AUSTRALIA’S GUIDE TO UTES, VANS, LIGHT TRUCKS & PEOPLE MOVERS
www.deliverymagazine.com.au ISSUE 48 JUNE/JULY 2013 RRP: $7.95
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RAPTOR + UTE - VAN - PEOPLE MOVER AWARDS 2013
PUGNACIOU Peugeot can offer exceptional products but can it offer the buyer piece of mind? Delivery looks at the current performance of this French manufacturer with a pair of Pugs – the Expert and Partner
ou’ve got to thank Volkswagen for bringing the merits of the small van to the Australian buyer. Already this first quarter has seen the Caddy achieve sales of 502 units, up 23 percent on the same period of last year and now holding 67.5 percent of the market segment.
But what of Peugeot and it’s contender in this segment, the Partner? Just 17 sales in four months have given Peugeot a market segment share of 2.2 percent. As well as being unimpressive, it suggests that the importer attaches little importance to establishing any form of light commercial vehicle presence in the market. It’s a similar story in the next segment up, the one-tonne van sector, where Peugeot competes with the Expert. With overall sales of this segment for the first quarter of 2013 running at 3,842 units, Peugeot’s Expert has scored just 9 sales, a market share of 0.2 percent.
PUGNACIOUS The fold forward ability of the front passenger seat adds to the versatility to carry longer items.
US Looking back over the company’s sales performance for 2012 finds a similarly lacklustre performance, with the company achieving total sales of its cars and light commercials of 5,071 units. This was down by 2.9 percent on its 2011 performance of 5,220, and all at a time of record total sales in this market. The Partner is the best selling small van in the United Kingdom, suggesting that a lack of sales in Australia is not through a fault of the product. It continues to grow market share in Britain and this year adds a full electric version to its range, with an advanced permanent magnet synchronous 49 kW electric motor and 22.5 kWh lithium ion battery pack. This gives the Partner Electric the potential for up to 160 km per day with a top speed of 110 km/h. That said, it’s unlikely the Partner EV will make it to our shores. Delivery has been spending time in examples of the Partner and Expert, and both have their merits and appeal. But, as the sales performance shows, being successful in selling light commercials doesn’t just depend on having good product, it’s all about commitment, and, in that area, Peugeot becomes very suspect. Standard specifications have been upgraded for 2013, but so too has the pricing, increasing by $600 for the Partner LWB and $3,000 for the Expert. The upside to this price rise is an increase in equipment estimated at $1,300 for the Partner and $4,100 for the Expert. Buyers of the petrol-engined Partner do gain a cash benefit with this model reducing in price by $400 to $21,990, but also gaining additional equipment valued at $1,500. Starting with the smallest first, and we look at the Partner standard length van. Here you get a four-cylinder, petrol engine with 72 kW at 6,000 rpm and peak torque of 152 Nm rated at 3,500 rpm. If you want a diesel engine you have to move out to the extended-wheelbase version to gain a four-
cylinder, 1.6-litre turbo-diesel that provides 68 kW at 4,000 rpm and peak torque of 215 Nm rated at 1,750 rpm. Both engines are only available with a five-speed manual gearbox. Performance from either engine is on the sedate side, with 0-100 km/h acceleration times of around 17 seconds. Fuel consumption varies for the combined figure with the petrol engine offering 7.1 l/100 km and the diesel reducing this to 5.5 l/100 km. Emissions are 164 and 143 g/km of CO2, respectively. Choosing the right selection for your business comes down to your expectation of total kilometres travelled each year and whether you need the extra space that comes with the diesel engine. It’s also worth remembering whether you need to park in very small places, as the length increases from 4.380 out to 4,628 mm. And while on the subject of parking, rear sensors are optional, not standard.
ord’s F150 has always been a standout vehicle wherever it’s seen on Australian roads. In recent times it’s been the all-black Harley Davidson version that’s caused the stir, but now, thanks to F150 importers Salstrip Ultimate Vehicles of Ingleside, Sydney, there are four F150 variants for ute buyers who want something better than the standard local fare.
The range starts off with the Platinum, moves through to the King Ranch, goes a bit bikie-oriented with the Harley Davidson version, and then peaks with the Raptor. The Raptor is only available in 4WD and is what Salstrip calls the sexiest, most off-road-capable F150 Ford has ever built. As well as being a great ride around town, the SVT Raptor has an awesome 4x4 drive system and suspension for maximum performance in all on and off-road situations. Available as a Super Cab or a Super Crewcab, the SVT Raptor is powered by a 6.2-litre, Ford V8 diesel of 306 kW (411hp) and 588 Nm (434 lb-ft) of torque. It’s matched to a six-speed automatic transmission, and can carry up to five passengers and tow up to 3,200 kg. Although based on the F150, the Raptor is quite different from the standard model, featuring a full 178 mm wider track dimension. Using Fox racing shock absorbers with internal triple bypass valves, it boasts cast aluminium front control arms and 35-inch BF Goodrich All Terrain tyres. The Raptor has an amazing 284 mm front suspension travel, with 307 mm rear suspension travel, and the four-door Super Crew version has an additional 304 mm longer wheelbase.
For all-wheel-drive operation the front axle of the F150 Raptor features a Torsen differential to shift torque to the wheels with most traction and prevent unnecessary wheelspin. It comes with hill descent control, front and rear camera system, an electronic locking rear differential, roll stability control and traction control. The Harley Davidson version is available as a 4x2 and 4x4 model with a stylised appearance that includes blacked out headlamps and tail lamps. The interior is trimmed in black leather, and, with ten-way power adjustable front seats, there’s a very high level of luxury specification, plus of course all the traditional Harley Davidson badging and decals. The King Ranch has an interior trim that is described almost in the same fashion as a rider would mention their horse and saddle. Try this for size – a Chaparral leather trimmed, ten-way adjustable, powered front seat with saddle leather accents, and with internal heating and cooling systems within the seat. The Platinum model features all the standard inclusions of the Lariat, again with unique leather trimming of all seats, fold-up seat squabs in the rear of the crew cab and upmarket audio systems. The F150 range has a towing capacity that ranges from 3,000 kg through to 3,950 kg and comes with standard trailer sway control, trailer brake controller, rear-view camera, telescoping trailer mirrors, and a payload of 1,377 kg. Safety inclusions, with SRS airbags, roll stability control, a standard safety canopy system, and side curtain airbags, all make for high safety standards. The Raptor has been so successful on its home turf that Ford America has already announced the 2014 version F-150 SVT Raptor Special Edition, which adds unique new touches to Raptor’s existing
IT’S THE FORD UTE WITH ATTITUDE, AND IT’S AVAILABLE HERE IN AUSTRALIA
Luxury Package, including a Ruby Red Metallic exterior colour and box-side graphics. Interior upgrades include Brick Red seat bolsters with black inserts and cloth honeycomb highlights, console top finish panel, and centre stack and door panel appliqué accents. Raptor Special Edition is also available in Tuxedo Black Metallic. “Raptor owners are looking for a high-performing, uncompromising off-road pickup truck with the features and luxuries found in today’s premium trucks,” said Doug Scott, Ford truck group marketing manager. “Since its launch in 2009, we’ve continually moved Raptor forward in
Ute design appears to now centre on styling rather than practicality, Delivery looks at what’s on offer and makes the final selection for the 2013 Ute of the Year Award
t’s been an interesting time for ute buyers in Australia. The selection choice includes the latest products from Ford with the Ranger, Mazda with the BT-50, Isuzu with the D-Max, and Holden with the Colorado. Volkswagen came in with all guns blazing for the launch of the Amarok, and Nissan claimed the title of most powerful ute with the V6 diesel that develops 170 kW of power and 550 Nm of torque for the Navara ST-X.
range has now swapped distribution responsibility to ATECO. As SsangYong moved into the ATECO portfolio, Citroen moved from ATECO to Sime Darby and Fiat moved to Fiat Chrysler.
We’ve seen the influx of Great Wall from China and its purchase by the low budget buyer who is not concerned with resale value. There’s obviously interest in the cut-priced Chinese products, but our current concern here is with build quality and safety.
Holden claims its Colorado is all conquering, but feedback received at Delivery from buyers suggests that durability of the transmission
Foton Ute, also from China, has almost managed to make it on to the Australian market, but now seems to be falling back from attempts at national availability. There’s been a small flurry of activity through a couple of dealers in Queensland, but nothing tangible that could constitute a serious attempt for market share. Mahindra and the Pik-Up from India is subject to a lower than comparable safety rating but actually offers a strong engine package and a good-sized cab interior. It looks a little boxy and, so far, the importers haven’t been seen to attempt any serious marketing attempts to promote the product on our market. SsangYong from South Korea has recently undergone a change of distributor with a move away from Sime Darby that controls the fate of Peugeot and Citroen. The SsangYong
Both Sime Darby and ATECO claim its all business as usual, but any industry insider will tell you it takes time for a new distributor to establish the correct levels of parts supply and support, customer service and backup. Our tip here is to wait and let each new sales and service organisation settle into their new roles, and to not risk being an early adopter that finds support and interest to be lacking.
THE BEST BET is not all it could be and that customer service at GM is not focused on actually providing service to the customer. It seems that Holden marketing simply does not understand the ute market, tending to go for spectacular TV advertising productions. These TV ads resulted in howls of protest relating to dangerous driving and a lack of established safety procedures shown as the vehicle negotiated a building site at high speed. The initial response to the Ford Ranger and Mazda BT-50 was highly supportive
and based on the impressive amount of effort involved in the design and styling of both products. In evaluating various models, Delivery has found the manual transmission is clunky in its shift quality but the automatic transmission suits the power and torque output of the driveline very well.
The European cab-chassis options include Volkswagen with the Transporter and Crafter, Mercedes-Benz with the Sprinter, Iveco with the Daily and newcomer Renault, which will soon be introducing a cab-chassis version of the Master. Ford already competes in this segment with the Transit cab-chassis, and we await the all-new Transit with interest, having previewed the latest versions at the IAA Expo in Hannover last year.
If there is a criticism of the Ford/Mazda, it’s that the tub walls are so high that any normally dimensioned owner is not going to be able to reach over the side to take anything out. The only option is to clamber in across the tailgate from the rear. This difficulty in accessing the load space is further exacerbated by the designers aim to look bigger, bolder and more macho than the next ute in the parking lot. By mounting the tub higher above the chassis rails than necessary, especially on 4x2 versions, it’s created an impractical vehicle in direct contrast to the original intention for all utes to be a practical workhorse. Toyota continues to control the market with HiLux and does so thanks to reputation, dealer group ability and higher than average resale value. The HiLux itself is now well overdue for an upgrade or facelift. It could certainly benefit from a new diesel engine to replace the now aging derivative of the early four cylinder diesels. It’s important to consider other contenders in the ute segment that do not all hail from Thailand and Japan.
There’s a wide range of advantages in these “Euro Utes”. Starting with the excellent cabin space, there’s usually room for four passengers across the rear bench seat with storage underneath, easier access and seating for up to two more passengers on a front nearside dual seat. Vision is excellent, the engines are fuel efficient and available as Euro V or Euro VI emissions compliant, and the safety standards in most instances match those available in current model European passenger cars. In evaluating the contenders for the title of the 2013 Delivery Magazine Ute of the Year, we looked at what was DELIVERY
t’s all well and good to live the Australian dream and buy a ute. But it’s only when you try to stow something inside that you find there are shortcomings of buying a single-cab version. Fortunately there is an easy solution, a step up to a mid-range, extended depth cabin.
There are 21 variants of 7 brands currently selling 2+2 utes in Australia, 17 4x4s and 4 4x2s. Toyota has five HiLux ExtraCabs; Ford, five Ranger Super Cabs; three each for Nissan’s D40 Navara King Cab and Mazda’s BT-50 Freestyle; and two each for Holden’s Colorado, Isuzu’s D-Max Space Cabs and Mitsubishi’s Triton Club Cab.
Whether called Extra, Space, Super, King, Club or Freestyle, we’re talking here about 2+2 utes.
Moving from single cab to 2+2 lengthens cabs by around 0.5 m and shortens load floors on trays from 2.55 m to 2.1 m, or from 2.4 m to 1.95 m, and, in ute (pickup) tubs, from 2.3 m to 1.8 m. However, it also shifts the load floor rearwards so that between 55 and 72 percent of its length in a 2+2 is overhang, depending on brand. That, ideally, restricts any heavy cargo to the front 28 to 45 percent of the load floor length.
Characterised by their junior-sized ‘jump’ seats in the rear of an extended single-cab cabin, 2+2s are a curious niche in the expansive one-tonne ute segment most populated by crew or single cabs. Almost all are built in Thailand where they proliferate as a ‘family’ car, avoiding crew cabs’ higher tax, and are often 2+3 or 2+4, plus a few more in the tub!
Here in safety-conscious Australia, 2+2s now all come with two seats, lap/sash seat belts and varying other amenities, evidencing a shift to offering at least temporary accommodation for adults over short trips.
Trail bikers like 2+2s too, as they can strap their bike in the tub diagonally with the tailgate shut and still have some stretch room in the cab. They’re a good compromise for long distance work also, with room to recline the front seat(s) for that roadside power nap with a longer-than-crew-cab tub or tray out back. Not all ute brands or models offer 2+2s. Absentees are VW’s Amarok and Transporter, Nissan’s D22 Navara and Patrol, Toyota Landcruiser 70, Great Wall V-series, Ssangyong Actyon, Mahindra Pikup, Land Rover Defender 130, and of course Falcons and Commodores.
After the rash of new generation utes in the last two years, all but two brands now offer vastly better rear access, thanks to the removal of the B-pillar and hinging the smaller side doors from the rear. All the brand marketers justifiably bristle at these being glibly labelled ‘suicide’ doors just because they’re rear-hinged, notwithstanding that they can’t open unless the front doors are opened first. Unsurprisingly, the two utes not so configured are the oldest current models: Toyota’s HiLux and Mitsubishi’s Triton.
SEARCHING FOR SPACE
Extended cabin designs provide added practicality and versatility.
CHING FOR SPACE Delivery looks for extra space in the ute market. Words by Richard Power
Popularity no benchmark Here then is the first quandary. The current shape HiLux Extra-Cab has had such doors for years in Thailand, no doubt for that 2+4 market, but never here. Granted, its doors are 150 mm longer than the fronts on its Double-Cab, so access is not too bad. No matter as HiLux luxuriates in
its brand power. Despite now being seriously uncompetitive in safety kit, amenities, and with drivetrains that are either ordinary or irrelevant guzzlers, it remains a perennial top ute seller, and in some months it’s the top-selling vehicle of any sort in Australia. Yes, it does have the biggest service network, service costs have now moderated, resale value lunches off the brand and it has a good reliability reputation – now seriously challenged by Isuzu’s D-Max.
VAN OF THE
2013 THEREâ€™S ONLY ONE WINNER AS THE FOCUS ON SAFETY CONTINUES TO GROW
he continuing expansion of the range of vans of all sizes that has been occurring in the Australian market bodes well for buyers, as with more choice comes more solutions for individual requirements.
Considering the sophistication of our market, it is interesting that none of the European manufacturers have taken the initiative to introduce electric vehicles (EV) that are now becoming available. Admittedly, the infrastructure for charge points for EV use is virtually non-existent. But where fleets exist for courier work, there are definite advantages in both operation and available publicity for companies that want to present a green, environmentally conscious appearance.
Volkswagen has been responsible for promoting the small van market probably more than any other manufacturer, and, as a consequence, has seen its Caddy small van range grow its market share to become market leader. Other brands in this segment include Renault with the Kangoo, Peugeot with the Partner, the Fiat Berlingo and Suzuki APV. A reshuffle of importers and vehicle franchises has seen Fiat and Citroen change their distribution and importation networks. At this stage there has been no indication from the new management teams that they have any interest in the promotion of light commercials. That leads Delivery magazine to suggest that buying these products is best put on hold until the new importers provide an indication of their intent and commitment to the light commercial market. The owner and operator of a light commercial vehicle needs to know they can rely on the commitment behind a product that will keep their fleet on the road. You get that from major companies such as Toyota, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen, you may not find the same level of interest or commitment from other parts of Europe.
VAN OF THE YEAR 2013
Later this year, Mercedes-Benz will be launching the Citan small van. Based on the Renault Kangoo platform, it’s the result of product and engineering sharing between two major manufacturers, and there’s every reason to believe it could also do well in our market. Newcomers to our market include Chinese brands, with LDV being the first to bring their van range to dealerships across the country. As reported in Delivery, the LDV range is attractive and the technology is sound. Pricing is perhaps not as sharp as originally thought, and buyers here need to look closely at the level of support that goes on behind the brand. Other Chinese brands are scheduled to follow LDV, but, from what Delivery has seen in the Chinese market, the LDV product is probably the most attractive. Safety should play a major part in the decision making surrounding van purchase, and for that reason we would advise against products such as the Suzuki APV that records just three stars of the ANCAP crash safety rating. Caddy scores five stars, Kangoo currently rates four stars but Citan has hit the road with only three stars. The Mitsubishi Express
Ford is painfully slow in bringing the new Transit to Australia, hence it cannot be included in this year’s awards selection. The German contenders of MB Vito and VW Transporter continue to set the pace for safety and ability, but VW still carries a stigma of high maintenance costs relating to its DSG transmission. It is always better here, in this product range, to go for a manual gearbox until VW moves back to a full-fluid automatic as used by Mercedes-Benz. In the large van segment, our comments on Fiat and Citroen continue to apply, in so far as not displaying any commitment to the light commercial market. Every operator needs a strong commitment from the manufacturer to give peace of mind when a vehicle is expected to earn its living. Renault has included upgrades to the Master van range, but the driving pleasure still
manages just one star and should be removed from the market. In the one-tonne van segment, there’s a facelift and power and torque increase for Peugeot and the Expert, Hyundai has some minor visual updates for iLoad, HiAce remains unchanged, and so too does the Transit, at least until a brand new model comes on stream. Already announced in Europe,
falls short of a full-fluid automatic transmission by Renault’s insistence to continue to offer an automated manual transmission. By AMT standards it’s a good shift system, but in light commercial vehicle applications this level of technology cannot compete with a full-fluid auto design.
CITIZENS Is it acceptable to provide employees with a workplace that is not offering the highest safety levels available? Delivery looks at how the safety standards can affect your purchase decisions
claim to be providing the highest level of safety. Many of the Chinese vehicles produced by that countryâ€™s own domestic manufacturers are bringing models to market that are significantly sub-standard when compared to the best on offer from Europe.
This scenario is particularly relevant to the European manufacturers where joint ventures with China and Russia have altered the game plan for growing market share. By introducing exacting manufacturing standards that apply universally, irrespective of the country of manufacture, a vehicle achieves the status of becoming a global model rather than a vehicle available globally.
In this issue of Delivery we look at the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, now in its seventh year, and analyse the established safety levels this design of vehicle provides for the large van segment. Itâ€™s a story that illustrates the importance of looking behind the glamour of some of the advertising campaigns of inferior products to highlight just what defines safety for operators of light commercial vehicles in the developed world.
Unfortunately not every manufacturer producing vehicles in countries that provide a low cost manufacturing base can
A total of 159,000 Sprinters were sold in 2012, and variations of the Sprinter are now manufactured in Germany,
e live in a world where developments in one country quickly spread across different nations, adding to a vehicle production by either joint ventures or mergers and acquisitions.
SECOND-CLASS CITIZENS Argentina, North America and China. Production is also slated to begin shortly in Russia, in a joint venture with GAZ. The North American market is of particular interest as the availability of the typical European panel van design with sheet steel fabrication is completely different from the homegrown style of fabricated bodywork that has featured for so long on US-made chassis. Production of the Sprinter in North America is centred on the manufacturing plant in Charleston, South Carolina, where Mercedes-Benz supplies a choice of badge-engineered products under the Mercedes-Benz or Freightliner brand. This dual branding option helped Mercedes-Benz Vans boost sales by 19 percent in the US last year, to around 21,500 units, creating a market for Sprinter in the US that is the company’s third-largest sales market, surpassed only by Germany and the UK. Mercedes-Benz Vans has been a strong player in Latin America for decades. In 2012, the division achieved a major success in the region, when it increased sales by two percent to just under 14,000 units. Sales rose in spite of a contracting market and the fact that the van plant in Argentina switched over
production to the current Sprinter model. In the coming years Daimler will invest about €80 million in the production of new models at the plant near Buenos Aires, where it will also create around 700 new jobs. No other European van market is currently growing as dynamically as that of Russia, which is expected to increase by three to five percent annually in the coming years. In the medium term, sales are expected to reach 25,000 units per year.
In May 2012, Mercedes-Benz Vans and the Russian automaker, GAZ, formed a partnership that paves the way for the division’s entry into the Russian market via local van production. GAZ is by far the largest van manufacturer in Russia and will begin producing the Sprinter Classic in the country in the first half of 2013. GAZ will also work together with the MercedesBenz sales organisation to market the model in Russia. In addition, the GAZ facility in Yaroslavl will manufacture Mercedes-Benz four-cylinder diesel engines for use in the Sprinter Classic. As part of its partnership with GAZ, Daimler will invest more than €100 million in the product modification, the production facilities, and the sales network. The GAZ Group will invest more than €90 million in the project. The path to success in the Russian market has been smoothed by continuous testing of Sprinter ability with drive programmes such as the 5,300 km endurance event that started in Edmonton, Canada, and continued through British Columbia and Yukon before finishing in Anchorage, Alaska. During the test, the Sprinters had proved that they could succeed even under extreme conditions that included cold starts at temperatures that reached nearly minus 50 degrees Celsius. After seven years in production at the MercedesBenz manufacturing plant
in Ludwigsfelde, Germany, the Sprinter this year receives a significant upgrade in both appearance and safety inclusions. During the past year, the van range also gained substantially from a technical upgrade to the 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission. This year also marks a substantial upgrade for Sprinter in its suite of safety inclusions. Soon to be made available across the Sprinter range are the Crosswind Assist system, the Collision Prevention Assist, Blind Spot Assist, and Highbeam Assist with Lane Keeping Assist. DELIVERY
ALL IN A DAY'S
s any delivery driver in Sydney would know only too well, peak hour extends from around 5:15 a.m. through to just after 6:45 p.m. Yes, there are brief periods when the traffic seems to reduce, usually when other drivers need feeding, but in general the traffic congestion remains as a full-time companion. The Sprinter design in its present form has been around now for seven years. But, as with most vehicles these days, there has been a regular series of upgrades to the product that have sharpened its competitiveness. The similarity between the MercedesBenz Sprinter and the Volkswagen Crafter is obvious from a visual perspective. This is hardly surprising, considering the joint collaboration between both manufacturers, and the joint venture that sees both products built in the same East Berlin factory at Ludwigsfelde, in Germany. It’s the features that are not similar that are of particular interest for this evaluation, and here we are looking in particular at the engine and driveline, both totally different for those wearing VW or threepointed star badging. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter on test was the 316 CDI in medium wheelbase (MWB) with a standard roof height. Under the bonnet is the four-cylinder, in-line, common-rail, fuelinjected diesel that runs to Euro V emissions standards. With 120 kW on tap at 3,800 rpm and peak torque of 360 Nm rated all the way through from 1,400 to 2,400 rpm, the engine spread of performance is certainly impressive. The power comes through smoothly, and, thanks to two-stage turbocharging and intercooling, there are no sudden surges or lapses in the engine’s delivery. The automatic transmission choice for the van was originally confined to that of a six-speed, full-fluid automatic, or, in the
cab-chassis versions, that of a fivespeed auto. But, since the second quarter of last year, there’s now an optionally available seven-speed auto called the 7G-Tronic, and that’s where this model now shines out from the competition. The 316 CDI Sprinter MWB comes with a GVM of 3,550 kg, weighs in at an unladen weight of 2,050 kg and offers a payload of 1,500 kg. At an overall length of 5,910 mm it’s not too large that it can’t fit onto a standard parking bay, but, with a roof height of 2,415 mm, it’s not going to squeeze into any underground carparks.
ALL IN A DAY’S WORK The cargo area provides 9.0 cubic metres of loadspace, and it does so through an interior floor to ceiling height of 1,650 mm and an interior length of 3,265 mm. The width between van walls is 1,780 mm, narrowing down to 1,350 mm between the wheelarches that cover single wheels of 235/75R16 sizing. Access to the cargo area is either a walk through from the cabin, stepping through the gap between the single passenger seat and the driver’s seat, or by a sliding kerbside door of 1,300 x 1,520 mm (W x H), or though wide opening barn doors at the rear of 1,565 x 1,540 mm (W x H). It’s possible to add an optional right-hand-side sliding door, and if you want the ultimate in delivery luxury, these can be powered electrically to open and close at the tough of a button. Our drive programme, for a typical courier run, covered freeway running up the Hume Highway in time for the normal congestion at the Campbelltown junction. A switch to the M7 for a pick up from Eastern Creek soon followed, then our route lay out to Penrith for a drop off, then back into Marrickville for a further drop before spending the rest of the day battling traffic around St. Peters and the inappropriately named Princes Highway.
Bluetooth connectivity for a mobile phone is included, and this works off push buttons on the steering wheel for accept or decline, with a duplicate 0-9 number pad on the dashboard. The system also brings up recent incoming calls, calls that have been missed or recent outgoing calls, all displayed on a central screen. Cruise control plus an upper speed limiter control are included and work off a single wand behind the steering wheel rim. This is particularly easy to use and easy to understand. Having settled in behind the wheel, the next impression for the driver is that performance is certainly adequate for any variation in cargo loading from empty through to full payload. The engine matching of performance and torque that’s available with the new seven-speed 7G-Tronic transmission is excellent. Considering the peak torque comes through from 1,400 to 2,400 rpm, this is right where the seven-speed transmission smoothes everything out. At 100 km/h the engine revs sit at 2,000 rpm. Take the speed up to 110 km/h and the engine revs along in 7th at 2,200 rpm. The gear changes are imperceptible, and, as the engine and transmission stay within the ideal
Chris Mullett takes to the Sydney peak hour with
the latest version of Mercedes-Benz Sprinter A final run south down the Hume finished the trip.
torque range, the fuel economy available is a standout feature of this vehicle.
The immediate impression for a driver is that of excellent visibility. The large view afforded through the door mirrors covers everything happening around the van, backed up by convex spotter mirrors under the main mirror heads. All controls fall easily to hand and the onboard trip computer provides a constant read-out of fuel economy, average speed and journey time.
Our early morning run up the Hume brought in a fuel consumption of 6.8 l/100 km, before hitting the usual traffic congestion for the Eastern Creek area that raised consumption to average around the 7.4 l/100 km area. It wasn’t until we got caught in the aftermath of a B-double rollover that caused havoc in the afternoon peak around the M7 and M5 junction that fuel consumption in heavy traffic rose to 8.4 l/100 km. These economy figures are almost unheard of for a 3.5 tonnes GVM delivery van, and that’s what really appeals about the Sprinter. Those needing more interior room can increase roof height by 290 mm to the High Roof version or go to the Super High Roof for an additional 490 mm above the standard roof height. If it’s additional length you need then the options are to extend the overall length to 6,945 mm for the long-wheelbase version or 7,345 mm for the extended-length version. At this stage, the load compartment expands to 4,700 x 1,780 x 2,140 (L x W x H), but the vehicle is no longer going to fit in standard parking bays and takes on the overall dimensions of a medium rigid truck. You also reduce manoeuvrability by increasing the turning circle by 2.0 metres from the standard 13.6 metres. As mentioned earlier, we found the available power and torque to be an ideal match for the 7G-Tronic transmission, and this same gearbox is now available with the smaller output, four-cylinder 313 CDI that provides 95 kW at 3,800 rpm and peak torque of 305 Nm rated at 1,200-2,400 rpm. DELIVERY
Isuzu has been market leader in Australia for 24 consecutive years. Delivery finds there are very good reasons to expect this Japanese truck maker to hit the quarter century in 2014
hen things look pretty much the same, there’s always the risk that customers might just assume that everything is the same. After all, one white Japanese truck looks remarkably like another, and another. But, after days of driving the latest models for 2013 now hitting the road from Isuzu, we’re convinced that there’s a world of difference between competing products that’s a country mile wide. Would you believe that Isuzu offers 154 different models onto the Australian market? That’s how special this white truck market has become. And, when you want to be market leader, your range of products on offer has to match the requirements of your customer better than those of your competitors. Get
the matching right and you’ll have a happy customer forever. Isuzu is not only market leader across the entire commercial vehicle market in Australia, it’s been growing its market share by an impressive 8.7 percent when comparing 2012 with 2011. In overall terms, this Japanese company is currently sitting at 23.4 percent of the total market, and it is still finding new model variants to release that extend its footprint yet further. In this issue, we are looking at the latest N-Series. It’s already a strong performer in the Japanese domestic market, where it obtained a 39.6 percent market share among trucks with payloads of between two and three tonnes. For the 2013 model year versions, the N-Series gets an interior boost, with some added brightwork for bezels around
MARTIAL ARTS the dials, a digital radio and multimedia unit, plus cornering lamps on all NH versions. These combine with the indicator lamp unit and shine into the inside of a corner as the vehicle turns, with the appropriate indicator operating and with the headlamps turned on. Isuzu to our knowledge is the first truck maker to add this safety feature.
1,600 through to 2,600 rpm. The front suspension uses taper leaf springs with multi-leaf main springs on the rear and a taper leaf helper spring.
The NLR200 AMT tipper comes with a body that was mounted in Japan and now includes a two-way tailgate, with hinges at the top, and the option of swinging the tailgate to lock against the body side.
The most noticeable immediate benefit is that of noise, or rather the lack of it. The interior noise level of all the Isuzu products for 2013 is much quieter than expected, and much more in line with that expected in a passenger car. The seat comfort is good, visibility is excellent, through wide, vibrationfree door mirrors, and there are convex spotter mirrors to pick up those obscure movements of “P” platers.
At this level, the licence requirement is still for car drivers, but, to make life simpler, the transmission is an AMT, with a fluid coupling to reduce driveline shock loading. Those needing more payload can now go to the NPR 400 tipper with a GVM of 8.7 tonnes. Councils looking for a crew-cab can opt for the 7.5-tonne GVM NPR 400, which has a wheelbase of 4175 mm. Thanks to independent front suspension with coil springs, the NLR200 actually rides very well. It sits lightly on the road, and with rack and pinion steering it corners precisely and is not susceptible to bump steer. The back end has multi-leaf semi-elliptical springs on the short wheelbase, with disc/front and drum/rear brakes, but moves to a taper leaf main spring with an underslung helper spring on the medium-wheelbase version, which also boasts disc brakes all round. Power for the single-cab and also the NNR crew-cab versions comes from a four-cylinder, 3.0-litre, SITEC 150 engine using a variable nozzle turbocharger with air to air intercooler to produce 110 kW at 2,800 rpm and peak torque of 375 Nm rated at 1,600-2,800 rpm. This is an EGR engine without AdBlue, but using a DPF (Diesel particulate Filter). Transmission choice at this entry-level is through a five-speed manual or six-speed AMT. Moving up in the weight range brings in the NPR short or medium-wheelbase and increases engine size to 5.2 litres and 114 kW at 2,600 rpm with peak torque of 419 Nm rated at
It’s one thing to outline specifications, but the proof of the Isuzu ability comes from driving the product.
The NLR200 and NNR200 models both feature disc brakes front and rear, the only difference being the size of the rotors, with 275mm on the front and 293 mm on the rear. All models also gain an SRS airbag for the passenger in addition to the driver’s side SRS. What stands out most here is the sophistication of the product. We talk glibly of car-like driving characteristics, but that description now applies equally through the light and medium product range. The AMT seems to work better than any of the competition and the engine mapping works well with the AMT shift protocol. Unlike some other AMTs, there are no sudden ratio swaps, without prior notice, that produce rapid rev rises and an annoying increase of interior noise levels. The Isuzu electrical system now uses a CAN system (Connecting Area Network), which means that the novice, hometrained sparkies Isuzu’s N-Series shows its can’t go fossicking refinement in its ride and about looking for handling qualities. The seating just any available comfort and steering precision is class leading.
hey’re the backbone of the local sand and gravel merchants, and, when fitted with a set of hungry boards down each side of the tipper body, it’s likely that payloads and gross weight statistics become blurred in the rush by local suppliers to deliver material to their customers.
Probably the most hard working of all trucks in the yard, these light tippers run around the district with scant regard to the demands of weighbridges and, in many instances, it’s our view they are often pushing the guidelines of the manufacturers out too far. After all, when plated for use by a car licence holder, they gain immunity to mandatory weighing, unless encountered by an eager member of the inspection squad. Delivery commenced its multi-vehicle comparison test of the light tipper market with four models – two from Fuso, and one each from Hino and Isuzu. The results certainly surprised us and created the question that maybe it’s time local landscape suppliers looked at overall efficiency as a bigger picture, rather than traditionally replacing their fleet of 3.0-tonne tippers with a new model downrated to 4,495 kg when dictated by time and wear. As an overall view, the popularity of this segment is substantiated by the lack of requirements on the part of the driver for a light-truck driving licence. On face value that’s an important asset, but, as we investigated our four contenders, it raised the obvious question about suitability for the work task and overall durability for the longer term.
During our evaluation, which covered five days of driving each of the contenders on a rotating basis, we rapidly came to the conclusion that a step up to a tipper that required a lightrigid licence would bring the operator substantial rewards in efficiency, safety and vehicle durability. Allan Whiting takes up the story: There’s a misconception that all small Japanese trucks with factory-fitted tipping bodies are mechanically similar; after all, they come in any colour you like (so long as that’s white), have four-cylinder turbo-intercooled diesel engines and forwardcontrol cabs, and look pretty much the same. However, even at the lighter end of the tipper market there’s more hardware difference than most buyers perceive. Our test trucks from Hino, Isuzu and Fuso use the same common-rail injection and emissions technology – cooled exhaust gas recirculation and diesel particulate filter – for ADR80/03 compliance, but are fundamentally different engines with varied displacements. Hino’s NO4CUT 4.0-litre is an overhead valve type – Isuzu’s 4HK-1TCN 5.2-litre is a single overhead cam design and Fuso’s 4P10-T4 3.0-litre has twin overhead camshafts. Hino has the best on-paper specs, with 121 kW at 2500 rpm and 464 Nm at 1400 rpm, followed by Isuzu’s 114 kW at 2600 rpm and 419 Nm at 1600-2600 rpm, and Fuso’s 110 kW at 2840-3500 rpm and 370 Nm at 1350-2840 rpm.
Hino and Isuzu opt for simple, six-speed synchromesh manual transmissions, but Fuso offers a five-speed manual (with non-synchro first cog) and a six-speed Duonic automated manual (no clutch pedal). We checked out both Fuso boxes on this test. Chassis are different: Isuzu leads with 216 mm x 70 mm x 6 mm rails and 850 mm width; Fuso’s wide-cab has 212 mm x 65 mm x 6 mm and 850 mm width (narrow cab 190 mm x 60 mm x 5 mm and 701 mm); and Hino is the lightest, with 190.8 mm x 65 mm x 4.9 mm and 750 mm width. Axle capacities also vary greatly: Isuzu is the heaviest rated, with front 3100 kg and rear 6600 kg; next is Fuso with front 3100 kg and rear 6000 kg (narrow-cab, 2600 kg and 4500 kg); and Hino is by far the lightest, with front 2600 kg and rear 4400 kg. Tyre sizes and ratings match axle capacities: Isuzu’s Michelins are 215/75R17.5s with 126/124 load rating; Fuso’s Bridgestones have the same size and load rating; and Hino’s Yokohamas are lighter-duty 195/85R16 114/112 size and rating. The different mechanical specifications of these three brands have a great effect on tare weight. The small engine package of the Fusos sees the tare weight of the narrow-cab tipper at a low 2600 kg, and the wide-cab, 3000 kg. The Hino’s lighter chassis and axles result in a tare of 3030 kg. The Isuzu’s large-capacity engine and heaviest chassis and axles give it a tare of 3600 kg.
All our test vehicles had leaf springs front and rear, but again there are differences: Hino has taper-leaf front and rear, including the rear helper leaves; Isuzu has taper-leaf fronts and conventional leaf rears; and Fuso has conventional leaves front and rear. Rear springs are mounted above the axles, except in the case of the narrow-cab Fuso where the rear springs are slung under the axle. Brake systems are vacuum/hydraulic, but the Hino and Fuso have four-wheel discs, compared with the Isuzu’s disc/ drum combination. All have transmission-mounted, drum park brakes. The manoeuvrability honours go to the narrow-cab Fuso, with its kerb-to-kerb turning circle of 9.4 m, followed tightly by the Hino, with 9.8 m, and the wide-cab Fuso at 10.4m. The Isuzu needs a relatively large 12.4 m circle. Cab-tilt is almost identical across these three brands, necessitating a three-step release before the cab can be raised. All cabs are restrained in the raised position by an over-centre prop that needs to be tripped before dropping the cab – a remote trip would be safer, we feel, rather than the operator having to bend under the cab to release the prop. Maintenance access is okay, but it used to be a lot better before EGR and DPFs entered the equation. It would have been a lot simpler under-cab if light-truck makers had opted for AdBlue-based selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology, but there’s obvious concern about the availability
Traditionally, we’ve considered all 3.0-tonne tippers to be basically similar. The reality is far from the perception (Words by Allan Whiting and Chris Mullett, images by Keryn Williams). DELIVERY
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