What is it?
With the exception of the Ford Transit and the Iveco Daily, every 3.5-tonne panel van on sale in the UK is built in collaboration with two or more manufacturers.
Research and development costs are so astronomical nowadays that experts reckon it takes sales of at least 100,000 units a year for a manufacturer to break even after all the upfront costs have been factored in.
Even best-seller Ford doesn’t shift that many Transits in the UK in a year.
Vauxhall’s strategy is typical of this new method of third millennium manufacturing.
It rebadges the Fiat Doblo Cargo as the Vauxhall Combo and has a long-standing agreement with Renault to rebadge the Renault Trafic as the Vivaro and the Renault Master as the van on test here, the Vauxhall Movano. The Master, by the way, also appears in a modified format as the Nissan NV400.
Whether you choose the Movano, Master or NV400 probably depends on individual preferences, or you may, say, choose the British Griffin if there is a handy Vauxhall dealer nearby. Either way, all three manufacturers now offer excellent back-up for van operators.
The latest models can be ordered in front or rear wheel drive and gross vehicle weights for the Movano now go up to 4.5 tonnes (note that these bigger models need an O-licence and tachograph to operate).
The EcoFLEX moniker – adopted by Vauxhall for its car range back in 2009 and rolled out over the van range since – denotes that there have been a few tweaks and twiddles under the bonnet to make the variant more environmentally-friendly.
And that means extra economical on fuel, too, which we reckon is likely to be of more interest to you van buyers.
Fuel is the biggest cost of a van after the initial purchase and even 1mpg difference equates to a saving of around £400 over an 80,000-mile fleet lifecycle. That’s worth having.
Our Vauxhall Movano EcoFLEX review vehicle is the long wheelbase high roof EcoFLEX which, despite its large size, is slated to return a healthy 37.2mpg on the combined cycle.
Under the bonnet goes a 2.3-litre turbodiesel powerplant offering 100bhp and 285Nm of torque, while payload is 1530kg and load volume is 13 cubic metres.
- That healthy fuel economy figure is one reason that this van should appeal to van operators. It’s a pretty chunky performer and will lug masses of cargo around, so the possibility of returning nearly 40mpg is a pretty good sales story.
- We also like the fact that the Movano has yards of black plastic all round to help protect it from annoying knocks and scrapes.
- It’s a big climb into the cab, which means you get a great view of the road ahead. The seats are amazingly comfortable and supportive and there are all sorts of little handy extras in the cab such as a mobile phone socket on top of the dash, a handy desk that can be pulled down from the back of the middle seat and an A4 document clip (see pictures).
- There are also two coffee cup holders right where they are needed near the driver’s and passengers’ hands. That’s something certain rivals don’t have, much to my personal annoyance as an avid coffee drinker!
- In the rear, there’s enough space for an average person to stand upright – a really useful feature when there is lots of loading and unloading to do – and there are an unprecedented 10 load-lashing eyes. That’s a record, we reckon.
- On the road, the 100bhp on offer won’t exactly set the road alight but max torque comes in at such a low rev figure (1,250rpm) that this engine feels more powerful at low speeds than it really is. And this is an eco model don’t forget, so you wouldn’t expect huge amounts of power.
- Another big plus point is that with the advancement of engine technology and metal quality, service intervals are now 25,000 miles or two years, whichever comes first. That not only means less downtime but Vauxhall reckons that servicing costs are now 25% lower than on the old model.
- Vauxhall also offers a free accident management service for owners which includes roadside recovery, liaison with insurers, a replacement vehicle and repairs at an approved Vauxhall bodyshop. Can’t be bad!
- Be warned that the official fuel economy figure is calibrated with the van empty and on a rolling road, so you are unlikely to achieve the official fuel economy figure with it loaded down to the gills and belting up and down the M6.
- The other problem is that the stop-start system, admirable as it is, only makes a difference in urban use. As this van is more likely to be used for long distance motorway stuff, stop-start won’t make a tad of difference.
- On the safety front, Electronic Stability Control (ESC), which helps prevent sideways skids, is only standard on rear-wheel drive models.
- This safety device has been feted as the best invention since the seatbelt and will be a legal requirement on all new vans after October 2014, so we think it’s a shame Vauxhall hasn’t pre-empted this piece of legislation. ESC is standard already on rivals Ford Transit, Fiat Ducato, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Iveco Daily and Volkswagen Crafter.
Business Vans Verdict
The $64,000 question must be: Is it worth opting for the ecoFLEX model over the standard rival?
On paper, the answer is yes. The greener versions costs £290 more but over the course of an 80,000-mile life, according to the official figures, it will use 116 gallons less fuel, thus making a saving of £431 with fuel at £6.22 a gallon.
The problem, as stated above, is that you are never likely to achieve the official mpg figure and every mile per gallon less you do achieve will eat into that savings figure.
Nevertheless, if your delivery schedule include city stops, that’s when the van comes into element. Movano or Movano ecoFLEX? Make your choice depending on your delivery routes.
What you need to know
|On the road price (as tested)||£25,553|
|Load length (max)||3733mm|
|Load width (max)||1765mm|
|Load capacity (max, seats up)||13cu m|
|Towing capacity braked/unbraked||2500kg/750kg|
|Engine||2.3-litre, 4-cyl turbodiesel|