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What Van? Awards 2012: The big winners

Date: 06 December 2011

Kangoo Z.E. with charging point

The prestigious What Van? Awards are traditionally among the most sought after in the light commercial vehicle industry. Paul Barker looks at the winners and losers in the 2012 list

The 2012 What Van? Awards will be remembered for being the first time a niche technology moved into the mainstream.

The pioneering Renault Kangoo ZE is our sister magazine's Van of the Year, the first time the top prize has been awarded to an electric model. The key to the judge's decision was the combination of financial and operational common sense and driver ease that the Kangoo ZE offers, with Renault pricing the vehicle at as little as £16,990 plus a monthly battery lease charge.

The What Van? verdict when it first drove the Kangoo ZE was how unremarkable it is to drive compared to a conventional diesel, which will be crucial to the acceptance of electric vehicles as the technology develops. The serene silent progress has a calming influence, and is the only major difference to driving an automatic diesel light commercial vehicle.

It's a common industry conception that electric vehicles are more likely to gain a foothold quickly in the commercial vehicle market because it's a sector that can offer regular predictable routes back to a base where vehicles can be charged. Electric vehicles won't suit every business need, they will only really appeal to urban-based firms doing less than around 60 miles per day, but for the ones that meet the criteria, the lack of compromise in terms of payload, load capacity of performance, combined with low operational costs, mean electric vehicles have, with the introduction of the Kangoo ZE, gone from future technology to present appeal.

Volkswagen was a big winner in the 2012 What Van? Awards, taking a trio of trophies. The Amarok ended the Mistubishi L200's long run by collecting the Pick-up of the year prize, while VW also took 4x4 Van of the Year for the Caddy 4Motion and the Editor's Choice Award for the Transporter Sportline, as well as the Caddy and Transporter being Highly Commended in their segments.

Vauxhall nabbed a pair of awards, with the Corsavan beating Ford's Fiesta Van to the Small Van of the Year prize, while the Green Award went to Vauxhall's Ecoflex range of vans for helping operators to choose the most efficient models.

Citroen also grabbed two awards. The Innovation Awards makes it way to the French brand for its Business Class programme of improving standards and offerings for light commercial vehicle customers, while it also took the Van Conversion prize for its range of adapted vehicles ahead of Ford.

Fiat retained the Light Van of the Year for its Doblo Cargo, and a pair of upgraded Euro5 models were enough of a step forward to claim the medium and large panel van categories - Ford's Transit in the Medium Van of the Year and Iveco Daily in the Large Van, the latter winning its category ahead of the joint 2011 Vans of the Year - Renault's Master and the Vauxhall Movano. Renault's second award came in the form of the Website of the Year, and Mercedes-Benz retained the safety prize for its industry-leading approach to fitting safety equipment to its light commercial vehicles.

There was one new category added for the 2012 What Van? Awards, with Renault being awarded best manufacturer's website, with Citroen Highly Commended.

The other companies and products to achieve Highly Commended accolades were Mitsubishi's ASX in the 4x4 van category, driver assessment device Nempi in the Safety sector, Chinese microvan importer DFSK UK in the Editor's Choice segment and the Bevan Icon aerodynamic Luton van in the Innovation category.

For more on the winners, head to the What Van? website