Toyota use French Connection to get back in van game with Hiace successor the new PROACE
Focs on vans Warsaw
Toyota is back in the van business - big-time. The company that brought us the famous Hiace returns with the new PROACE. It goes on sale here later this month but we won't have spec and prices until then.
Essentially the PROACE is Toyota's take on Peugeot's Expert and Citroen's Dispatch both of which will compete with it on the Irish market.
And like them, the PROACE has multi-purpose/people carrier-versions, called Verso with up to nine seats depending on model (for large families, VIP/hotel shuttles etc). A decent level of interest in those is expected.
But vans will be by far the big sellers as sales generally are strong this year again. So the portents are good for the three new arrivals.
In the case of the PROACE there are three lengths and two wheelbases: L0 (Compact), L1 (MWB) Medium and L2 (LWB) large.
We drove several versions near Warsaw last week. The Compact 1.6-litre diesel (95bhp, 5spd, 4.6 metres long) was handy to drive. The sliding door and deep rear tailgate mean easy access for loading.
All engines (1.6 and 2-litre) are made by Peugeot/Citroen and should cut running costs with lower consumption and emissions.
My preference was the Medium/MWB (4.95m long) 1.6-litre 115bhp with 6spd box. It had obviously more cargo area but was a better drive and felt smoother on the roads.
That's important as these vans are so often the 'office' for those working with them. Which is why I paid particular attention to how well the seats were made.
There was good adjustment and they had a bit of 'spring' in them to absorb bumps and jolts.
The wing mirrors are deep and broad - they need to be because you can't see out the solid tailgate.
The larger L2 version, which we didn't get to drive, is expected to account for 50pc of their sales (35pc for Medium/MWB and 15pc for Compact).
We also drove the 1.6-litre and 2-litre diesel Verso models with different seating combinations.
These are aimed mostly at large families, hotels as people carriers or as VIP shuttles.
The 2-litre had plenty of poke and power and I suppose is made for circumstances where there would be a consistent full, or near-full contingent of passengers on board.
The 1.6-litre would probably suit lower occupancy rates. There are many seating/luggage combinations.
The Compact versions of van and Verso are 4.6m long with 2.9m wheelbases but can still manage a 9-seat cabin capacity or a 4.6 cubic metre to 5.1 cubic metres load compartment.
The MWB version is 4.9m long with a 3.2m wheelbase. While Long models have the same 3.2m wheelbase there is an extended rear overhang for greater cargo capacity (overall length up to 5.3m).
They say safety standards are on a par with a Toyota passenger car; the Verso has already received five stars in the Euro NCAP crash-test programme. There is the usual Toyota 3-year/100,000km warranty.
The Compact was interesting. With three front cabin seats, its cargo bay - the payload - is 2.1m long and 1.6m wide (4.6 cubic metres).
Medium/MWB is 4.9m long with a 3.2m wheelbase. With a special system, cargo length increases from 2.5m to 3.7m and total volume goes from 5.3 cubic metre to 5.8 cubic metres.
Side sliding doors of the MWB and Long vans are wide enough to allow loading of a Euro pallet.
The automaker expects to sell 500 of the new breed in total next year.
The current PROACE has been something of a 'stop-gap' since 2014 when the old Hiace finally faded away.
In one year at the height of the boom nearly 1,000 people shelled out and bought a Hiace.
But rivals have outstripped them since. And now they are fighting to get back.
The current Proace starts around the €22,500 mark but there is no indication of a kick-off point for the new one.
They expect the 1.6-litre diesels (95bhp 5spd; 115bhp 6spd) to be the main sellers. The 2-litre versions develop 120bhp and 150bhp.
There will be 12 derivatives in total - for now. Here's what they're promising:
VANS: GL trim (3 seats): L0, 1.6D 95bhp, 210Nm, 5spd;
L1 1.6D, 95bhp, 210Nm, 5spd;
L2 1.6D, 95bhp, 210Nm, 5spd (expected main seller).
GX: L1 (3-seats): 2.0D, 120bhp, 340Nm, 6spd;
L2, 2.0D, 120bhp, 340Nm 6spd; L2 2.0D 150bhp 370Nm 6spd.
Then there will be the GX Crew Cab: L2, 2.0D, 120bhp, 340Nm, 6spd, six seats.
And the Verso Combi: L2, 1.6D, 115bhp, 300Nm, 6spd, nine seats.
The Verso Shuttle versions include: L1, 2.0D, 150bhp, 370Nm, 6spd, nine seats; L2, 2.0D 150bhp, 370Nm, 6spd, nine seats.
Family versions include: L0, 2.0D, 150bhp, 370Nm, 6spd, eight seats.
And VIP versions include: L2, 2.0D 180bhp, 400Nm, 6spd auto, six seats.