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Iveco is promising better economy, improved load-carrying capabilities and superior handling and ride quality for its new Daily van and chassis cab line-up, which will arrive in UK showrooms in September.
The brand claims 80% of the body parts are new - including the redesigned wishbone Quadleaf front suspension on 3.5-tonne versions and recalibrated rear suspension, the components contributing most to an improvement in ride quality, according to product marketing boss Giuliano Giovannini.
The new van retains the 2.3- and 3.0-litre engines of its predecessors with power outputs ranging from 106hp to 130 and 150hp in the smaller powertrain, up to 205hp in the flagship 3.0-litre. The manufacturer says it has improved fuel efficiencies by 5.5% across the line-up, while load spaces go from 7.0m3 to a cavernous and, Iveco claims, class-leading 19.6m3.
As a rear-wheel-drive model, Iveco is targeting the RWD Mercedes Sprinter as the direct rival. Both brands claim RWD offers superior traction and durability over forward-driven alternatives, but Iveco says its model will deliver better performance for less money (the current Daily range starts at just over £20,000 compared with almost £21,000 for the Sprinter).
We tested a Daily with left-hand drive mode on the international launch, choosing the medium wheelbase (3520mm), short overhang (1120mm as opposed to 1520mm on the 3520L), medium roof height (H2) version powered by the 150hp 2.3-litre engine. It has a payload of 1200kg and a load volume of 10.8m3, up from 10.0m3 in the equivalent current model.
Iveco has lowered the loading height by 55mm to 675mm by revising the rear suspension and fitting a footstep at 460mm off the ground to ease loading and unloading. Iveco claims this version is best-in-class for cargo efficiency - an index that measures the ratio between the length of the load bay and the total vehicle length.
The van we tested came with a six-speed manual transmission but Iveco says the semi-automatic Agile system favoured by fleet customers will also continue to be available.
There are a choice of three trims - Daily, Daily Plus and Daily Top - the last of which is the one installed here. This gets you features such as manual aircon and an air-suspended driver's seat in addition to the likes of cruise control and electric mirrors. The Daily comes with ESP as standard, but Iveco has not loaded it up with extra safety features such as Crosswind Assist, as Mercedes has with the Sprinter, claiming that developments such as the remodelled suspension and improved handling have made the van "intrinsically safer" anyway. The van does, however, get a Lane Departure Warning System.
Once behind the wheel, we were able to verify for ourselves the van's impressively tight turning circle of 11.9m (Mercedes cites a turning circle of 12.6m for the MWB Sprinter).
With maximum torque of 350Nm the 150hp engine pulls strongly from standstill and offers a wide range of flexibility in sixth gear from about 50mph, even with the 900kg load we had in the back. The gear shift is decent enough, if a little notchy and not quite up to the standard of those in the new Ford Transit or Sprinter vans. The work on the suspension appears to have paid off though, with incisive handling when negotiating winding roads. We liked the new, smaller steering wheel too, and were impressed by the performance of the ABS braking system.
The driving position is good - although steering is adjustable only for rake - with ample visibility, and everything is laid out within easy reach. The cab at first feels a little cramped in terms of headroom, but this is the price paid for the useful shelf for long items that's in the load bay and extends above the passenger compartment. There's also a full-length overhead shelf and three lidded storage compartments on the top of the dashboard as well as three cup holders and big bins in the doors.
The middle seat folds down to reveal a desk top, and the flat work surface is detachable to provide a laptop tray. The passenger bench seats lift up to provide generous storage space.
At the time of writing Iveco had not released UK pricing but promised list prices would be slightly lower than the current model to more realistically reflect actual transaction prices.
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The Daily is an even more viable contender in the large van sector