With all the razzmatazz that has accompanied the string of new panel van launches in the past year or two, it is easy to forget a small but important sector of the LCV market – the microvan.
In case you hadn’t noticed – and you probably wouldn’t if you don’t use these vehicles – Ford has not been selling the Fiesta van since early last year, leaving a gap in its LCV armoury to be filled by the likes of the Vauxhall Corsavan, Renault Clio van and Peugeot 206 van.
True you could opt for a Ka van, but that model was originally built specially for British Telecom and Ford has never really marketed it as a credible fleet alternative.
But now Ford is back with a vengeance.
The new Fiesta van, on sale now, is bigger and better than the old model and Ford is aiming for an astonishing 65% market share this year.
Commercial vehicle marketing manager Jon Fisher said at the press launch: ‘This is a big step from the old Fiesta van and we believe we can sell 4,000 in a year. The segment was 6,285 units in 2002 so it’s a big target to aim for.’
Traditionally, old Fiesta van was sold to couriers, mail delivery firms, florists, plumbers and electricians.
Fisher reckons the lion’s share of sales will be to major fleets such as BT and contract hire firms, although 33% are still expected to go to retail buyers.
With a class-leading load length and load height, Fisher believes Ford can steal sales from some fleets which at present use larger vans such as the Renault Kangoo and Citroen Berlingo.
And there is another string to Fiesta van’s bow – Ford’s Backbone sales network, which has seen specialist van dealerships set up across the country offering expert knowledge and service that Ford’s car dealerships just don’t have.
There are 88 at present and this figure will rise to more than 100 soon.
This model is being marketed as ‘the perfect urban workmate’ and Ford believes that with new long and short wheelbase Transit Connect now on sale, its line-up is complete.
Two engine variants are available – a 1.4 TDCi common rail diesel and a 1.3i petrol – and although LPG versions will be possible as an aftermarket conversion, Ford won’t be making them.
The recent announcement that PowerShift, the Government body which gives grants for conversions, has run out of grant money for this financial year and the revelation that the Chancellor will increase tax on the fuel at the next Budget, seems to have forced Ford to take a major rethink on LPG, although Fisher stressed that it was carrying on regardless with offering the LPG-powered Transit Connect.
Prices (ex-VAT) are £8,000 for the petrol model and £8,350 for the diesel.
Corsavan is head-to-head with the Fiesta at £7,790 for the 1.2i petrol and £8,350 for the 1.3 diesel, while the diesel Clio van costs £8,200 and the 206 is £8,000 for the 1.9D naturally-aspirated version and £8,115 for the turbodiesel.
The latest incarnation of the Fiesta car was a quantum leap forward from the old model, so it stands to reason the van will shine too.
From the outside, it looks every bit a scaled- down Ford Focus, with the familiar grille and headlights and that stylish shape.
Bumpers front and rear are colour-coded, which make the van look dead smart but I fear careless drivers may leave these bumpers a mass of knocks and scratches before long.
Personally, I would have gone for big black plastic ones.
There are small side rubbing strips on both sides but no protection for the wheelarches.
Metallic paint is an option at £250 and a heated windscreen is £75 – these screens are a great safety aid and should be considered seriously by fleet buyers.
Those who want a sporty look (not many fleets, I fear) can go for alloy wheels and low profile tyres at £400 while front foglights add £75 to the price.