Once upon a time – not that long ago, actually – the UK’s small van sector was a pretty cosy little place. The van manufacturers took their small cars, stripped out the back seats, blanked off the rear windows and voila! – a van was born.
But in 2008, a major revolution took place. Citroën, Peugeot and Fiat, in a joint venture, launched the Nemo, Bipper and Fiorino (the same van with different badges), which offered van-type ruggedness and a load volume unimagined in the sector.
One could be forgiven for thinking that this would be the death knell for the old guard of small vans, but if you thought that you’d be wrong.
Ford, for example, still makes a tidy little profit selling the Fiestavan, which incidentally was voted city van of the year at the last Fleet Van Awards, and now Vauxall has pitched in with a green Ecoflex version of the Corsavan.
The Ecoflex moniker has been around since 2009 on the car side but Vauxhall is preparing to roll out greener versions of all its vans this year and the Corsavan Ecoflex is the first we’ve tested so far.
Others will follow in subsequent issues.
So what does the Corsavan have going for it that the mighty European trio don’t?
For starters, for what it’s worth, the Vauxhall offering has sharp looks that the Nemo, Bipper and Fiorino can’t match.
True most fleet managers won’t count this fact very highly in the list of fleet tick boxes, but an employee is much more likely to be chuffed at being given a Corsavan to drive than one of the others.
From the front it looks like a little sports car.
Then there is the fact that the Corsavan can truly boast car-like ride and handling characteristics because it is actually a car.
What we have to bear in mind is that many drivers who use these vehicles aren’t actually van drivers as such – more likely photo-copier engineers or dog handlers – and as such they don’t take kindly to driving commercial vehicles.
If load volume isn’t a factor in your buying decision, then the Corsavan could be an ideal choice.
Under the bonnet goes a 1.3-litre Euro V common rail diesel engine that offers 75bhp and 140lb-ft of torque, which should be plenty to power such a small vehicle.
Unlike its hi-cube rivals, the stop-start system which adds to the van’s green credentials, doesn’t come free – it’s a £220 option but one that should see itself paid for over and over again during the lifecycle of the van.
Without stop-start the Corsavan emits 112g/km of CO2 and returns 67.3mpg on the combined cycle, and with the system fitted CO2 reduces to 105g/km while mpg rises to 70.6mpg.
That figure can’t quite match the Fiestavan ECOnetic which offers CO2 emissions of just 98g/km.
In the rear, payload almost matches that of the Euro triplets (550kg opposed to 660kg) but understandably the Corsavan falls short on load volume – just under a cubic metre compared to 2.5 cubic metres for the others.
Specwise, the Corsavan offers a driver’s airbag, ABS brakes, emergency brake assist, electronic brakeforce distribution, engine immobiliser, deadlocks and electric door mirrors.
Our test vehicle had a sat-nav unit (£825), mobile phone bluetooth system (£255), rubber load area mat (£80), air-con (a hefty £580), rear parking sensors (£235) and foglights (£90), bringing the total as tested to £14,263.