AUSTRALIA’S GUIDE TO UTES, VANS, LIGHT TRUCKS & PEOPLE MOVERS
www.deliverymagazine.com.au ISSUE 35 APR/MAY 2011 RRP: $7.95
Delivery Magazine is an AFMA Strategic Alliance Partner
N EW Kangoo Trafic Transit Vito
It’s Amarok for
Mirror Image Supertrucks Ltd has expanded its award-winning low loading glass carrier range with the addition of a new Renault Master based model. This innovative UK-based company utilises a unique Supertrucks alloy/steel composite drop-frame chassis conversion. With optional rear air suspension the rear loading height is an incredibly low 370mm which provides the productivity and safety benefits of walk in accessibility. With a lightweight alloy superstructure, GRP panels are used for the exterior cladding and the body has a translucent, one-piece GRP roof. At the front end the body has a fully integrated, aerodynamic GRP Luton head – and rear access is provided by a lightweight alloy roller shutter. As specified by Keller Glas the Supertrucks Renault low-loading glass carrier has a single external anodised alloy frame, with Supertrucks patented System 2 poles and GlassStop arrester system. The external rack can carry sheets of glass of up to 4100mm long x 2500mm high. The vehicle is also equipped with twin internal racks with Supertrucks Turnlock pole system, which can each carry sheets of glass of up to 4100mm long x 2400mm high.
Volkswagen has previewed a concept microbus at the Geneva Show that revisits the world of the Combi. Powered by an electric motor and fitted with six seats, the new “Bulli” features an infotainment control via iPad. This zero emissions vehicle has a selectric motor output of 85 kW of power and an impressive 270 Newtonmetres of torque. The silent motor is supplied with energyfrom a lithiumion battery with a maximum storage capacity of 40 kWh for a driving range of up to 300 km.
April / May 2011
When the Bulli’s battery is charged at an electric refuelling station the charging process takes less than one hour. The new Bulli accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 11.5 seconds, and its top speed is 140 km/h (electronically limited). Its range and driving performance not only make the compact vehicle ideal for short distances; but also ideal for most commuters and recreational activitieswith zero tailpipe emissions.
The State of the Nation In the light van segment (YTD Vfacts Feb) VW has sold 176 versions of its Caddy, Holden sold 73 Combos, Citroen sold 29 Berlingos, Peugeot sold 10 Partners and Renault outed some 33 Kangoos. Suzuki performed strongly selling 50 of its APV models. Heading up to the medium van segment and Hyundai retailed 898 iLoads, recording 31.1 percent of the light commercial segment. Toyota’s HiAce slipped off its pedestal to retail 851 units and Mitsubishi’s solid old performer the Express held up its share with 131 units. Volkswagen sold 288 versions of its Transporter but Mercedes-Benz could only manage to retail 116 units, dropping well behind the 200 retails of Ford with its Transit. Renault retailed 14 of the Trafic. In the 4x2 ute segment Toyota slam dunked with 1,986 registrations, leading the Holden Commodore ute with 1,336, Ford’s falcon ute with 1,070, the Colorado with 143, Ford Ranger with 624, Mazda’s BT-50 scoring 850 units and Nissan’s Navara with 278. Mitsubishi’s Triton found 865 buyers and China’s Great Wall took 387 sales. It was not a similar story for Toyota with the HiLux in the 4x4 figures with this manufacturer scoring 3,397 units, just behind the 3,733 of Nissan’s Navara. Colorado came in with 1,757, the Ford Ranger at 1,614, the Isuzu Ute D-Max at 745 units, Mazda’s BT-50 at 711 units and the Triton at 1,653. Amarok started to show for VW with pre-launch registrations showing 56. DELIVERY
t’s one of the best small vans on the market and yet most Australians have never heard of it. That’s the problem facing Renault as it launches its baby light commercial called the Kangoo into a market segment dominated by the Volkswagen Caddy.
And it’s not just the Kangoo that Renault dealers can now get their hands on. The Trafic medium sized van has been upgraded and, waiting in the wings for an entrance towards the end of this year, the Master large van has had a facelift and is ready to do battle against the Ford Transit, MercedesBenz Sprinter and Volkswagen Crafter.
For what seems like a decade, Renault has languished in the doldrums, seemingly unable to excite either the public or its dealer group. With car products that have been sometimes too quirky for the Australian tastes, the van division fared even worse, almost disappearing from view as continuing indecision on the part of Renault management failed to secure a direction and a future for its products. With a new management team led by ex BMW executive Justin Hocevar at the helm, as Managing Director, and assisted by ex Mercedes-Benz media and marketing expert, Emily Ambrosy, there is at last light at the end of the tunnel for a brand that has a tremendous product line and a legendary history to back it up. With 22 dealers nationally, Renault presence is still spread thinly on the ground, but, with a new emphasis
DOUBLE TAKE on fleet sales and an intention of luring the one-van small business buyer, Renault is now in with a chance to make a success of itself. In Europe, there’s a choice of three different Kangoo wheelbases and sizes, but for starters, in our market, the company is focusing on the mid-range offering with a cargo capacity 3.0 cubic metres and a payload of 800 kg, for the diesel version, and 650 kg for the petrol powered model. This is an increase from the previous model that offered 2.75 cubic metres and a payload of 530 kg. Renault has concentrated on keeping the product selection simple for the buyer. If you want a petrol engine, the option is for a fourcylinder engine producing 78 kW of power at 5,750 rpm and with a peak torque rating of 148 Nm at 3,750 rpm. With petrol power comes a four-speed automatic transmission, which is a full fluid auto rather than the automated manual alternatives that are fitted to the Trafic and Master products. Those preferring diesel fuel economy have the alternative of a four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel that produces 63 kW at 3,750 rpm and offers a torque rating of 200 Nm at 1,900 rpm. Matched to a five-speed manual transmission, this frugal performer will return fuel consumption figures of around the 5.2 l/100 km level on a combined cycle, while emitting just 139 g/km of CO2 emissions from the tailpipe. Expect a fuel consumption figure of 8.3 l/100 km (combined) for the petrol engine version. If you are wondering why you’ve never heard of the Kangoo, what makes that position worse is that, globally, the company has sold over 1.5 million of the little critters. It’s been the European light van segment’s best selling model for the past 12 years, and, with sensible pricing and a sound specification, there’s no reason for it not to make an impact once the importer and its dealerships find their collective corporate feet. Both the petrol auto and the diesel manual drive really sweetly. There’s also plenty of room in the cabin, without the claustrophobia that some of the smaller vans engender amongst the driver and front seat passenger. Built on the Renault Scenic car platform, the ride and handling is very much car-like, and interior noise levels are particularly low for a van that doesn’t have full length headlining. The cabin is trimmed across the roof to just behind the seat line, and there’s a really useful parcel shelf above the full width of the windscreen that’s large enough for clipboards, docket books and maps. Big door pockets and other storage options are also impressive. Bluetooth connectivity means a hands-free telephone environment, and with a centre console, behind the steering wheel, that’s easy to read and
RENAULT COMES BACK WITH A PLAN FOR THE AUSTRALIAN MARKET, AND TWO NEW VANS DELIVERY
RENAULT REINFORCES ITS MEDIUM VAN PRESENCE WITH THE INTRODUCTION OF THE TRAFIC PHASE THREE
ast December, Delivery Magazine looked long and hard at the Trafic medium van from Renault, and as we became reacquainted with the product it caused us to query just why the Trafic had not made a stronger mark on the Australian van buyer. Our conclusion at that time, was that Trafic, and indeed all the Renault light commercial range, had been let down by the importers, through failing to initiate almost any form of promotion to allow the French vans to establish their credentials and to earn their own reputation. As we mentioned in our feature in this issue on the introduction of the new Kangoo, the Australian arm of Renault has just embarked on a major restructure headed by ex-BMW executive Justin Hocevar. Coming from a prestige marquee where customer service is everything, the lights look as though they are finally coming on at Renault HQ for a product range that’s really positioned towards the top of the stack in terms of ability, ride comfort and low cost of ownership. Delivery Magazine ran its own Renault Master in our fleet for three years, finding it excellent to drive and very frugal to run, with an average fuel economy that never seemed to vary from the 9.2 l/100 km mark. There’s a major upgrade coming this way for the Master at the close of this year, but in the meantime, the focus for this French manufacturer will be aimed at the small and medium entrants in the light commercial market, the Kangoo and the Trafic. We are not quite sure why Renault chooses to spell Trafic with one “f”, as it causes everyone’s spell-check to attempt a meltdown, but here we go with the latest news on this excellent medium van contender. The Phase Three Trafic is now available on our market, bringing with it a higher spec than was available previously. Amongst the additional standard equipment offering, the driver airbag is now joined by a passenger airbag. There’s a new twin bench seat in place of a single passenger seat, with the driver getting their own separate single seat. There’s a new design of dashboard and instrument cluster and all occupants have a swag of storage space with which to play. While many of its competitors are offering payloads of 1,000 kg, Trafic ups this cargo carrying ability to 1200 kg. We particularly like the dashboard design, which is heavily shrouded to avoid glare from direct sunlight inhibiting vision. Many European designs struggle with the strength of the Australian sun, but Renault manages to keep dials in the dark, plus it promotes excellent use of steering column mounted switches to control the audio system, lights and wipers. There’s a lot to be said in terms of increased safety levels when a driver doesn’t have to remove their hand from the steering wheel to select a change. The instrument panel has been revised with enhanced illumination for greater visibility, adding attractive chrome rings for the gauges. The cruise control settings are now displayed via the on-board computer read-out. A handy storage area has been inserted into the top of the dash. This can hold an A4-sized clipboard or sheaf of papers, while the new dark and light charcoal colour scheme offers a fresh and inviting appearance inside. There’s a new steering wheel with integrated cruise control buttons, and a new radio with 4 x 20W speakers features CD/MP3 functionality as well as an RCA aux jack and Bluetooth connectivity for wireless audio streaming and phone calls.
The European van makers, such as Citroen, Peugeot and Renault, are all bringing excellent products to the marketplace, and this raising of standards has finally seen the German juggernauts of Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen throw their global weight behind campaigns to increase market penetration and improve sales of their own products.
Wave Mercedes-Benz steps up to new levels of value and desirability with the 2011 Vito range he light commercial van range has suddenly taken on a new and increasingly important focus, with better vehicles on offer from all the major manufacturers. Since the introduction by Hyundai of the iLoad, we’ve seen Ford lose its regular position in number two spot on the Australian market, and now, with the start of 2011, Hyundai has taken top spot off the HiAce.
For the past six months, it’s been German manufacturer, Volkswagen, making all the running for new product as it introduced model after model of Euro V compliant Transporter vans and people movers. Arch rival, MercedesBenz, had to wait in the wings while Volkswagen had its half year of glory, but now, with the launch of the new Vito range, Mercedes-Benz is back in contention in a big way.
And it’s not just the Vito that’s causing Mercedes-Benz to raise its expectations. The Sprinter has taken the number one slot away from Ford in the 3.3 – 5.0 tonnes weight segment. This result is largely through its success with Australia Post and a fleet contract that has resulted in bright red Sprinters in the Aussie Post logo appearing on urban streets just about everywhere.
THE NEW WAVE
Success breeds success, and thereâ€™s no doubt MercedesBenz has shifted its focus from being more interested in placing an emphasis on prestige cars, to giving the light commercial division a more prominent focus. Steering the company in Australia is new CEO, Hans Tempel, and he has made it quite clear that his hands-on style of management is designed to see performance improve in all sectors in which the company currently operates. A new marketing team under long term van specialist, Campbell York, sees Diane Tarr joining the division as National Sales Manager. Moving into the role after a wealth of experience with Mercedes-Benz South Africa, Diane is joined by Justin Orr as Product Manager and David Didsbury as Fleet Sales Manager.
One of the problems afflicting the Vito van range in the past was a confusion of product. From providing a plethora of choice that often muddied the waters of selection, the available van range has been refined to increase the appeal without confusing the buyer. Less individual model types, but a clearer definition of the individual models, makes for easier selection on the part of the buyer. New engines, lower fuel consumption, reduced exhaust emissions by up to 15 percent, and Euro V compliance contribute to a cleaner environment and less operating costs. New transmissions improve the power delivery and engine flexibility, and final drive ratios appear to be more in tune with enabling the Vito to maintain high speed cruising on freeways at low engine rpm for maximum economy.
This year, Mercedes-Benz is capitalising on 125 years of auto manufacturing, of which it has had a presence in Australia of 52 years. Its van sales rose globally by 14 percent in 2010, rounding off a presence for light commercials that has now seen the company participate in this segment in Australia for 12 years. So, what can a buyer expect from the new Vito, and just what has changed so significantly that Mercedes-Benz should now be a first thought option at vehicle purchase time?
OF THE GUARD Japanese inspired utes now have to combat the might of Germany as Volkswagen releases the Amarok
ecades of ute importation into Australia have seen an almost universal matching of specifications and ability from the different manufacturers. Whether they are from Nissan, Mazda, Ford, Toyota, Holden, Isuzu or Ssangyong, they all basically resemble each other, and in the half-light of dusk itâ€™s often difficult to tell them apart at a distance. Well, that might have been the case up until this year. Now, the ground rules have changed.
In launching the Amarok, a name supposedly describing a lone wolf in the Eskimo Inuit language, Volkswagen has introduced the first Five-Star ANCAP safety-rated ute to be available anywhere in the world. Amarok drives like a car when on road, performs like a go-anywhere offroader when away from the bitumen, carries a load comparable to any of its competitors and basically outperforms all the competition, seemingly, in whichever category the onlooker may choose.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD Delivery Magazine has been involved in the Amarok programme through various interventions with Volkswagen. We first saw the prototypes as early as two years ago, but were sworn to secrecy as the manufacturer refined its designs and specifications. We revisited the programme with a personal visit to Wolfsburg, and then towards the latter part of last year we drove our first Amarok in an exclusive evaluation that took us from Vienna, Austria, to Bratislava in Slovakia. That first drive reinforced the strength of Volkswagen design and the resolve of the company to become the largest vehicle manufacturer in the world. As regular readers of Delivery Magazine would be aware, we are already impressed with the latest generation of Transporter and Caddy products, and with the launch of Amarok, the company effectively completes a hat trick in small to medium sized light commercials. The company chose Tasmania as the launch venue, creating its own Amarok Town in a paddock on the outskirts of Hobart. It was here, and in the depths of rural Tasmania, that we were able to put the Australian spec vehicles through their paces on everything from bitumen to dirt, rock and gravel, and on inclines, declines and typical dirt roads, plus the inevitable water crossing. And the only conclusion we could draw was that anyone wanting a new ute this year should wait to make their purchase decision until they have seen, touched and driven an Amarok. We’ll start with the basic outline on mechanical specifications, which are common throughout the three different models available on the Australian market.
All versions share the same 2.0-litre, bi-turbo, four-cylinder diesel engine. With 120 kW produced at 4,000 rpm and 400 Nm of torque from 1,500 through to 2,500 rpm, it’s a strong, refined and gutsy performer that’s also frugal with a combined fuel consumption figure of 7.7 l/100 km for the 2WD version and 7.9 l/100 km for the 4Motion AWD. In normal use, drive is through the rear wheels, but, with the 4Motion versions, it is then channelled through to power the front wheels to assist traction when required or when selected manually by the driver. At launch, there is only one transmission available, a six-speed, manual gearbox. In 2012, a fully fluid automatic transmission will join the spec list, replacing any suggestion that there might be a DSG twin clutch alternative at some stage. As we reported last year from Slovakia, we discussed DSG options with VW’s suspension and driveline engineers, and they confirmed the DSG was not a satisfactory performer in any off-road situation, being easily outperformed by a full fluid transmission design. Suspension design is also common throughout the three models, with a transverse link with A-frame arm and double wishbones and anti-roll bar at the front, while at the rear is a multi-leaf, semi-elliptical spring pack that incorporates more leaves for a heavy-duty version and less for a more comfort oriented ride level. The drive system starts with a conventional 2WD to the rear axle, then moves to a selectable 4Motion AWD system, and finally, option number three is for a permanent AWD 4Motion system.
The start of the Amarok family brings 2WD and AWD versions with a crew cab, a four cylinder 2.0 litre diesel and a six-speed manual transmission.
Perception amarok technology takes off-road driving to a new level for utes
hen you spend around $100,000 for a luxury 4x4, it’s quite within the bounds of expectation that the vehicle will come equipped with all types of sophisticated traction control programmes and electronic gizmos that take the decision making out of off-road driving. Some work well, and some don’t, but for the majority of owners reclining in their leatherclad seats, it’s probably academic, as the vehicle will spend the majority of its life covering the demanding terrain between home and the local Big W. Utes, by comparison, have always verged on the basic, and it’s only in recent years that owners have not had to manually lock in front hubs and select 4WD High or 4WD Low by shifting an additional lever sprouting from the floor. With Amarok, that scenario changes completely. We’ve covered the model line-up and launch, comprehensively, in our feature in this issue (pages 36-38), but here we’ll discuss just how well it performs, both on and off the road, and why it will appeal to a broader group of buyers, than any of its current competitors. Looking typically Volkswagen with its distinctive “VW Family” appearance, the Amarok is a large ute offering five seats and better legroom, headroom and shoulder room than its competitors. Comfortable seating and an interior that shows design links with passenger cars, rather than commercial vehicles, can make the driver overlook the fact that behind the rear window is a tray or factory supplied tub that is ready and waiting to take a load. As we show in the accompanying photographs, you can have your Amarok with the standard style of factory supplied steel tub, double skinned to prevent damage to the outside metal skin by lumpy objects coming into contact with the inner lining. For those looking to carry sand, gravel, earth of building materials, there’s a further option of a locally built and supplied alloy tray, offering a completely flat floor and greater versatility. Those opting for the tub can also choose a full-length fibreglass canopy with side windows, or opt for a one-piece fibreglass lockable cover or standard PVC tonneau cover, which clips into position.
The other surprising addition to the 2WD version, which is also common to the 4Motion models, is the hill descent control. Any driver taking a conventional 4WD down a steep decline has always relied on the retardation of the engine to slow the vehicle and kept the gear selction in 4WD Low. Amarok changes this by using the ABS system to control the decent speed through intervention braking of each wheel separately. It’s initially quite unnerving relying purely on electronics to control the descent, rather than having a mechanical link, but, for the sceptics amongst us, a useful demonstration is to simply take the vehicle out of gear and let the electronics control the entire descent. During this experience the Amarok just walks its way down the hill, controlling slip, and descent speed. We would always recommend having the vehicle in gear for the added safety factor of engine braking, and in this situation the descent speed will depend on accelerator pedal positioning by the driver. Accelerate and the electronics will control that higher descent speed, decelerate and the descent speed reduces. While this is highly impressive when heading downhill in what is essentially a 2WD drivetrain, it must be remembered that this version of the Amarok will not return the impressive performance when it comes to heading up hill, as it does not have an AWD (All-Wheel Drive) mode. The addition of a locking rear differential will enable it to significantly improve its uphill climbing performance over a non-locking or limited slip differential, but it will not match the ability of a full AWD. The intermediate model Amarok runs with, what VW calls, selectable 4Motion, and here the driver has a say in what the transmission is doing by making their selection from rocker switches mounted beside the gear lever. This selection provides the choice of 2WD, AWD High or AWD Low. In the top spec Ultimate version of the Amarok, the electronics basically take over and do more of the thinking on your behalf. One of the most common questions we are already being asked, here at Delivery magazine, relates to ride quality and comfort. Is the Amarok, in either 2WD or 4Motion versions, bumpy on the highway when unladen, like so many Japanese ute derivatives?
There’s the 2WD or AWD alternative, but the difference with the 2WD version is that it retains a degree of off-road driving ability. The single, most useful accessory for off-road driving we can suggest to anyone venturing off-road is the fitment of a locking rear differential. It’s available on all models as an option, but is standard on the flagship Ultimate version. Switching on the diff lock means that even if one wheel is hanging over a hole, without traction, the wheel on the other end of the axle will have drive, giving traction and control over your progress and not just holding up that side of the vehicle while it’s mate on the other end of the axle spins uselessly in mid-air.
Vito takes a step forward 42
With a new engine and transmission,
VITO TAKES A STEP FORWARD
egular readers of Delivery Magazine will know of our stated concerns in past issues of the Vito product line, mainly due to odd choices of rear axle ratios, which in turn affected fuel efficiency and driveability.
After what might seem like an eternity waiting for change, the parent company has finally taken the right steps forward by upgrading the engine and driveline, and addressing the very concerns we have expressed. Now, with all their corporate ducks in a straight line, there’s every chance for Mercedes-Benz to actually increase market share in Australia, making new converts and improving its reputation. After attending a preview of the entire range (see pages 32-34), the first van to join our fleet for a full week evaluation was a 116 CDI LWB panel van. The body style included sliding side load doors on both sides, a rear top-hinged tailgate and a full, solid metal, bulkhead fitted behind the front seats and cabin that contained a small sliding glass window at head height. With a full width and full height bulkhead, there’s no benefit in staying with individual bucket seats, and, in this example, our van came with a dual front passenger seat and single driver’s seat, each having three-point seat belts. There’s good storage throughout the cabin and some additional usable space on floor level underneath the centre seat. There’s also a flip down section in the centre seat back that provides an additional two cup holders and oddments tray. The general specification came out on the high side, with cruise control and upper speed limiter control coming through a stalk mounted off the steering column. An onboard computer provided a display on the centre of the dashboard for trip time, fuel economy and distance travelled, and, to save those precious drops of fuel during trips in heavy traffic, the Vito featured a stop/start engine control. This feature automatically cuts out the engine when the driver selects neutral when stationary. Depressing the clutch and selecting first gear sees the engine spin back into life, again totally automatically, in time for the clutch to be released and the van to move forwards. The stop/start process is now becoming a common feature on passenger cars, and it’s only a matter of time before it becomes almost a universal inclusion, even with automatic transmissions. It works best with a hill start control, where the brakes are held on momentarily after the brake pedal has been released, smoothing the starting procedure and preventing roll back. Vito designers have kept the foot operated park brake, and without a hill start feature the Vito restart process is cumbersome. The park brake is either on or off, released by pulling a handle on the dashboard, so it’s not possible for the driver to vary handbrake pressure as is normal with a leverstyle handbrake. This means that roll back can still occur as the driver moves their foot from the brake pedal to the accelerator.
the Vito 116 CDI LWB Blue Efficiency van is worth a close look DELIVERY
ob Green, a mobile truck and equipment mechanic from the New South Wales’ Southern Highlands, sent us the following email extolling the virtues of the love of his life. In it, he confessed to having a second love in his life, his Isuzu Farm Mate ute. “Hi, I read your mag, and after lots of research I bought a D-Max FARM MATE. I’m in love, I smile every time I drive it,” said Rob. Well, with an accolade about a vehicle that’s so totally committed, we just had to catch up with Rob to find out exactly why he thinks the D-Max ute is better suited, than any other, to his work.
“I really did my homework when I was looking for a vehicle to replace my Falcon RTV. The Falcon was struggling a bit with the weight that I carry, and I needed a replacement that could cope easily with one tonne of tools and equipment,” said Rob. “I travel the Southern Highlands area carrying out mobile repairs on all types of equipment, plus I am specifically on call 24/7 for major transport fleets that have a truck breakdown. As well as tools, I often have to carry upwards of 100 litres of oil, in case I have to carry out an oil drain on a truck. “I thought about a second hand F-Series, but the pricing is still extremely high, and they are rather bulky. Similarly, I looked at the HiLux, but again the pricing is far higher than I wanted to pay. Then I found the D-Max Farm Mate, and it’s all been good from there.
FARM MATE “As a mechanic, I checked out the specification closely. The Isuzu has a longer wheelbase, and handles the load I carry better than any other comparable ute. The chassis is stronger, and items, such as bearings, are also larger and better suited to hard work than some of the competitors. “It’s a no-frills ute, and that saves weight over utes with power windows and other extras that I don’t need. Having a bench front seat means I can safely run my kids to school. You can’t do that with two bucket seats,” he added. Rob carried out the conversion of a standard Farm Mate ute, himself, to customise it to his particular needs. Under the tray is a high capacity truck-sized battery, and this powers all the LED work lights mounted on the load frame behind the cabin. This removes the need to have the engine running to power lights when on-scene at a truck breakdown at night. Part of the original drop-sides, fitted to the factory-supplied tray, have been removed and replaced by custom-built checker-plate tool and equipment boxes. A slide out tray between the chassis rails has also been fitted, and this was switched over from the Falcon RTV when he purchased the D-Max. “I wanted a truck that was simple, mechanically, without all the extras. Having equipment you don’t need adds
weight and that’s something I am very conscious about. It’s a pleasure to drive and the fuel economy is outstanding,” added Rob. As regular readers will know, Delivery is also a fan of the Isuzu D-Max Farm Mate, and currently is running a long-term test vehicle in our fleet. We’ve also been adding a few extras, to make life easier as a workhorse, but have so far confined our efforts to adding driving lamps, work lights and additional vehicle marker lights - amber on each side and red at the rear. We’ve also added daytime running lamps onto the factorysupplied bullbar, making the ute easier to see in the daylight. These white daytime running lamps have, of course, been a fixture on Volvo’s for decades, but with legislation now requiring all European cars to have them fitted, it’s something we are going to be seeing more of in the coming months. Fitting daytime running lamps is statistically proven to reduce random accidents by up to 28 percent, through making any vehicle more visible. The LED work lamps we’ve added are new from Narva and are ideal for close range illumination. Each unit has a 300-lumen output and can be fitted to any voltage system from 9-50 volts. Easily mounted, through one centre pivoting bolt, each unit has a current draw as low as 0.30 amps at 12 volts, or 0.15 amps at 24 volts. On the sides of the factory tray we’ve fitted amber LED side marker lamps, just to add an outline to the ute to make it more easily seen by other motorists on a side view. Because all the main vehicle lighting system is mounted on the front or rear, we reckon it’s easy to miss seeing any ute from the side. Any way of increasing night-time visibility of your vehicle, we reckon is worth the effort.
IN THE ECONETIC TRANSIT COULD REKINDLE INTEREST IN FORD LIGHT COMMERCIALS
nce upon a time, in a land overseas called the United Kingdom, a leading car maker redefined vans as the world knew them. In launching the Transit, Ford immediately jumped ahead of all van makers, providing comfort, ease of access and a general upgrade in ride and handling that had hitherto been unknown.
The Transit subsequently became the darling of bank robbers and police forces alike, both aware of the improvements in technology and both keen to pit one Transit against another in a bid to prove whether crime paid or crime prevention prevailed. The Ford Transit, the pioneer of the ubiquitous white van, has led the UK market ever since 1965, the year that Jim Clark won the Indianapolis 500 and F1 World Championship, Tom and Jerry and Thunderbirds made their TV debuts, the Sound of Music movie was released and Mary Quant invented the mini skirt. At launch, the cheapest Transit, a short wheelbase, petrol-engined van with 610 kg payload, cost £542. The most expensive Transit was a 15-seat Custom Bus, which cost £997. From 78 derivatives in 1965, there are now more than 600 Transit entities, providing a range of dedicated commercial vehicles to ensure there is a model for every job required. Last September, virtually some 45 years and six million models after the first Transit turned a wheel, Ford Australia announced that an ECOnetic version would be added to the existing Transit range, bringing exceptional fuel economy within reach of the light commercial operator. It’s hard to grasp why Ford Australia doesn’t focus more strongly on the abilities of the Transit, and in particular, its smaller siblings the Transit Connect and Fiesta van. Back home, in the UK, there’s a plethora of van product with some limited editions offering greater power and performance with tricked up paint treatments, as well as electric versions that plug in for their power surge. From a position of strength, where Australia Post delivered the mail in a fleet of bright red Transits, Ford Australia has stood by and watched as other players have taken on accounts such as Australia Post, and won, reducing Ford’s market share. That scenario is itself a shame, but with the introduction of the Transit ECOnetic we might just see a resurgence in the health and welfare of the company’s light commercial vehicle division. Introduced into the UK in June 2009, ECOnetic has only just made it to our market, but if first impressions are anything to go by, it could win considerable support and grow a strong following.
IN TRANSIT Knocking a full 1.0 l/100 km off the standard SWB Transit fuel economy, the ECOnetic achieves this fuel consumption advantage by the adoption of various proven fuel saving technologies. For starters, the oil used in the 2.2 litre Duratorq engine is a special low friction blend. Less internal friction means less fuel use, and operators can expect the ECOnetic to return regular combined consumption figures as low as 7.2 l/100 km at the same time lowering emissions to 189 g/km of CO2. Available as a short-wheelbase (SWB) only, the Transit ECOnetic Van combines the 2.2-litre Duratorq diesel engine with a standard six-speed manual transmission. The fuel efficiency improvements are achieved without any degradation in power or torque from the standard model, with engine outputs of 85 kW at 3500 rpm and 300 Nm from 1800-2000 rpm. This is no mean achievement, considering the van has a cargo capacity of 6.55 m3 and a payload of 1172 kg. Other little additions to keep operating costs and fuel economy low include the use of low rolling resistance 215/75R16 tyres on 16-inch steel rims with aerodynamic wheel trims and the overall speed limiting of the ECOnetic to a maximum road speed of 110 km/h.
There are further optional equipment packs, such as cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, front passenger airbag and a reverse park awareness system. The cabin interior is particularly clever, with nice design touches that show the extent of involvement of van users in the original design criteria. As well as cup holders and bottle holders there are flap forward lids, one each side of the top of the dashboard, and a fold forward tray and drink holder that sits in the central area of the dashboard. With recharging of phones and power for sat nav units a priority these days, it’s good to find a spare 12 V socket on top of the dash, under the right-hand flip forward tray. The seats are comfortable and each of the three positions has three-point seat belts. We’d like to see better trim materials used, more in tune with the heat and humidity of Australia, as the fabrics used do promote sweat, rather than breathing, and become sticky on a hot day. Front suspension uses the popular MacPherson strut and stabiliser bar design, while at the rear it uses Hotchkiss-type leaf springs with gas shock absorbers. Disc brakes all round and power steering are standard, together with air conditioning for the front part of the cabin. Power windows, power mirrors and central locking complete the basic spec.
Delivery magazine has now tested the first available ECOnetic in the country, and came away mightily impressed. The 2.2-litre engine is a strong and willing performer, and the six-speed manual gearbox is well matched to the power and torque of the four-cylinder diesel.
We’ve mentioned the payload of 1175 kg from a GVM of 2,840 kg, and the kerb weight is 1,665 kg. The dimensions of the cargo area come in at 2,582 x 1,740 (1,390 between wheel arches) x 1,430 mm (length x width x height). The unladen roof height is 2,067 mm proving that a 2.000 mm car park entrance is going to be a problem. The load floor height is 609 mm.
The seating position is high and the driver gets an excellent view of the road ahead, aided by good vision through the side mirrors. Ride comfort, even when unladen, is also very acceptable, and interior noise levels are kept low.
Don’t expect to tow a heavy trailer around when business expands, as, with its front wheel drive configuration, the Transit ECOnetic is limited to just 750 kg trailer limit (braked or unbraked).
You could be forgiven for presuming that an ECOnetic version aimed at fuel economy would prove sluggish, but this certainly is not the case with the Transit. Gearing is high, but with six-speeds in the transmission, there’s a gear for all requirements, even though the driver has to be mindful that there are six ratios, as even in fifth it’s a pretty relaxed drive with low engine noise.
Our test vehicle came with the cruise control, leather steering wheel wrap, hill launch assist and rear park assist inclusions, and there are some good additional touches such as a see-you-home function that operates the van interior lights for a number of seconds while you stumble to your front door in the dark. Remote door unlocking is also really useful, especially when working in the CBD.
The aim for improved fuel economy is made a little easier by an advisory upshift arrow that appears on the dash display. This is a constant reminder to the driver shift ratios and, consequently, head for the best possible fuel economy. A driver’s airbag is standard, together with ABS (Anti-lock Braking Systems and EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) but other safety items such as Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), including Traction Control and Hill Launch Assist, are part of an additional pack. Those buyers wanting side head/ thorax airbags can be accommodated, but these details have to be included at the time of order for special manufacture.
What might come as a surprise is that Ford also offers a rear-wheel drive, SWB Transit using the same body but with a higher GVM of 3,300 kg. Payload is also increased to 1,411 kg but the cargo area floor height increases from 609 mm to 732 mm to allow clearance under the body for the addition of a drive shaft to the rear axle. Although the rear suspension uses the same design as the front wheel drive version, in rearwheel drive guise the towing ability increases from 750 kg to 2,000 kg. Cargo volume does however drop from 6.55 cu.m to 6.05 cu.m, but the unladen roof height measurement increases to 2,089 mm.
AUSTRALIA’S GUIDE TO ECO FRIENDLY, FUEL EFFICIENT CARS
AUSTRALIA’S GUIDE TO UTES, VANS, LIGHT TRUCKS & PEOPLE MOVERS
AUSTRALIA’S LEADING TRUCK & ENGINE MAGAZINE
Name:.............................................................................................. Address: ....................................................................................................................... Telephone:.............................................. Email: ...................................................................................................... Choose your Subscription: $40.00 (12 months) $80.00 (24 months)
$60.00 (12 months) $120.00 (24 months)
Cheque/Money Order for the amount of...........................payable to Motoring Matters or please charge my
Post to: Motoring Matters, Subscriptions Manager, PO Box 307, Mittagong, NSW 2575 *Offer applicable in Australia only
$60.00 (12 months) $120.00 (24 months) Bankcard
Card holders name:................................................................... Card holders signature:............................................................. Expiry:............../...................