max Arctic Trucks AT35 Safir with a whole set of goodies as standard, including an aluminium under-guard and diamond-cut alloy wheels.

Just ten Safirs are being produced; so form an orderly queue.

Still with the fancy stuff, Mitsubishi was displaying the Shogun Sport SVP Concept with black 18-inch alloy wheels, BF Goodrich all-terrain tyres and special wheel-arch extensions to accommodate the 40mm-wider track. The suspension has been tuned in conjunction with Walkinshaw Performance and Koni.

Returning to electric vans, LDV unveiled the compact Chinese-built EV30 which is set to take on Renault’s Kangoo Van Z.E and Nissan’s e-NV200 when it goes on sale in Britain in 2020.  It offers a range of up to 200 miles between recharges, says the manufacturer, with fast charging said to replenish the lithium-ion battery pack in as little as 45 minutes.

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles aims to have an electric e-Caddy on sale in the UK in the second half of the year. Designed jointly with ABT, it should have a range of up to 136 miles.

An e-Transporter should appear in 2020 and an e-Crafter in 2021.

Staying with green initiatives, Mitsubishi was exhibiting its latest Outlander PHEV Commercial plug-in hybrid, with a revised electric powertrain and a new Atkinson-cycle petrol engine.

With the Atkinson cycle, the intake valves are held open for a portion of the compression stroke with the aim of increasing efficiency. Engines with this cycle are often fitted to hybrids because the latter’s electric motor makes up for their lack of low-speed output.

PHEV Commercial boasts a zero-emission pure electric range of 28 miles, says Mitsubishi – which might help to keep one or two of the less extreme climate change warriors tolerably happy.

Likely to keep prospective purchasers happy, too, is the fact that it qualifies for the government’s Plug-In Van Grant, which cuts the on-the-road price by £7,902 to £25,121. Furthermore, it can operate in central London’s ultra low emission zone without facing a financial penalty.

The only danger with this type of hybrid is that drivers will not bother to plug it in and simply rely on the petrol engine, especially if they are not responsible for the fuel bill; which rather defeats the object of the exercise. Investment in driver training is essential if such vehicles are to realise their full potential.

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