The arrival of a brand new van is a fairly rare occurrence nowadays – most are facelifts or upgrades.
But the launch of a new marque into the commercial vehicle sector is rarer still – and certainly worth celebrating.
So let’s raise a glass to Jeep, which has just launched its first LCV in Britain in the shape of the Pioneer, a Cherokee with the rear seats removed and a loadbed added.
The Jeep name is legendary – so famous in fact that I don’t need to go into its history.
Suffice to say that the manufacturer’s slogan with this model is ‘ruggedness, capability and refinement’ – and it’s a promise that is fulfilled.
While the Pioneer won’t attract hordes of big fleet buyers, it should appeal to either firms which need a van with an off-road capability or those which want to portray a particular image.
Imagine one of these vehicles sashaying down a city street complete with trendy signage.
It will speak volumes about the company it represents.
Weighing in at £17,503 ex-VAT and boasting a host of standard goodies such as multi-stage airbags, headlamp levelling, ABS brakes, air conditioning and a CD?player, the Pioneer means business right from the start.
Compare the prices of the Mitsubishi Shogun 3.2 DI-D swb at £17,996 and the Land-Rover Discovery Commercial at £19,397 and you’ll see what I mean.
And the Pioneer is no slouch on the road.
Powered by a 2.5-litre common rail turbodiesel unit offering 145bhp and 251lb-ft of torque, it will reach 60mph from standing in 13.5 seconds and has a top speed of 101mph.
Methinks the Pioneer will shake up the sector in no uncertain terms.
You’ll see this van coming and recognise it instantly.
It has the usual seven slot Jeep grille at the front and looks like a sizeable barn door coming towards you.
The whole vehicle is swathed in black plastic protectors which not only make it look incredibly macho but will protect it from the annoying scratches and knocks that seem to plague vans.
Our test vehicle had optional metallic paint at £210 and alloy wheels at £320.
And before penny-pinching fleet managers scoff at such unnecessary extras, let me tell you that at selling time, a van with these additions could well be worth more than their cost new.
The roof features attractive black rails and the side windows are body-coloured, leaving plenty of room for stylish decals and signs.
In the front
Entry is by remote plip lock and the doors open to reveal a massively chunky cab which feels like it might have been hewn from a single piece of rock.
The first surprise is that the seats are beautifully moulded to the body, provide plenty of side support and are incredibly comfortable.
Most American vehicles have horrible wide flat squashy seats to cope with those ample American backsides, but the Pioneer seems to have been built with more diminutive European posteriors in mind.
All the knobs and switches are good and chunky and there are big grab handles on both sides for when the going gets rough.
Windows are powered and the CD?player proves to be a good quality.