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Iveco is a brand that truckies will know, but tradies may not.
Borne of mixed heritage around 1975, the original Industrial Vehicles Corporation – branded Iveco as it rolls off the tongue a little easier – was a conglomeration of Italian, German and French brands. Today, the light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicle manufacturer sells its vehicles in more than 160 countries.
It wouldn’t be of any surprise to us if the Iveco Daily van and cab-chassis range didn’t ring a bell with the everyday automotive consumer. But these models are close in size and intent to the venerable Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, and the likes of the Renault Master, Ford Transit and the Iveco’s sort-of-twin-under-the-skin, the Fiat Ducato.
Like the Benz, Renault and Ford, the Daily model can be had as a van in multiple sizes and derivations, and as a cab-chassis utility in single- and dual-cab configurations. The single-cab version can be optioned with a factory-fitted three-way tipper – it can tilt to either side of the vehicle, or rearwards.
Prices start at $46,147 plus on-road costs for the smallest van, up to $69,330 plus costs for the big boy tested here. The cab-chassis models range from $48,843 through to $69,552 for the rear-drive versions, while the hardcore (and soon-to-be-updated) Daily 4x4 ranges between $88,000 and $94,000.
Being that this model clearly has ties with Fiat (and Chrysler, Jeep, Maserati and Alfa Romeo), there are familiarities when you sit in the cabin of the Iveco Daily.
The media system is a re-do of the UConnect unit seen in some of those passenger models; the knobs and dials could be straight out of a Giulietta; the key is the same assembly as the one they hand you when you buy a Fiat 500; and the instrument cluster – if it had the acqua and benzina descriptors – would be Alfa all over. Oh, but there are no petrol engines, so that wouldn’t work…
The media system – IVECONNECT, as the brand calls it – is simple to use, with an easy to learn menu and touch layout, and clear satellite navigation mapping, too. The Daily model comes with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming for you to stay connected on the road, USB and 12-volt inputs to keep your devices charged, and even a CD player (which is becoming rarer by the day) for your tunes.
That aside, there is no mistaking this for anything but a mish-mash product of Fiat lineage. One of our test cars had unmistakably Italian fit and finish – the gearshift boot fell out on one van, while in another vehicle there was a gap of a few centimetres where the grab handle ended and the roof-lining began.
Otherwise, though, the cabin is impressive. The seats are comfortable and offer good support, particularly those fitted with the pneumatic air-suspension driver’s chair. All Daily vans and single-cab models have three seats standard (you can option a single pneumatic passenger seat), and the dual-cab-chassis versions have seven (three in the front, four in the back).
The vision from the driver’s seat is good, too, with excellent mirror adjustment, and while we drove the lengthy 50C21 version, with 2100 millimetres of internal height and a massive 20 cubic metres of cargo space.
The load area itself spans 5125mm long, 1740mm wide (and 1320mm between the wheel arches - or 1030mm in dual-wheel configuration), and depending on which gross vehicle mass (GVM) version you choose – 4495 or 5200 kilograms with the dual rear wheel layout – there is a payload of either 1804kg or 2509kg.
Further, with 14 floor-mounted tie-down hooks, most buyers will be able to keep their loads secure. And with 270-degree rear folding doors, not to mention a lock-open side door (only one, but you can option dual side sliders) with a broad 1260mm wide by 1800mm tall aperture, loading in and out should be easy enough. Mind the load-in height, though, which is a little tall at 1070mm.
With so much space, a van of this size needs a willing engine.
The engine in question in the vehicles we tested was a 3.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder with 150kW of power and 470Nm of torque from 1400-3000rpm. The Daily is rear-drive, and gear changes are taken care of by an eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF. Yeah, the same guys that do Jaguar’s gearboxes.
There was zero chance to see how the vehicle would cope with a load on board, which was disappointing. But with two adult occupants it went, as you may expect, quite well.
The engine revs smoothly, with little in the way of turbo lag and a level of precision from the gearbox that rival models can’t match. The fact this is a proper automatic, rather than an automated manual, means you don’t need to ease of the throttle between shifts, and there was no lurching to it whatsoever.
The transmission has manual mode, as you’d expect, and it also has a Power Mode, which makes the gearbox act a little more aggressively. Brake into a corner and it will downshift and blip the throttle as it finds the right gear, but in order to use the most of the engine’s torque, it won’t stay in a lower gear, instead upshifting to keep revs low, because that’s where the pulling power is.
Our drive was brief to say the least, but we certainly got a feel for the vehicle’s stability and control – not to mention its stability control – on a wet skid pan and on a race track. Yeah, they took us to race track to test a cargo van.
The steering was surprisingly accurate, if a little slow to turn, on a tight, cone-laden slalom course, and the stability control system didn’t particularly like throttle being applied with any lock on the wheel. The suspension - independent front suspension with torsion beam, and rear leaf springs (airbags at the rear are optional) - seemingly does a decent job of ironing out bumps in the road, though there weren't many to be found on the track and the skid pan.
The big, long Iveco van shrinks around you, and it was actually kind of fun – in a perverse way – to punt around the track. With 1500kg of boxes in the rear, that may not be the case.
Van operators will be pleased to know that the Iveco Daily comes with a 36-month/200,000km warranty. Buyers will also get two years of free servicing, with intervals every 40,000km or 12 months.
And fleet buyers will be impressed with the safety credentials of the Daily. The van comes with a reverse-view camera as standard as part of the 2016 update from June 1 (at that time, all vans will have a camera, but cab-chassis availability is dependent on configuration), and the van also has four airbags fitted as standard (dual front and dual side/curtain).
Electronic stability control is standard, too, and includes hill hold assist, trailer sway control and mass-sensitive reactivity.
Our first impressions are that the 2016 Iveco Daily could be a real contender in the large van segment - couriers and tradespeople should investigate this brand if they haven’t done so already.