Iveco shows it is well placed for local urban distribution – Words and Images by Brenton O’Connor.

With the massive growth in e-commerce and online business, including a grocery home delivery trend led by the likes of Coles and Woolworths, light trucks sales have risen dramatically.

When someone is contemplating purchasing either a single van or a fleet of light trucks, the typical default position is to consider Japanese cab-over-engine trucks from Isuzu, Hino and Fuso. However, as we found out with this test, there are a range of different alternatives worth an inspection.

When it comes to car-licensed trucks (under 4500 kg GVM), in addition to the Japanese cab-over-engine variants, the competition broadens to encompass semi-bonneted European cab chassis offerings including the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Volkswagen Transporter, and Iveco Daily. These vehicles offer a number of advantages over their Japanese rivals, including higher levels of occupant safety, increased comfort levels, and easier entry and exit to the driver’s cabin.

The vehicle tested in this report was the Iveco Daily 45C/50C17A8 cab chassis, which is car-licensed at a GVM of 4495 kg.

Behind the cab was mounted an A & J Pantech lightweight body (built and fitted in Australia), which also sported a Dhollandia 750kg tuck-away tailgate to make for safer and easier loading and unloading. All up, this rendered a very useful payload of approximately 1200 kg.

Pricing including on-road costs (based upon Victorian registration) is $76,800, which − given that price includes automatic transmission, body, tailgate, and other accessories – represents good value.

The Daily is powered by Iveco’s own 3.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine, with an output of 170 hp (127 kW) and 430 Nm of torque. An impressive feature of the Daily is its transmission, which is only rivaled by Mercedes’ 7G-Tronic in the Sprinter. The Daily has the excellent ZF eight-speed torque converter transmission, and despite its odd gearshift lever, in terms of shifting patterns, it provides a most excellent transmission and is a world apart from the slow and clunky automated manuals fitted to some of its rivals.

The Daily provided was a fleet-spec vehicle, so options were kept to a minimum. Some useful features were fitted locally, including front parking sensors and a rear-vision camera, although the viewing screen was mounted in the otherwise redundant rear-vision mirror (the body blocks the view) and was difficult to view clearly.

The interior of the Daily is smart, with modern looks and visually appealing black interior parts with blue trim elements. The driver’s seat is a bucket seat, and whilst quite firm, was nonetheless comfortable. There is a two-passenger bench seat for co-drivers.

As mentioned earlier, the interior has very easy access. This is crucial for health and safety standards relating to the type of work this vehicle is likely to be doing, such as courier/parcel deliveries, with the driver entering and exiting the vehicle many times during the shift. The exterior-view mirrors are excellent − the best I’ve experienced − as the vision isn’t impeded by the two-piece window on the drivers’ door as experienced when driving its main competitor. The mirror heads are themselves electrically adjustable and heated.

Engine power is certainly restrained; however, I feel it’s adequate for this type of vehicle. For those wanting more power, there are variants available with higher power ratings.

Engine noise intrusion is higher than expected, particularly under acceleration. This was noticeable as we carried 714 kg of cargo to simulate how the vehicle will react in relation to power, braking, steering and ride quality.

My least favourite feature of the Daily (and in other Dailys I’ve driven previously), is the brake feel. The pedal is quite spongy and requires more pressure than one would normally expect to apply to ensure a decent level of braking. That’s not to say the vehicle doesn’t have adequate brakes; just that the feel could certainly improve.

The ride quality of the Daily is comfortable but firm, and the steering effort is supported by adequate levels of power assistance to make maneuvering the vehicle not too laborious in tight spaces such as car parks. The steering column adjusts for both height and reach simultaneously, so it’s not hard to find a comfortable driving position. Despite being a semi-bonneted vehicle, the Daily still has great levels of visibility, as the bonnet is very steeply sloped to almost equate to driving a cab-over model.

The Daily range includes 40,000 km service intervals (or 12 months) in order to keep it on the road as much as possible, and the warranty included is three years/200,000 km − extendable at additional cost. Iveco also offers peace-of-mind contracts that include both routine servicing and maintenance repairs for the period of ownership, which helps with cash flow for many businesses.

For those wishing to up-spec their van, a number of option packs are available for additional cost. The Business Premium Pack includes a reverse warning buzzer, IVECONNECT multimedia system with GPS (rather than a single-DIN AM/FM radio) and integrated fog lights. This option seems both worthwhile practically and for safety, particularly as many sites now demand commercial vehicles be fitted with a reverse buzzer for pedestrian safety.

The Comfort Pack includes padded headrests, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and an automatic climate control system that maintain a constant in-cabin temperature throughout the day.

The Efficiency Pack is designed to help cut the running costs of the vehicle. It includes the ECO switch function, to shift gears at lower RPM to help preserve fuel. Also included is a dash-mounted engine oil display to avoid the driver needing to tilt the bonnet to check engine oil. Iveco’s LDWS (lane departure warning system) for safe lane changing in traffic is also part of the package and is particularly useful in heavy traffic due to the blind spots endured by commercial vehicles.

All in all, the Daily cab chassis is a good package, offering a range of advantages over its main competitor in the light truck space, the Japanese cab-over light truck. European levels of driver comfort & safety, including strong advantages in terms of cabin entry and exit, should appeal to owner-drivers and fleets alike.

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