Spending much of my professional life blatting about the highways of Europe in large, expensive panel vans, it is all too easy to forget that many operators rarely stray more than 20 miles from home and have modest payload requirements.
Such fleets usually have more than one eye on the purse strings and are therefore likely to take a keen interest in the van on test here.
The Extol is a brand new offering from Daihatsu, coming in at a bargain basement £6,995 ex-VAT and offering a generous load capacity of 2.2 cubic metres and payload of 615kg.
The new model is at present being sold alongside the old Hijet but it will eventually replace it.
I well recall my test in a Hijet a couple of years ago – it was as close as I can imagine to driving a biscuit tin on wheels and felt about as safe too.
OK, it costs exactly a grand less than the Extol but I can’t imagine anyone buying it for any reason other than price.
The Extol is a different matter altogether. It is chunkier, far more drivable and comes as standard with twin airbags, central locking and – glory be – a CD?player.
At last we have a cheap microvan which fits the bill for 21st century fleets.
Daihatsu had one van in mind when building the Extol – the Suzuki Carry, which is the only other real contender in this class.
Both cost exactly the same, but the Extol beats the Carry in most main areas.
Its wheelbase is 80mm longer, its payload is 38kg more, its load length is 80mm longer, its load height is 75mm more, its turning circle is 0.2 of a metre tighter, its fuel tank is six litres bigger, its 1.3-litre petrol engine is 7bhp more powerful and its service intervals are 3,000 miles longer.
The gloves are clearly off for a featherweight fight to the death.
Depending on how you hold your mouth, the Extol either looks laughable or funky.
I incline towards the funky point of view.
At least the Extol eschews that loaf-of-bread-on-wheels image the Hijet suffers from and, with colour-coded bumpers front and rear, it could even be described as chic.
The downside is that there are no side rubbing strips and no wheelarch protection, so the van is likely to be knocked and scraped fairly comprehensively during its busy working life on a fleet.
In the front
Opening the van via standard central locking, the doors seem painfully thin but, once inside, the cab is pleasantly large and the seats are surprisingly comfortable.
They even recline.
And with a standard height adjustable steering column, my 6ft 3in frame fitted behind the wheel nicely.