At last sales of light vans are staging a slight comeback, a resurgence which is tipped to gather strength through 1993 as the economy itself picks up.
The Japanese van manufacturers are sure to be at the forefront of this upswing in sales, providing the right product at the right price as they have done for cars since the early seventies, taking, consequently, an ever larger slice of the European market for commercial vehicles.
Sure to be in the “vanguard” of this revitalised market is the Mazda range of panel vans which offer an increasingly car-like sophistication in trim, driver comfort and performance all combined with a huge and very flexible load carrying ability.
The Mazda E series vans offer – in an attractive body shape – enormous internal load length, over 3 metres from seatback to tailgate, well over 1.5 metres wide, a huge rectangular volume with few projections to restrict loading.
This cavern is accessed via a high lifting rear door which closes on to a low floor – for ease of loading – and a 1 metre wide, sliding, side door to make access to the load as simple as possible for the operator, features particularly useful for inner city, short hop, deliveries. Many other door combinations are available.
Sturdy side rails are fitted for tying off loads securely and the maximum payload is a very substantial 1,160 kilos for some fairly serious shifting when needed. A towing capacity of 1,390 kilos speaks volumes for the strength of the drivetrain. The 2,184 cc, 64 bhp, diesel engine is quieter than might be expected for a commercial vehicle, the “tween the seats” location being well sound damped, a big plus point for operator comfort. This lazy, low revving, engine is as strong as the proverbial ox, flexible, with excellent torque, good all round performance and happy to cruise at motorway speeds all day. This solid workhorse of an engine is well matched to a light, 5 speed, floor change, gearbox with short throws which is very comfortable to use.
The spacious cabin has saloon car standards of trim and equipment with good seating for three, the driver’s seat having a good range of adjustment and the rather low angled steering wheel making the van easily driven in tight spaces. All controls are well to hand and all of the instruments easily visible.
Power steering is standard making light of around town manoeuvering and there are many other plus points to the specification, for example, central locking and a good quality radio cassette. Large mirrors, both internally and externally, make for good all round visibility, a key feature in a commercial vehicle where deliveries are being made to crowded town premises.
Routine servicing is well thought out with most of the daily servicing points being mounted in the cabin, others accessible via the front panel, only major works needing removal of the engine cover.
Many specialist options are available within the basic shape for example, van racking tailored to many businesses and refrigeration plant for cold deliveries. To paraphrase Cilla Black “A lotta load for a little loot”.
First Published 1993 – Article © Graham Benge 2007