The Fleet World Honours Car Awards took place at the Royal Automobile Club in Central London on the 21st May, bringing together representatives of all of the major UK car and van manufacturers with the luminaries of the fleet world.
Big fleets are key buyers for many van models, and all manufacturers are keen to do well in this key sector, where a few big orders can help baseline production planning for an entire year.
In the van sector, awards went to a wide variety of models from almost all the main manufacturers. Here’s a rundown of the highlights:
Best Light Van
- Peugeot Bipper / Fiat Fiorino / Citroën Nemo
Peugeot’s pint-sized van (which is also sold as the Fiat Fiorino and Citroën Nemo) bagged one of two awards for makers PSA, thanks to its large, flexible load area and modern, economic diesel engines, which combine to make the Bipper extremely practical and affordable, as well as being easy to drive.
Best Small Van
- Fiat Doblò Cargo / Vauxhall Combo
Fiat’s recently updated Doblò Cargo model is the first LCV to have a bi-link rear suspension, which permits a rear axle load of up to 1,450kg and provides a smooth ride and lower loading height, according to the manufacturer.
The van, which is also sold as the Vauxhall Combo, has already won the International Van of the Year award, and Fleet World’s John Kendall said:
“Low fuel consumption and emissions, the option of automated transmission, and a crew van option … the Work-Up pick-up model and the recently added XL long wheelbase high roof model … gives Fiat Professional one of the broadest model offerings at this weight.”
The Vauxhall Combo isn’t available in Work-Up spec, so if a small pick-up is what you’re after, you’ll have to choose the Italian option.
Best Medium Van
- Ford Transit Custom
In what must surely be a record, the Ford Transit Custom took home three awards from the Fleet World Honours — Best Medium Van, Best New Van and the Innovation Award.
The Transit Custom has proved a massive hit with the motoring trade press and has scored an impressive five stars in its first Euro NCAP safety test, so I guess the next test will be how popular it is with actual buyers.
Ford says the new model has already sold 3,100 units, and the Fleet World judges said that the new model won the Best New Van and Best Medium Van categories thanks to its “extended service intervals of two years/30,000 miles, reduced ownership costs, and a significant uplift in residual values – all helping to benefit fleet customers”.
Best Large Van
- Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
There’s only one Mercedces Sprinter, and however hard other manufacturers try to emulate the success of the mighty Sprinter, they tend to fail. The Sprinter picked up the Best Large Van award thanks to its comprehensive range of variants, advanced safety systems, robust quality and diverse appeal.
As Fleet World’s John Kendall pointed out: “A new model is due in the autumn and it says a lot for the current design that Mercedes will not be changing the basic structure.”
- Isuzu D-Max
The Isuzu D-Max has been well received since its 2012 launch and has cemented the Japanese manufacturer’s reputation for robust off-road vehicles, while allowing it to move into the lucrative leisure and dual-use market, as Fleet World’s John Kendall explains:
“With the introduction of high specification double-cab models, the company now appeals equally to dual-use and leisure users.
Isuzu has also taken an innovative approach to distribution, marketing its utility models through an unusual spread of dealers, including agricultural machinery outlets and competitive 4×4 dealers. Good to drive, with strong performance and frugal economy, the D-Max range is a big step in the right direction for Isuzu.”
Mercedes-Benz has an outstanding record of fitting safety systems to its commercial vehicles (and cars) and it remains the class standard in this field, although the new Citan’s three-star Euro NCAP score was a little disappointing.
Commenting on the award, John Kendall said:
Mercedes-Benz was the first van manufacturer to offer Electronic Stability Program on the Sprinter 11 years ago and is the only van manufacturer to fit the safety system as standard to all its vans – Citan, Vito and Sprinter.
- Peugeot Partner Electric/Citroën Berlingo Electric
PSA’s second award went to the Berlingo Electric/Partner Electric.
This model has only been on sale a short time, but Fleet World Van Editor John Kendall says that it “demonstrates how EV prices are continuing to fall with a list price starting from £21,300 (ex-VAT), making it an affordable alternative to a conventionally powered van.”
The Partner Electric has a quoted range of up to 105 miles and also offers a rapid charge facility to address range anxiety issues.
Van Manufacturer of the Year
In addition to its three van awards for the Transit Custom, Ford won the Design of the Year Award for the new, pillarless Ford B-Max SUV and it bagged the Van Manufacturer of the Year award for its continued innovation and market-leading new model range.
Commenting on the award, Fleet World Managing Editor Ross Durkin said:
“This was without doubt the hardest year ever for the judges. The industry is seeing the introduction of some really exciting new products and technologies, and Ford is continuing to lead the way.”
The new Ford Transit Custom is the first in a series of Ford commercial vehicle launches, to be followed this year by the new Ford Transit Connect, and next year by the all-new Ford Transit (two-tonne model) and all-new Ford Transit Courier.