New Expert and Dispatch reveal how vans are becoming far more 'car like'
Vans tend to have a longer shelf life than cars. The upside of this is when new models are launched they can represent a significant step forward.
Take the all-new Peugeot Expert and Citroen Dispatch - here by the end of the summer. Apart from a minor facelift in 2012 they've been around since 2007, with a rebadged version from Toyota, the ProAce, joining them in 2013.
First drives of the new PSA vans in France (Toyota is launching its ProAce separately) suggest the latest Expert and Dispatch are significantly improved all-round - especially in cabin quality. Manufacturers now realise ergonomics and comfort are just as important for commercial vehicle operators as for car owners - if not more so.
That's highlighted by the fact the new vans share the same EMP2 platform as the Peugeot 308 and Citroen C4 Picasso family cars.
Spec includes a new 7ins capacitive touchscreen (voice recognition), while Apple CarPlay and Mirrorlink connectivity are also offered. Decent, durable material, good storage spaces and excellent noise refinement add up to a car-like driving experience.
The Expert and Dispatch wil come in three body lengths. Significantly there's a new 'Compact' that's just 4.6 cubic metres long. It's a first for this segment and potentially opens a whole new market, particularly for operators in size-restricted urban areas.
All versions come with maximum payloads of 1,400kg, load capacities range from 5.1- 6.6 cubic metres, while up to 2.5 tonnes can be towed. At 1.9 metres high (1.94m for the longest version) they will also fit comfortably into most car parks.
They're also highlighting the new three-bench seat with Moduwork partition. Depending on needs, you can either have seating for three up front, a flat floor giving an extra 1.16m load length or additional volume, or convert the front into a mobile office courtesy of a folding middle seat back-rest.
Innovative features include hands-free sliding side doors - if the key is in the vicinity, simply wave your foot under the corner of the rear bumper to open. A Heads-Up-Display (HUD) and automatic speed sign reading system are other elements not previously seen in this segment.
There are five diesel variants: a 1.6 HDi with 95 and 115 bhp, and 2.0 HDi with 120, 150 and 180bhp. The 95bhp version, expected to be the volume seller in Ireland, wasn't available. We drove the 115bhp with 300kg on board; it was impressively agile and responsive, but quiet. The 150bhp version was also driven - you'd feel it would easily cope with even the heaviest load.
Specs for the Irish market for either brand haven't been finalised yet, but Citroen say prices will reflect the higher equipment levels. As well as panel vans, there will be Combis with seating for up to six, full passenger versions (Peugeot Traveller and Citroen Space Tourer) and platform cabs.