Why it's now fair to say that vans are more 'car like' for drivers than they have ever been
Published 24/02/2016 | 02:30
The basic principles of a good van are, and have always been, to be as spacious and practical as possible.
The various weight limits and licenses required to drive particular-sized vans means that there is only so much that manufacturers can do with payloads and towing capacities.
Van drivers are acutely aware of what they need; so much more so than car drivers.
A van driver will tell you the gross vehicle weight of his/her van.
They will know the payload and how many Euro pallets will fit in the cargo area. They know whether they need double or single sliding doors; rear or front wheel drive; a short, medium or long wheel base and a low, medium, or high roof.
They know all of this because it is their business to know.
And yet, in the past vans have been as big as they have needed to be and no bigger, and for the most part, as bare as they needed to be and no better.
There used to be a huge inequality in the specification between vans and cars.
When we think about it, such a low level of kit does not quite make much sense considering most commercial vehicle drivers are VAT registered and so the cost of additional specification necessarily comes at a bit of a discount over regular passenger cars.
Now though, things are dramatically changed.
Even a cursory glance at a commercial vehicle price list in 2016 versus one in 2010 will highlight the extent of the improvements made to vans. There is so much more choice now.
Vans now have specification levels. Before, you simply bought a Transit, or a Transporter, or a Vivaro, or a Trafic and that was that. Today's vans can be equipped with reversing cameras, Lane Departure Warning Systems, better Electronic Stability Control and four wheel drive.
Driver Alert systems detect abnormal steering behaviour and send audible and visual alerts to the driver to pull over and take a break.
These safety improv ements should not only be welcomed but embraced.
The changes on the inside are even more pronounced. Now there are touch screens with sat nav and Bluetooth, docking stations for phones and tablets; and storage compartments hidden in every nook and cranny.
There are heated seats for those crack-of-dawn starts. Vans now have more USB ports, which free up valuable 12 Volt sockets for charging batteries for drills and other tools.
For most drivers, vans act as filing cabinets for invoices and receipts. They provide space to make private phone calls and set up meetings and appoint ments. Vans act as dining rooms at lunch time and provide journeys. Beforehand, a van was a tool for the job. Now, vans are safe, comfortable, and highly technical workspaces.
Most importantly, a lot of the additional kit found in today's vans comes as standard or as part of a specification line with a reasonable price walk-up from base trim levels.
Van drivers are now being offered similar luxuries to their passenger car buying equivalents.
And it's about time, too.