Vehicle Comparisons

Mitsubishi Outlander Commercial

Mitsubishi Outlander Commercial

SUV commercial vehicles might seem like a hopelessly small market niche to some, but not to Mitsubishi. The Japanese marque takes the off-road van sector more seriously than just about anyone else and its Outlander Commercial model has established itself a strong reputation amongst business people who drive through mud for a living. As the name suggests, this is a van version of the Outlander passenger SUV and it's built to deliver comfort on the road while inspiring confidence in the rough.

Most Outlander Commercial sales are of the diesel model. This variant features a 150PS 2.2-litre unit that gets to 62mph from rest in about 10s en route to 124mph. When it comes to off-road driving, attention turns to the circular dial positioned behind the Outlander's handbrake. This operates the AWC (All Wheel Control) system and allows the driver to switch the transmission on the fly between 2WD, 4WD Auto and 4WD Lock modes. Two-wheel drive should be selected in good conditions on the tarmac to improve efficiency but when the going gets slippery the Auto mode can sense when traction is lost by the front wheels and divert as much as 30% of the available torque aft. The 4WD lock mode lock the transmission into a 50/50 split between the front and rear wheels for maximum grip when driving in difficult off-road conditions. The Outlander lacks the ground clearance, rugged suspension and underbody protection of a truly focused off-roader but it will trundle over some serious obstacles. The flip side of this is a very comfortable ride and good body control when driving on the road.

The alternative to the diesel derivative is the PHEV Plug-in hybrid version, which offers a 2.0-litre petrol engine aided by a 70KW generator and a couple of 80bhp electric motors, one at the front, one at the rear, giving all-wheel drive and a combined power output in the region of 220bhp. It's quite a remarkable vehicle, which most of the time will operate under battery power alone across its three driving modes.

The Outlander is based on a mid-sized SUV, which means its dimensions are more compact than the kind of mid-sized van you could buy for similar money. These facelifted models feature a revised look, with 'Dynamic Shield' frontal treatment that includes LED daytime running lights, a 3D grille, restyled bumpers and mildly different tail treatment. The bumpers also add 40mm to the overall length, making this current Outlander Commercial look a little lower and sleeker than its predecessor.

The interior is of a simple design, with clean surfaces and big, malleable controls that could easily be operated while wearing gloves. Some of the plastics aren't of the finest quality and don't feel as tough as might be necessary in a hard-working 4x4, but the amount of space on offer for the driver and front passenger is ample.

The Mitsubishi Outlander Commercial has the nuggety toughness operators look for in a vehicle that they're about to put through the mill. If you undertake really tough off-road excursions on a daily basis, this compact SUV-based van may not be the model for you but its mix of reasonable prowess in the rough with polished on-road dynamics is difficult to beat in this sector. Engine-wise, most operators will be perfectly well-served by the less expensive 2.2-litre diesel unit, but the more relaxed 2.0-litre PHEV petrol/electric powerplant may make sense for those covering shorter urban mileages.

The Outlander converts well into commercial vehicle form, with its attractive looks and no-nonsense interior. Some additional storage space in the cab area would have been nice and the materials aren't all of the highest quality but there's plenty of space and the load bay is suitably large. On the road, you get composed cornering and a reasonably comfortable ride. Probably better suited to the town than to country, this is still one of the better SUV vans on the market.

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Vauxhall Corsavan

Vauxhall Corsavan

Having engineered their fourth generation Corsa supermini, Vauxhall has also brought us the latest version of that model's small LCV derivative, the Corsavan. This one has a redesigned cabin, smarter styling and its supermini stablemates more efficient mechanicals and more dynamic handling. This all puts it in a formidable position if you're looking for a small van but hate driving small vans. This one drives like a car but can still lug 0.92m3 and has a payload of up to 571kg.

As you might expect from a car that has had its side windows replaced with metal, the Corsavan drives quite similarly to the standard-issue Corsa hatchback. In case you weren't clued in, this means it drives very well indeed. The Corsa's had a refresh of late and the suspension system has been given a good once-over. The van will ride a little stiffer than the hatch, due to a class-leading payload of 571kg.

The engines include a 70PS 1.2-litre petrol version that acts as a budget entry-level variant, then beyond that there are 75 and 95PS versions of the 1.3-litre CDTi diesel, both fitted with start/stop to stretch fuel economy a bit further in town. All versions drive the front wheels via a manual gearbox, which is where Vauxhall is maybe missing a trick on such an urban-oriented vehicle. Something not requiring so much left leg action would be a welcome addition to the range.

As you would expect, the driving environment is also on a par with that the of the Corsa supermini and now gets that model's pair of much-improved front seats. A fuel-sipping ecoFLEX version is also available, but this gets a five-speed gearbox which blunts performance compared to the six-speeders on the other diesel versions.

Hot hatch - or business tool? You don't expect a van - any van - to look this sporty. Such, though, are the benefits in design of not having to worry about incorporating a boxy load space out back. It does look pretty slick, especially in racy Sportive trim. This gets a leather trimmed steering wheel, sports seats and piano black dash inserts and can be identified externally by the 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights, body-coloured door handles and LED daytime running lights.

Inside the Corsa cabin, it's a lot nicer than you'd probably expect a van to be, with evidence of the kind of soft-touch materials that supermini car buyers now increasingly expect. But this also remains a sturdily-built contender, with chunky controls and durable materials that should cope with all the dust, dirt, rough treatment and spilt tea that typical LCV drivers can dish out. At the wheel, everything falls easily to hand and it's easy to get comfortable.

The Corsavan's clearly not going to have things its own way. As before, this generation version is primarily going to have to overcome the appeal of its arch-rival, Ford's Fiestavan, if it wants to win the hearts and minds of urban business operators. Still, this little LCV is better equipped to do that now than it ever was before. It's now big enough for the requirements of most typical operators and the payload increase of this generation version will make a significant difference to some users.

On top of that, the pricing is competitive and efficiency is exemplary. Plus, this Vauxhall really hammers home its advantage with what is probably the nicest driving environment in the segment, especially if you opt for the top Sportive version. That model also happens to be the nicest to drive, courtesy of a 95PS diesel engine and a six-speed manual gearbox.

Overall then, this Vauxhall represents a strong all-round package if you need a van that's intentionally small and nippy. It now sets the standard for supermini-derived LCVs of this sort.

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Vauxhall Corsavan

Vauxhall Corsavan

Ford's Fiesta van gets off to a great start in life in being based on their Fiesta supermini. The carrying capacity isn't huge but its driving experience, design and build quality set new standards for the sector.

On the road, if you're familiar with the previous generation Fiesta van, your experience should be that this model has a more solid feel, despite the fact that it's 40kgs lighter. Electrically assisted power steering made its debut on this generation model, technology that has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years, the feeling no longer being as if you were at the wheel of a PlayStation. I particularly like the 'Stall Prevention' feature, designed to help in low speed manoeuvres by altering the engine's ignition profile and preventing that embarrassing stalling moment when there's a queue of traffic behind you.

With most vans, operators will choose diesel power without even thinking about it but with one this small likely to cover very restricted mileages, petrol might still be a viable option, so it's just as well that the 82PS 1.25-litre unit on offer is a pleasant one - and much quieter than the 1.4 and 1.6-litre Dagenham-built common rail injection TDCi diesel options. A key component of the Fiesta passenger car's makeup is its enjoyable driving dynamics and the van version inherits these. Expect lively handling and first-rate manoeuvrability married to a more comfortable ride than owners of the previous generation Fiesta van will have experienced.

A payload range from 490kg to 515kg (significantly more than a Peugeot 207 van but a little less than a Vauxhall Corsavan) gives customers a competitive option for transporting their products. The rear side windows are replaced by body-coloured solid panels, and the rear passenger seats have been removed to provide a load box area of 1,000 cubic litres, with a maximum useable load length of 1,296mm, as well as a maximum load box width of 1,278mm (1,000mm between the wheel arches) and a height of up to 806mm.

The styling of the Fiesta will win it many admirers and operators looking for a compact van that will cut a dash on the city streets will like the wedge-shaped front end as well as the curvy rear. The cabin is similarly avant-garde in its design, with a dashboard control interface based around that of a mobile phone and a clever choice of quality materials.

Ford knows exactly how to build a class-leading supermini-derived van - but then, with a passenger car product as good as the Fiesta to base it on, you'd think that the van version's designers had very little to do to complete an excellent product.

Perhaps the best part about this commercial vehicle is that it doesn't look like one. All the style that marks out the Fiesta car has been transferred over intact - and that should make it a good advert for the kind of small businesses (florists, gardeners and so on) likely to want a vehicle of this kind. Imagining your company logo on the doors? Then you'll know what to do....

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