Nissan's medium-sized van is the NV300, the Japanese brand's version of a design also shared with Vauxhall and Renault. It's very competitive in terms of efficiency and carriage capacity and differentiates itself from its rivals by offering a unique-in-segment five year / 100,000-mile warranty.
Four engine options are offered on the NV300. All use Nissan's trusted 1.6-litre dCi diesel engine - best known from the brand's Qashqai and X-Trail crossovers - with power outputs of 95hp, 120hp, 125hp and 145hp. The two former are single turbo, while the latter pair are twin turbo. All are mated to a six-speed manual transmission. Not all engines are available with all body styles. Renault claims that these power and torque figures are what you would have previously expected from a 2.0-litre engine in this class.
Nissan reckons that this NV300 will feel pretty much like a large MPV to drive and the driving position's as commanding as you would expect. Big door mirrors with convex surfacing on their lower and outer edges are present and correct to help with manoeuvring that can be aided by the neat wide-angle mirror fitted to the back of the passenger sun visor. Further embellishments intended to help you avoid urban scrapes include options like parking sensors and two kinds of rear view camera. This NV300 should prove to be a tough workhorse whatever its working conditions. Maybe that'll involve towing. If so, this vehicle's able, when equipped with a towing hitch, to pull a 750kg unbraked trailer and up to 2,000kg for a braked unit.
We're very familiar with this design now, though more so when it bears either a Renault or a Vauxhall badge. But it still has something of an Avant Garde look that works well with Nissan's distinctive 'V-motion' front grille. The outside of the NV300 isn't the big story here though.
We reckon users will really like the cabin. Gone are the expanses of uninspiring grey plastics you used to get on this model's Primastar predecessor. Instead, it's much more like a modern People Carrier's interior, with higher-end versions getting a chromed console surround, along with a chromed gear lever knob and chrome-finished front speaker trims, plus lidded dashboard stowage and reasonably high-quality upholstery. Much improved seats offer more shape and higher density foam padding. The front bench seat incorporates lateral strengthening for both the seat cushions and passenger seat backs. Comfort is further enhanced by the inclusion of an armrest built into the door panel.
Compared with the old Primastar, the driver's seat cushion has been lowered by 36mm, while the seat back is more reclined in order to get closer to the sort of driving position associated with MPVs. Combined with the height and reach-adjustable steering wheel, the number of ways the seat can be adjusted (height, fore-aft and seat back angle) enables the driver to find the most comfortable position.
This NV300 van certainly looks like a decent step forward over its Primastar predecessor. We like the far more efficient engines, the more spacious load bay, the hugely practical cab and the better quality throughout.
But should you select it with a Nissan badge rather than from a Renault or a Vauxhall showroom? Aggressive pricing matched by a superior class-leading warranty suggests that perhaps you should. A tempting package then, for cost-conscious business buyers shopping in this sector. It won't be the first contender you think of in this segment but it remains one of the more sensible choices you could make.Click here to find out more about our Nissan NV300 range
In third-generation form, the Renault Trafic is bigger and better finished than before. There's a choice of two lengths and two roof heights for the panel vans and the cabins have been designed to function as mobile offices. The powerplants on offer are either a 1.6 turbodiesel or a 1.6 twin turbodiesel, both engines available with two different power outputs.
Renault passenger vehicles have embraced the idea of the downsized turbocharged engine to boost efficiency and now the commercials follow suit. The engines that power the Trafic are both relatively small 1.6-litre turbodiesel units but punch above their weight. Most buyers will be drawn to the single turbo 1.6-litre unit, available in either dCi 90 or dCi 115 power outputs. In order to match the sort of grunt Mercedes can deliver with its rival Vito, Renault also debuts the Energy dCi 120 and 140 engines. Powered by two turbochargers working together, these engines combine excellent performance with decent fuel economy. From just 1,500rpm, the Energy dCi 120 cranks out a hefty peak torque of 320Nm, while the dCi 140 variant delivers 340Nm so there's plenty of muscle even if you're loaded to the roof.
Renault claims that these power and torque figures are what you would have previously expected from a 2.0-litre engine in this class and that view is borne out by the figures. A Volkswagen Transporter, for instance, comes in 84 and 102PS power outputs at the entry level, while the Trafic now comes in 90 and 125PS guises, so it's even better than Renault's word. The driving position, though not as lofty as in some models, nevertheless affords a decent view up the road. You get big door mirrors to help with manoeuvring and tried and tested transmissions.
True, there's only so much a van designer can do with a rectangular box with a wheel at each corner, but there's clearly been a concerted effort to distinguish the Trafic from the workaday LCV norm. As is the vogue with current Renaults, you get an outsized bonnet badge, flanked in this instance by a black trim strip and a pair of huge headlight pods that seem to have started climbing towards the windscreen pillars. The outside of the Trafic isn't the big story here though.
Renault has really gone to work on the cabin. Gone are the expanses of uninspiring grey plastics, with higher-end versions getting a chromed console surround, along with a chromed gear lever knob and chrome-finished front speaker trims, plus lidded dashboard stowage and Java upholstery. Much improved seats offer more shape and higher density foam padding. The front bench seat incorporates lateral strengthening for both the seat cushions and passenger seat backs. Comfort is further enhanced by the inclusion of an armrest built into the door panel. Compared with the previous generation Trafic II, the driver's seat cushion has been lowered by 36mm, while the seat back is more reclined in order to get closer to the sort of driving position associated with MPVs. Combined with the height- and reach-adjustable steering wheel, the number of ways the seat can be adjusted (height, fore-aft and seat back angle) enables the driver to find the most comfortable position. Thanks to a pump system, the height of the driving position can be adjusted through a range of 60mm.
The van market is changing - and this Renault Trafic has needed to change with it: it has. We especially like the careful touches: the load-through facility in the full-steel bulkhead that lets you poke long items into the cab. The 'Eco Mode' driving option that makes it easy to lower your running costs. The Mobile Office package with its folding front seat. The way you can mount your smartphone or tablet on the dashboard to work with Renault's clever R&GO app. And the wide-angle passenger sun visor mirror that helps when reversing. Though we've seen some of these things before in other LCV products, they've been delivered here with a greater level of thought and thoroughness that operators will like.Click here to find out more about our Renault Trafic range
The Dispatch is Citroen's idea of what a medium-sized van should be and goes up against some tough LCV rivals in this sector like Ford's Transit Custom and Volkswagen's Transporter. Style, size and technology are all factors that now rank in this much improved third generation model's favour though, in a package that has much to offer in its tightly-fought segment.
Citroen reckons that the handling on this MK3 model Dispatch is much improved, narrowing the dynamic gap in this regard to the class-leading Transit Custom. Engine choice in a Dispatch is pretty straightforward, provided you've a clear idea of the kind of work you want it to do. Sensibly, all the Euro6 units on offer are diesels and if your needs are mainly based around lighter loads and short distance urban work, then the entry-level 95bhp 1.6-litre BlueHDi unit may well be quite sufficient: this engine's also offered with 115bhp. For heavier payloads and longer journeys however, you'll be needing the 2.0-litre BlueHDi model which gives you a lot more pulling power and is available with either 120, 150 or 180bhp, the most powerful unit mated to the brand's efficient EAT6 auto transmission.
A key factor behind the success of the previous generation Dispatch was the way it remained compact and wieldy in the manner of smaller, more car-like vans from the class below. This model's bigger of course, but it retains much of that same usability around town and rides much better thanks to revised suspension and a stiffer EMP2 platform. Special wishbone filtering dampens the impacts of our country's terrible tarmac and the variable stiffness springs and shock absorbers deliver surprising levels of comfort whether the vehicle is loaded or unloaded. Citroen also claims that refinement is much improved this time round. And, as before, there's the option of a Grip Control traction system. We also like the 'Driving time warning system' which flashes up a dash warning after two hours of uninterrupted driving at speeds of 40mph and above.
This Dispatch may share much under the skin with its Peugeot Expert PSA Group stablemate but visually at least, it has its own distinct personality, Citroen's designers having gone for a fluid, softer face with a short bonnet and high headlamps. Visually, it's quite hard to pigeon-hole this vehicle into a particular market category. You can see that it's bigger than something like a Berlingo or Kangoo-sized Peugeot Partner but you might question whether it has the volume to take on medium range vans of Transit or Vito size. As we'll see, it has.
On board, Citroen's designers have concentrated on improving ergonomics and driving comfort this time round. You get the usual high seating position and three-person bench. And there's certainly more cab storage space - 49-litres of it in the standard van version. Providing you haven't bought in with entry-level trim, the first thing you'll probably notice about the restyled interior is 7-inch colour touchscreen that's now been added. It can work with voice control and offers the usual 'phone and media features, plus an optional 3D Navigation system.
Make no mistake, this is the most important Citroen van we've seen since the launch of the original Berlingo twenty years ago. It forms the basis for a luxury MPV in the brand's passenger car range (badged the Space Tourer) and will be key in persuading many companies currently using Ford Transit Customs, Vauxhall Vivaros and Volkswagen Transporters that they really should be taking a closer look at what the Double Chevron brand has to offer in the medium range segment.Click here to find out more about our Citroen Dispatch range