by Dan Gilkes
Toyota is looking to expand in the light commercial vehicle market. Already one of the world’s biggest automotive manufacturers, the Japanese company has never taken much of a share of the van market, despite the evergreen appeal of its Hilux pick-up. That changed a couple of years ago, with the launch of the Proace mid-weight van, based on the same PSA model as the Citroën Dispatch, Peugeot Expert and more recently the Vauxhall Vivaro.
Though hardly rushing to the top of the sales charts, Proace has been a success for Toyota, establishing a foothold in the sector and offering dealers a chance to get back into the mainstream van market, following the demise of Hiace some years ago. The company has captured around 1% of the UK market. That might not sound like much, but with a focus on SMEs and small business customers and little interest in high volume, low margin national fleet buyers, the company is pretty much where it wants to be.
Now Toyota is looking to the compact van market, a totally new sector for its dealers, but one that should suit the network well. The company has again called upon its alliance with PSA for the launch of the Proace City, which of course owes much to the Citroën Berlingo, Peugeot Partner and Vauxhall Combo.
Toyota will offer Proace City in an L1 body, with 650kg or 1,000kg payloads, or a longer L2 model with a single load capacity of 950kg. L1 models have a load volume of 3.3m3, while the L2 van can hold up to 3.9m3. That means that two Euro pallets can be carried in either model. In common with many competitors, the two vans are available with Toyota’s Smart Cargo system, a folding outer passenger seat and load-through bulkhead. This delivers an additional 0.4m3 of load volume, adding up to 1.3m to the maximum load length. Both vans can be equipped with a towbar, with up to a 1.5-tonne towing limit.
You can choose between two 1.5-litre diesel engines. The shorter L1 van is offered with 75hp or 100hp, while the L2 is limited to the more powerful motor. Both engines get five-speed manual gearboxes and the drive goes to the front wheels. Toyota UK has no plans to bring in the Dangel 4×4 conversion currently being offered by Vauxhall on Combo.
Buyers can expect fuel consumption of up to 51.36mpg, with emissions of 145g/km (WLTP) for the lower-powered engine. They can also expect to visit the dealer every 25,000-miles or two years for regular maintenance.
Toyota is opting for two trim levels, with Active expected to account for 30% of the UK sales mix. Though the entry-level model, Active vans come with a DAB radio, auto headlights, manual air-conditioning, twin sliding side doors, heated mirrors and steel wheels. The Smart Cargo folding seat and load-through bulkhead is optional.
Icon trim is likely to account for 70% of sales. It gets Smart Cargo as standard, along with a Display Audio infotainment system with Apple and Android connectivity. Front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, cruise control and the option of a Toyota Safety Sense safety and security pack are all available.
Standard safety and driver assistance systems include stability control, hill-start assist, downhill assist, a tyre pressure warning system and eCall. If you go for that optional safety pack, you add a pre-collision system, Road Sign Assist, Lane Departure Alert and a driver tiredness alert.
The company is continuing to develop its network of Toyota Professional dealers, to specialise in van sales. Toyota currently has 180 car dealers in the UK, all of which can sell vans. Of that number, 25 are LCV specialists. However, as many as 117 of those outlets will become Toyota Professional specialists within the next few months. All promise van service availability within seven days, along with LCV sales and service specialists.
Proace has re-established Toyota as a player in the UK van market, particularly with SMEs and owner drivers. Proace City should help to cement that foothold, appealing even more to newcomers to the LCV sector and offering existing customers a wider range of vehicles to meet their differing needs.
There is still no talk of a large van for Toyota, but the company already has plans for electric drive. The Proace Electric will be launched in 2021, with Proace City Electric expected a year later. Given the company’s experience of the hybrid and alternative drive market, through its car lines, these should be equally well received by both dealers and customers.