Toyota Professional is taking a measured approach to building market share with its Proace and City vans. But how does the Toyota offer measure up against its PSA siblings? Dan Gilkes reports.
For Toyota Professional, the automotive giant’s light commercial vehicle division, the mid-weight Proace van is an important opportunity. Admittedly the company is not looking to grab market share at any price, but dealers will be keen to make an impact on this important van sector.
The firm’s fondly-remembered Hiace van had a loyal following and Toyota’s Hilux pick-up continues to sell well to both fleets and smaller business customers. Building on that goodwill, Proace and the recently-launched Proace City, need to be at least as good as anything else on the market.
Of course, both vans are based on award-winning PSA models, which is a good start. However, that means that they are also sold under different brand names, by Peugeot, Citroën and most recently Vauxhall. For Toyota to succeed, it has to offer something that those other manufacturers don’t.
Proace is offered in all three body lengths, known as Compact, Medium and Long. That gives the vans a broad spread of load volumes, from 4.6m3 through to 6.1m3, enough to carry two Europallets in the smallest van and three in the larger pair.
A Smart Cargo flap beneath the twin passenger seat allows for an additional 116cm of load length, or 0.5m3 of carrying volume with the outer seat folded away. Payloads vary according to engine capacity as much as van size. Proace models with a 1.5-litre diesel engine can carry up to around 1,000kg, while those equipped with the 2.0-litre engine get a payload of up to 1,400kg.
The Proace Compact is only offered with a 100hp version of the 1.5-litre diesel engine, coupled with a six-speed manual gearbox. The Medium van can be had with the same combination, or a 120hp version of the 1.5-litre unit. Alternatively, you can specify a 2.0-litre diesel engine, also with 120hp and a six-speed manual gearbox, or a 180hp version with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The 2.0-litre motors are also offered in the Long van chassis.
There are three trim levels on offer. Active is the entry-level, though it is still fairly well equipped with heated mirrors, twin sliding doors, DAB radio with Bluetooth and a steel bulkhead.
Icon adds things like rear parking sensors and air conditioning, the Smart Cargo load-through panel and manual height adjustment for the driver’s seat. Range-topping Design grade adds 17” alloy wheels, body coloured bumpers, door mirror housings and handles, along with the Toyota Safety Sense package. This includes a Pre-Collision System with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, cornering lights and a head-up display. You also get a 7” touchscreen with sat-nav and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Both the Medium and the Long vans can also be ordered in Crew Cab format, or as a Combi people-carrier. These models have their own Combi grade, based on Active trim, with the Combi offering seating for up to nine people.
At the wheel
While it might not be the first choice for many fleets, our test van could well prove a popular option with small business users and self-driving operators. A Medium Proace, equipped with the higher-powered 2.0-litre engine boasting 180hp and 400Nm of torque, has more than enough for a van of this size and weight. It also comes as standard with an eight-speed automatic transmission, that is an absolute joy to use.
Perhaps surprisingly, if you do go for this top of the range combination, it need not cost you at the fuel pumps. Toyota claims a WLTP fuel figure of 36.2-39.2mpg, which compares favourably with a 120hp engine and six-speed manual in the same van, that offers a claimed 35.7-38.6mpg. Likewise, the CO2 emissions are very similar, at 142-148g/km (NEDC) for the lower-powered model and 144g/km for the 180hp engine.
Of course, you will pay a premium initially, with the higher-powered engine and auto box commanding a £2,200 uplift versus the same trim level model with the 120hp and manual gearbox combination. However, it will be interesting to see how much of that premium is retained come resale time, as the range-topper will no doubt prove an equally popular choice on the used market, where Toyota tends to compete well against the competition.
Certainly, whether tackling busy urban traffic or cruising serenely on the motorway, the high-powered 2.0-litre engine and eight-speed auto combination is highly impressive. The transmission slips between gears imperceptibly and always seems to be in the right ratio when you call for an overtaking boost. Yet it is equally happy trundling through traffic, leaving the driver free to concentrate on reading the road ahead and following the navigation instructions that are repeated in the fold-up head-up display on top of the dash.
You can have pretty much the same van with a number of badges on the front. So, has Toyota done enough to differentiate its LCV offer from the PSA trio? It certainly provides customers with another choice, which can’t be a bad thing. Backed up by a strong warranty and a dealer network that is keen to build its presence in the van market, Proace should indeed prove popular with its target audience.
Toyota Proace Design Medium 2.0 Auto
Basic price £29,690 Engine 4-cyl 1,997cc Power 180bhp @ 3,750 Torque 400Nm @ 2,000
Gvw 2,760 Kerb weight 1,681 Payload 1,079 Max trailer weight 2,300
Load space length 3,674 Load space width 1,636 Load space height 1,397 Width between w/arches 1,258 Load height (unladen) 613 Load volume 5.8
Fuel tank capacity 69 Combined fuel consumption 36.2-39.2mpg (wltp) Carbon dioxide emissions 209g/km (wltp) Oil change 2 years/25,000 miles Warranty 5 years/100,000 miles