First drive: Toyota Proace Medium 1.6 HDi Comfort van review

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Toyota is planning an aggressive return to the van market with its new Proace, which has been developed alongside PSA Group’s Peugeot Expert and Citroën Dispatch.

Ahead of its launch, the company has appointed a new head of commercial vehicles, invested in extra training for dealer staff and has assigned 25 specialist service sites.

Prices for the new model start at £18,660 (ex VAT) and compact, medium or long wheelbases are available with a roof height of 1.9-metres. 

Sliding doors on each side open wide enough for a Euro pallet and, dependent on length, the Proace can accommodate up to 6.1 cubic metres of cargo.

The compact is destined to take on smaller vans such as the Volkswagen Caddy, with a length of just 4.6-metres and payload of 1,000kg.

Other versions can carry up to 1,400kg and all models can be equipped with a Smart Cargo System, which is a small flap in the bulkhead adding 1.16-meters to the total load length.

The new Proace has neat styling and is much better looking than the previous model. The short nose makes manoeuvring much easier. Inside, it’s more car-like, yet retains a degree of tactility. 

Some of the switchgear is a bit small and fiddly and the driving position isn’t brilliant – due to the pedals being too small and close together – but overall the PSA-derived interior is both practical and stylish.

Road and engine noise is reasonably subdued, too, and only the most challenging road surfaces could produce rattles.

However, the Proace has very light steering which makes it too eager to change direction at speed and the brakes are super-sharp so it takes a fair bit of concentration to deliver a smooth ride.

Thankfully, with a 300kg load in the back, the Proace becomes more subdued and easier to drive.

Buyers can choose from either a 1.6-litre or 2.0-litre diesel engine. The entry level variant develops 95bhp and with this few horses, it feels gutless. It also comes with a five-speed manual gearbox which is clunky and awkward to use.

Officially the most economical Proace, and the predicted best-seller, is the 114bhp which returns 55.4mpg. It’s still a 1.6 but it feels much livelier and benefits from a six-speed manual gearbox which is far crisper. Thanks to a start-stop system, it produces between 135 and 139g/km of CO2.

The 2.0-litre engine offers 340nm of torque and therefore is more suited to carrying heavy loads and towing. However the engine noise is far more intrusive plus fuel economy takes a hit.

Standard equipment is generous – all models come with Bluetooth, electric windows, remote locking, cruise control and DAB as standard, although air conditioning is an option on base models.

To get features such as automatic emergency braking or adaptive cruise control requires a £1,900 option pack. For that you’ll also get auto wipers and lights and a head-up display. 

While it undercuts slightly more accomplished rivals such as Volkswagen’s Transporter, like-for-like the Proace costs around £1,000 more than its PSA equivalents. It does come with a five-year warranty and the promise of stronger residuals, however.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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