Nearing tax time and the end of the financial year, business owners start to look at the prospect of a new van. The question is, should they be shopping in the medium or large segment?
In business, size does matter!
It’s nearing the end of the financial year and sales of vans and work vehicles, in general, climb as businesses look to upgrade their fleet with the smartest tax advantage. One of the questions we get asked a lot is whether a potential van buyer should opt for a small or large van. More specifically here, we’ve brought together two LDVs – one medium and one large – to weigh up the differences and find the strong points of each.
We’ve got the 2021 LDV G10 and the 2021 LDV Deliver 9 to size up, with the curiosity being the 9 is actually larger than the 10. Numbers and naming conventions aside, it’s worth noting that the G10 sits in the space where the Toyota HiAce dominates (medium van segment) while the Deliver 9 steps it up to the properly large van segment where options are plentiful but buyers sometimes baulk at the space they occupy on the road.
The fact we have LDVs here is incidental. We’re using LDVs to illustrate the differences (because we could get our hands on two at once), but you could be making this decision between any two vans from any manufacturer, or two different vans from two different manufacturers. The key is working out whether a medium van or a large van is the smartest choice for you and your business needs. Seeing them together helps to illustrate the differences between the two.
The question of whether you need a larger van doesn’t just come down to price, but to what you need to do with it specifically. If you’re a delivery driver or tradie who spends a lot of time in shopping centre car parks or underground loading docks, for example, the Deliver 9 isn’t for you. It’s simply too big to be practical for those tasks. Too tall, specifically.
Likewise, if you spend a lot of time working your way through congested city streets, the Deliver 9 – despite its driving competence – might not be the best option. That’s the other key point to make here: large vans don’t feel like large vans anymore when you’re driving them. They are significantly easier to drive than they used to be.
One thing’s for sure, and we mention it nearly every time we test a van of any size. If you take into account the usable space on offer, the fact that everything is securely locked up, the lighting (when it’s well attended to from the factory), and the low load height, vans make a lot more sense for a lot more workers than dual-cab ute offerings do, despite their undoubted popularity.
Okay, the scene is set. Now let’s try to help you work out which size van works best for you.
Starting with the smaller G10 which is also an older platform, you can opt for either a petrol or diesel engine, with the range starting from $32,621 drive-away, retail or $30,990 drive-away for ABN holders. Our test G10 with a diesel engine and auto transmission starts from $34,726 drive-away or $32,990 for businesses.
The Deliver 9 we’re testing here is the long wheelbase, mid roof model in LDV-speak, meaning there is also a LWB high roof model, or a shorter mid wheelbase with mid roof. Our tester starts from $42,095 drive-away, or $39,990 drive-away for businesses while the high roof asks for $44,200 drive-away, or $41,990 drive-away for ABN holders. At this size of the range for LDV, it’s diesel only.
The G10 is powered by a choice of 2.0-litre turbo petrol, or the more popular 1.9-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine we have here, which generates 106kW and 350Nm. It’s matched to a ZF six-speed automatic gearbox as tested, with a six-speed manual also available. The combined fuel claim is a frugal 8.6L/100km.
Weighing in at 1990kg, its GVM is 3000kg. Cargo volume is 5.2 cubic metres, and it can tow up to 1500kg with trailer brakes. The 11.8m turning circle is a good one for working around town in tight spaces. There’s a three-year/100,000km warranty along with roadside assistance.
Standard equipment includes anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, electronic stability control, emergency brake assist, roll movement intervention, cruise control, Bluetooth phone connectivity, Apple CarPlay, 7.0-inch infotainment screen, tyre pressure monitoring, rear-view camera, parking sensors, power side mirrors and a tilt-adjustable steering wheel.
The G10 does miss out on tech like autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warning, which is largely due to the age of the platform. Older models from competitors such as the Renault Master, Mitsubishi Express and Hyundai iMax also miss out on the same safety tech.
The Deliver 9 gets a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine, meaning despite the physical size, its engine specs aren’t that different to the G10 on paper. There’s 108kW and 375Nm on offer, and another six-speed automatic transmission. Claimed fuel consumption is unavailable, but we used 9.9L/100km, mainly around town during our test.
The big boy weighs in at 2300kg, and the GVM is 4000kg. Cargo volume steps up to 10.97 cubic metres and the tow rating is 2800kg with trailer brakes. The turning circle stretches out to 14.2m, which is where the tight city confines start to get harder to negotiate. Deliver 9 gets a three-year/160,000km warranty with roadside assistance also.
Standard equipment includes anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist, hill hold assist, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, rear parking sensors, wide rear-view camera, electric heated exterior mirrors, single sliding door, 180-degree rear barn doors, 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and a 4.1-inch LCD instrument cluster.
You’re not going to sit in the driver’s seat of a medium van and think to yourself that it’s too small. Or that it doesn’t have enough space in general for that matter. However, switch from the medium into the large back-to-back and there’s a tangible difference to the feeling behind the wheel. And I mean that looking forward and next to you, not back into the massive void behind your head.
While rear and side visibility is more expansive out of the smaller option here, we preferred the higher-riding seating position and forward visibility that you get from the large van. The fact that the larger van doesn’t actually feel too hefty on the road – more on that soon – doesn’t detract from that initial impression either.
In this instance, the G10 is starting to feel its age, but if we use the segment-best Toyota HiAce as the high-watermark, the cabins of medium vans have moved ahead massively. Safety is now taken seriously rather than optionally, and the seats are genuinely comfortable rather than resembling park benches with some cheap material tossed on top. I always found it confounding that, in the past, the owners who spent the most time in their vehicles were so badly treated by manufacturers.
That’s all changed now and the medium van segment has comfort, storage, safety and insulation across nearly every brand. You feel more like you’re sitting into the van than on top of it like you used to in the bad old days. Features like smartphone integration, rear-view cameras and switchgear that feels more car-like than truck-like, make for a pleasurable driving experience no matter how long you’re behind the wheel.
Move into the large van though, and the feeling of space and airiness is magnified significantly. The forward glasshouse has a lot to do with that, but so too does the seating position and high roof point. In the case of these LDVs, the revised Deliver 9 also feels a generation newer in terms of tech and controls, with a much better screen.
We preferred the seating position and comfort offered by the larger van, but that’s as much to do with the updating of the platform as the size of the platform, I think. Both offered enough useful storage, both need a partition to insulate the cabin in our opinion, and both are comfortable enough to spend hours up front doing the work you need to do.
Storage specifically is an interesting one. As technology has evolved and following on from a period of carrying gadgets with you in the cabin, we’re back to simplifying our work kit to some degree. You see fewer folders, sat navs, windscreen mounts and paperwork than you used to. Now, you’re more likely to see a keep cup, phone mount and iPad dock. To that end, both medium and large vans offer plentiful storage. Bottles and coffee cups are accommodated, and there are usually places to stow valuable items out of harm’s way as well.
This is where the Deliver 9 really makes a – pardon the pun – big impression. If you need load space, the G10 can’t match what’s on offer from its bigger sibling. That’s to be expected, but when it comes to either sheer size or the ability to customise the load space to suit a specific application, the big van segment really does offer a lot more to the buyer.
The G10 is 5168mm long, 1980mm wide and 1928mm high. The aforementioned 5.2 cubic metres is what the G10 can offer, along with cargo space that's 2500mm in length, 1590mm at its widest point, 1270mm height and 1278mm between the rear wheel arches. The rear door opens to 1370mm wide, 1179mm tall and the side doors retract to provide an 820mm opening. The side door aperture is 1165mm high.
We recommend that almost all vans need a cab partition fitted (as already noted) and that’s the case with the G10. In addition, the G10 carries on with much older lighting technology, that isn’t as bright or useful as the new segment standard-setters. Lights might seem like a minor consideration, but if you’ve ever tried to load or unload a van in the dark, good lights (overhead especially) make a massive difference. The fact that you might not have to upgrade them yourself is a bonus the way we see it.
Further, almost all vans benefit from lining the side walls – not all manufacturers have it as an option – as well as adding more extensive tie-downs and retainers. Sometimes adding tie downs that actually work and are robust enough. Few vans provide enough ties downs standard, especially for those buyers with specific needs to strap items into place.
The other addition we’d always advocate for is a non-slip rubber floor mat, which the G10 has. It is also lined at the lower section of the sides, which is a good fit, but we’d advocate for lining the top section as well if you’re not fitting shelves or toolboxes.
The Deliver 9 is a big van in every sense and parked next to each other as you can see in the video, there’s an appreciable difference between the two. It’s 5940mm long, 2062mm wide, and 2535mm high. There is 10.97 cubic metres of storage, made up by 3413mm in length inside the cargo section, 1800mm in width, 1792mm in height and 1366mm between the wheel arches. The rear door opens to a width of 1570mm, a height of 1656mm and the side door opens to 1269mm. Its height is 1570mm.
The Deliver 9 would also benefit from a cargo space partition, and it also has rubber mats as standard along with lining at the lower sections of the cargo walls. Crucially for us, it has super bright LED lighting, which is so bright at night most people would think you’d fitted it afterwards. It makes a huge difference when you’re working in the back section in low light and is something all vans should feature.
You’ll see in the video that the real difference between the two van segments comes with the loading and unloading they offer. If you move motorcycles around, for example, you can simply roll them up a ramp and walk into the back of a large van like the Deliver 9, whereas the medium segment requires you to duck and be more aware as you load and unload. That’s just one example of course, and it’s also fair to say that not everyone needs to transport motorcycles. Plenty of people need to step into and out of their van though.
Once inside the large vans, most of us can stand up straight without whacking our head on the roof, and the sheer size of the cargo space means you can make plenty of the flexibility if you need or want to. Shop-fitters or builders, for example, will be able to use racks, storage, mounts and lockable bins to keep their tools safe and to transport everything they need for work. Of course, if you know you need to transport items that are large, then the large van segment might be the only one that works for you.
Medium vans work neatly around town, and the twin sliding doors are a real benefit for delivery drivers, couriers and the like. If you need to arrange the van in the morning before heading out on a run for the day, the fact that you can effectively work from three different sides of the van is incredibly flexible.
This element is where the biggest surprise comes. Spend some time in a Toyota HiAce, Mercedes-Benz Vito, Hyundai iMax, LDV G10 as we have here, Renault Trafic or Ford Transit Custom to name a few, and you’ll be surprised by how well they handle the daily grind. Medium vans have come a long way.
The unladen ride is beyond acceptable now, but it does settle down as you start to add weight. That’s the be expected though. What you might not expect though is the quality of the steering, the competence of the braking, and the general feeling of balance as you roll around town.
Engines and gearboxes play their part here, too, of course, and the G10’s turbo diesel is pretty handy. 106kW isn’t anything to write a symphony about, but peak torque is meaty enough to get the G10 up to speed easily and keep it there without feeling out of breath. That’s true of all the diesel engines in this segment – there’s a neat balance of ability and efficiency.
Surprisingly, the Deliver 9 does pretty well with what should be a diminutive engine, too. No, it’s not ‘sporty’, but it gets to work with ease. All the features we note in the medium segment ring true in the large segment. All the driver inputs are starting to get better and better with each update and new model.
You need to factor in the longer wheelbase in the large segment and make allowances for that at tight corners, and into or out of, tight driveways. Once you get your head around the dimensions it’s honestly no more difficult to drive than its smaller sibling.
Visibility plays a big part, and the fact that we preferred the bigger van’s seating position continued once on the move. You really do feel in command of the road ahead of you behind the wheel in this segment, and the removal of truck-like inputs and feedback means you can enjoy driving without much of the worry people associate with large vehicles.
It’s hard to find fault with almost all the drivelines offered across these segments. Even the ones that have been around and are due for a replacement aren’t horrible anymore, and smooth gearboxes assist more modern engines to use less fuel and work more effectively around town. Out on the highway for a short run, both these vans loped into an effortless 100km/h cruise. The big vans do pick up more wind on the freeway, but again, that’s to be expected.
Which one works for you?
As we stated at the top of this review, our choice of vans here was incidental, and this wasn’t a competition between the two, so there is no real ‘winner’ in a numbers sense here. As such, we’ve mirrored our single review scoring for both vans in this story.
It’s no real surprise though that personal preference and the usage case are the two things you’re going to have to think about long and hard before you buy a van that is either medium or large. However, one thing became patently clear to us after a week with these two – and it should be part of the thought process for buyers.
There is nothing to be worried about if you do decide that a large van is the smartest way to spend your money. It really is that simple. Buyers tell us that they worry about stepping up to that larger segment purely by virtue of how ungainly they imagine the driving experience to be. They needn’t. Not when you take into account how far forward the larger vans have come in terms of balance, ride, steering, braking and general road manners.
Vans of any size are getting better all the time, and they are now easier to live with than they ever have been, too. It seems tradies and delivery drivers are finally being given the manufacturer respect they deserve, and that’s a good thing. That’s why the Toyota HiAce heads up the medium van segment for us as clearly as it does.
If you find, after doing your research, that a large van will work for you, don’t hesitate. Just make sure you print out the roof height and keep it near the sunvisor or somewhere handy until you get used to the fact that it’s a fair bit taller than the medium segment.