Vehicle Comparisons

Peugeot Boxer

Peugeot Boxer

Peugeot's Boxer is a large LCV that has forensically focused on the things that make a real difference to fleet operators in order to give its heavyweight the best chance of a unanimous decision. Let's check out this revised model with its more frugal range of 2.0-litre BlueHDi engines.

The Peugeot now offers a strong line up of three 2.0-litre BlueHDi diesel engines, all fitted with diesel particulate filters. At the foot of the range, there's a 110bhp unit with 300Nm of pulling power, 50Nm more than the previous entry-level engine. The next BlueHDi unit up is the 130bhp variant, which delivers 340Nm of torque, 20Nm up on before. Finally, at the top of the range, if you need to haul really heavy loads, you'll want the 160bhp powerplant, which fronts up with 350Nm of torque and has 10bhp more than its predecessor could offer. Big brakes, strong suspension mountings and a rigid body all improve the driving characteristics. BlueHDi technology has enhanced performance too. In the 110bhp version for example, acceleration has been improved by up to 4.0 seconds for the 0-62mph sprint and by 8.0 seconds for the important 50 to 80mph overtaking increment.

On to the main practical facts you'll need. There are two body styles - Panel and Window van. The Panel and Window van can be specified in four lengths (L1, L2, L3 and L4) and three heights for the Panel van and two in the Window van. The Panel van offers loadspace options between 8m3 and 17m3. And payload options between 1115kg and 1900kg.

The interior is nicely executed with far better materials quality than the outgoing van. The steering wheel looks more car-like and can be trimmed in perforated leather as an option. The dashboard gets a revised control panel with a better range of audio systems, while black 'Darko' cloth punctuated with red and grey is adopted for the seats, with brown Achille trim as an option. The whole effect contributes towards the perception of improved quality and modern appearance of the cabin. It's no mere perception that this van feels tough. This Boxer has benefited from testing such as 1,500 hours at temperatures from -20??C to +40??C to ensure resistance to ageing by the components and materials used in mechanical, plastic and electronic parts. It's been subjected to 1,000 dunkings in 10cm of water or 3cm with saline spray, with no washing of the vehicle during the following 1,000 km, to validate the sealing and resistance to corrosion. Half a million door opening test cycles were carried out at temperatures of -30??C to +80??C, to simulate ten years of hard use.

The Boxer is faced with some really strong rivals but rather than shy away from the challenge, Peugeot has come out swinging. It's hard to argue with a van that offers this sort of refinement inside while also being able to claim such excellent economy figures and backing it up with a large and practical load bay which boasts the broadest load width in the sector. Perhaps the most interesting challenge to the Boxer will be the one from its sister vehicles, the Citroen Relay and the Fiat Ducato. Much will come down to the individual deals you can gain from your dealer there, but the Peugeot might just win out, in this country at least.

A lot of thought has gone into making the Boxer work for its operators. The service intervals are lengthy at two years or 30,000 miles. It runs on 15-inch tyres, which are the cheapest and easiest to get hold of for van fleets. The engines are chain rather than belt driven so don't require replacement every 60,000 miles. Small things like this make a difference. Peugeot hopes you'll agree.

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Volkswagen Transporter

Volkswagen Transporter

Volkswagen's Crafter, the UK's fourth best selling large van, is the thinking business person's choice in this sector, especially since it was improved with a smarter look, a fresh range of 2.0 TDI diesel engines and enhanced safety and media connectivity. Now making more sense than ever before on the balance sheet, this is a contender better placed than most to take in its stride whatever your company can throw at it.

Once you settle into driving a large van like this, it's a very commanding experience. You sit high up in quite a car-like position thanks to the upright steering wheel, enjoying a supportive seat that's equipped with an armrest to prop a weary elbow on over longer trips. A pity then, that earlier Crafter engines tended to be relatively ponderous. That's not the case anymore thanks to far-reaching changes under the bonnet of this revised version and the adoption of a freshly designed electro-mechanical steering system..

Engine changes centre around the installation of a freshly-designed 2.0-litre TDI diesel unit, available to 102, 122 and 140PS outputs, plus there's a potent bi-turbo version putting out 177PS. All the engines will get you and your load where you need to be with deceptive speed. The smoothness and pulling power of this 2.0-litre unit is something that operators familiar with the old version may well notice in the first half a mile of use, even in the entry-level 102PS variant. Customers have a choice between front, rear and all-wheel drive (4MOTION), as well as the option of a manual or automatic gearbox.

Power arrives low in the rev range so that you don't have to row the thing along with the gear lever so much in town. On the open road, overtaking's easy too. It's the main reason why this vehicle has so much towing power too, all Crafters able to haul a braked trailer grossing at up to 2,000kgs. Further up the range, the differences with what went before are even greater, the top-flight twin-turbo 177PS BiTDI variant offering around 400Nm of torque.

Inside, the space available will of course depend upon your choice of wheelbase - short, medium, long or Maxi. And you'll also need to carefully select your roof height, the choice being between normal, high or super-high, equating to interior roof heights of 1.65m, 1.94m and 2.14m respectively. There are four load compartment lengths varying between 2,600mm and 4,700mm.

Load volumes vary between 7.5 and 17 cubic metres. The load width is 1780mm, narrowing to 1350mm between the wheelboxes. Payload capacity, now increased, will of course depend on your choice of Gross Vehicle Weight - 3.0, 3.5 or 5.0 tonnes.

Active driver assistance systems include ESP with trailer stabilisation, ACC Adaptive Cruise Control, a post-collision braking system, a side wind compensation system and a trailer manoeuvring assistant system. Buyers might also also want a reversing camera, a parking distance monitor and a Rear Traffic Alert system. Optional LED headlights, cornering lights and a Light Assist set-up can ensure a clear view of the road ahead at night, while the Crafter can also now come with online services tailored to the specific needs of customers.

Is there a better quality large panel van out there than the Volkswagen Crafter? Assuming you prefer the Volkswagen's engine range and pricing structure to that of its Mercedes Sprinter stablemate, then you'd have to say not. The only issue this vehicle used to have centred upon its running costs, but these are now amongst the most efficient in the class thanks to the adoption of a far cleaner and more frugal set of Euro6 2.0 TDI diesel engines.

Yes, the Crafter is priced at a premium compared to rivals but you can see and feel where the extra money goes. Forward-thinking businesses will accept this on the basis that residual values are very strong and the whole vehicle feels - and is - built to last, enabling companies to spread the up-front sticker price over a longer operating period. In ten years time, we'd wager that this vehicle will still be going strong at a point when most of its rivals will be falling to pieces. Enough said.

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Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has long been the byword for excellence and performance in the full-sized van sector. The MK3 model range builds on efficiency and safety in significant ways, adds some style inside and out but remains focused on sheer practicality.

Front-wheel, rear-wheel or all-wheel drive - for the first time the new Sprinter covers all three drive variants, and can therefore be optimally configured for the relevant transport requirement and operating profile. The front-wheel drive especially shows its inherent advantages when the vehicle is lightly loaded or in slippery conditions. Front-driven variants get either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 9-speed automatic 'box, both freshly designed. In the rear-wheel drive variants, thanks to separation of the drive and steering, the classic advantages lie in optimum ride comfort, a smaller turning circle and more agile handling. Rear-wheel drive also allows more control when towing a trailer and at the limits of the maximum permissible gross vehicle weight.

The optional all-wheel drive system improves traction, particularly in difficult weather conditions or poor road conditions, thus enhancing driving safety and driving dynamics. Gear reduction is additionally available for demanding operations. As for engines, well not too much has changed here. Most will continue to choose the four cylinder 2.1-litre diesel powerplant. With front or rear wheel drive, it's available with 114 or 143bhp. The top 2.1-litre unit gets 163bhp when rear-driven or 177hp when front-driven. Above that, there's a 190hp 3.0-litre V6 diesel with 440Nm of torque.

Depending on the variant chosen, this third generation Sprinter features four different front-end designs. Plus there's the option of LED lighting with 'eagle wing' design daytime-running lights. The driver's workplace is uncluttered, practical and designed to meet the relevant transport requirements. The improvements include ergonomically shaped seats, keyless start and an improved air conditioning system. A variable stowage concept ensures that everything has its place. The interior also features a fresh modular dashboard design that allows for maximum flexibility - everything from extra storage, to cutting-edge infotainment and wireless charging is available.

The multimedia system has a large, high-resolution touchscreen, fast hard-disc navigation with 3D map display and smartphone integration. For pleasant temperatures inside the cockpit, owners can choose between a semi-automatic air conditioning system or automatic climate control, according to their comfort requirements.

Despite its European success, this Sprinter still isn't one of the first vans that many British business think of when their looking for a really large LCV. Yet on this evidence, perhaps it should be. It's as big and practical as any of its rivals, with a refined powertrain. The availability of front wheel drive will enable Mercedes to access a wider band of buyers too.

Yes of course there are cheaper rivals. Some of them feel a little more avant garde too and have cleverer cabs. But when it comes to the things that actually matter when it comes to running a vehicle of this kind, the Sprinter ticks most of the important boxes with the kind of thoroughness that you'd expect from something bearing the famous Three Pointed Star on its grille. All of which means that whatever your business, this could be your righthand van. Some things just don't change.

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