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Fiat Ducato van review

The Fiat Ducato panel van has low running costs and lots of tech, plus a range of fuel efficient Euro 6 engines.

Fiat has been a major player in the European commercial van sector for well over a century, and for the last 35 years it’s the Ducato panel van that has been the flagship of the range.

In the firm’s home market, Ducato is as much of an icon as the Ford Transit is here, but the van is popular with UK buyers too. One of the reasons is the Ducato’s terrific fuel economy, which makes the van popular with all types of users, from big fleet operators to motorhome conversion companies. Thankfully Fiat has been able to maintain this efficiency with its latest range of Euro 6 engines.

The current Ducato is built as part of a joint venture production with the PSA Peugeot Citroen group, so it uses most of the same technology and engineering as the Peugeot Boxer and Citroen Relay. They’re all built on the same production line at the Italian SEVEL Sud factory, which is one of the world’s biggest light commercial vehicle factories with the capacity to build a quarter of a million vans every year.

Today’s Ducato range is powered by a line-up of Fiat’s Euro 6 Multijet II common-rail diesel engines. The previous 2.3-litre and 3.0-litre units have been replaced by a downsized 2.0-litre offering 115hp and 2.3-litre engines packing 130hp, 150hp and 177hp. The 150hp motor can also be had in EcoJet trim, with Start&Stop, a smart alternator, electro-hydraulic power steering and an Eco function, to reduce fuel further. Crucially, the 2.3-litre unit that’s the mainstay of the range is one piece of Ducato tech that isn’t shared with its Peugeot and Citroen equivalents.

As mentioned, fuel economy is a strong point for the Ducato, and it’s one of the most economical panel vans available – capable of returning up to 47.9mpg, with emissions of 157g/km. That’s with the standard 6-speed manual gearbox, though there is the option of a Comfort-Matic automated manual on all models except those with the entry-level 115bhp engine.

There are numerous configurations available in the Ducato range, which can be confusing. The line-ups overlap, with the standard Ducato ranging from L1H1 to L3H2 models and the heavy-duty Ducato Maxi from L2H2 to L4H3. In addition, there are window van, dropside truck, tipper, combi and minibus versions, plus the Ducato is a very popular choice for motorhome conversions.

A series of steps have also been taken to enhance the durability of the latest Ducato models. Service intervals are up to a lengthy 30,000 miles thanks in part to upgraded brakes, a new clutch system and tweaked front suspension. Additional body reinforcement and upgraded door hinges are amongst the measures designed to prolong the life of the vehicle.

Load Space and Practicality

A huge range of dimensions provide load capacities that cover the whole large van class, from 8.0 up to 17.0 cubic metres of space. The gross weight range extends from 3,000kg to 4,250kg as well, providing plenty of choice for customers. That maximum is beyond the LCV licence threshold of 3,500kg, above which motorists would need an HGV licence if they passed their driving test after 1 January 1997, but covers minibuses which are allowed to run at the higher weight.

Fiat has divided the range into lighter Ducato and heavier Ducato Maxi models, with the former comprising SH1 to LH3 versions and gross vehicle weights between 3,000kg and 3,500kg.

The Ducato Maxi range overlaps with the Ducato range, taking in MH1 to LXH3 models at 3,500kg, 4,005kg and 4,250kg GVW. Payloads from 1,155kg to a maximum of 2,115kg are available and all Ducatos get a full height metal bulkhead as standard. Fiat is very pleased with the square dimensions it’s managed to achieve in the Ducato’s load bay and the 1.42m loading width between the rear wheelarches ensures that bulky items can be slid inside with ease.

Reliability and Safety

The Ducato has a loyal following among van buyers, and this is largely down to the strong reliability record of its Fiat engines. On the safety front there’s a driver’s airbag, ABS with EBD and ESC stability control as standard.

A range of other electronic driver aids are also built-in to the ESC system including Roll-Over Mitigation and Load Adaptive Control which are specially designed to increase the stability of the van. A hill holder system and ASR anti-slip regulation are also included but buyers will need to explore the options list to add a passenger airbag.

A host of options are available, including a tyre pressure monitoring system and automatic high beam recognition, a self-dipping function that lowers the full beam lights to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic. A further option is Traction+, which helps the Ducato obtain maximum grip on loose surfaces. Traction+ incorporates HDC (Hill Descent Control), a function more commonly seen on off-road vehicles that brakes the van automatically to help descend steep gradients safely. 

If you want more safety technology in your Ducato there’s a traffic sign recognition system that reads road signs and warns of speed limits and no-overtaking zones. The Lane Departure Warning System alerts drivers when they wander out of their lane without indicating by sounding the kind of buzzer that belongs in a fighter jet’s cockpit. It’s so loud you wonder if a heat-seeking missile has locked on to the Ducato’s tail or if you’ve accidentally primed the ejector seat. Most drivers will end up turning it off, not so good for a safety aid.


The MAN TGE is an entry in the large van market from truck maker MAN Truck & Bus

The large panel van sector has plenty of contenders, and one you might not have heard of is the MAN TGE. It’s the product of German truck maker MAN Truck & Bus, which today is part of the Volkswagen Group. It’s MAN’s first venture into the light commercial vehicle market, but it’s one that looks familiar.

That’s because it’s essentially a rebadged version of the Volkswagen Crafter. The two vans are built in the same factory in Poland, and the differences between the two largely centre around the front end and the badging. The Crafter’s two-bar grille with large VW roundel is replaced by a piano black trim piece on the TGE that features the MAN logo with the company’s lion badge above it. In addition, the TGE features its model designation on the front wings ahead of the doors. Further back, only the different manufacturer badges differentiate the two models.

Like the Crafter, there are a variety of body, chassis and drive options on sale. The panel van version has three roof heights – Normal, High and Super-high – and three body lengths – Standard, Long and Extra-long – while the latter two feature a long wheelbase. MAN also offers TGE Chassis Cab and Crew Cab body styles. The Chassis Cab comes in the same three lengths as the panel van, while the Crew Cab comes in Standard and Long forms.


MAN trucks

The new MAN Truck generation – delivers on its promises

The new MAN Truck generation sets standards in comfort, safety, cost-effectiveness, reliability and service, as well as connectivity and digitalisation, making customers’ business easier, more efficient and more successful – in line with MAN’s motto “Simplifying Business”

The new MAN Truck generation sets standards in comfort, safety, cost-effectiveness, reliability and service, as well as connectivity and digitalisation, making customers’ business easier, more efficient and more successful – in line with MAN’s motto “Simplifying Business”. Now, around seven months after its successful launch event in Bilbao, Spain, it is clear that the new MAN Truck generation delivers on its promises.

The fact that the innovative driver’s workplace has won two design prizes, the potential fuel saving as confirmed by a TÜV Süd test drive, the positive reviews from the trade press in Europe and the excellent feedback from customers who are already using a new MAN all attest to the success of the new generation.

First-class user experience honoured with design awards

“We are particularly pleased with the interior of the new MAN with the practical control offered by SmartSelect,” says Johann Krieger, director of Spedition Johann Krieger GmbH & Co. KG based in Rottenburg in Bavaria, Germany. The juries of two renowned design competitions agree with him in that regard. The design of the digital driver’s workplace in the new MAN Truck generation offers a first-class user experience and has been awarded a Red Dot Award in the Brands & Communication Design 2020 category and a Gold German Design Award 2021 in the Excellent Product Design – Human-Machine Interface category.

The redesigned workplace won over the experts with its form, concept and effect, as it enables the driver to operate the numerous assistance and comfort functions of the new MAN Truck generation intuitively without distracting their attention from the road. The display and operating levels are separated from each other so that the visual information is as close as possible to the line of sight to the road, whereas the controls are within reach from a comfortable sitting position. One example of this design concept is the MAN SmartSelect, which is currently the only system of its kind in use in commercial vehicles. With its turn and press function, it minimises the need to look away from the road when operating the infotainment and navigation menus. The well thought-out driver’s workplace of the new MAN Truck generation offers every driver the same high level of operating comfort quickly and in a self-explanatory manner, regardless of age, professional experience or technical affinity. In this way, it makes a lasting contribution to simplifying the truck driver’s everyday working life. MAN surveyed more than 700 of them in the course of the development and incorporated their practical feedback.

“When MAN developed the new truck generation, it was obvious that the driver must be involved from the outset and be the focus of attention. Because this is the only way for us as a manufacturer to know what the drivers really need. We have received a lot of positive feedback from customers and the trade media, and winning these great prizes underlines once again that we are on the right track,” says Dr Andreas Tostmann, Chairman of the Executive Board of MAN Truck & Bus, who is delighted with the awards.

Following initial test drives by the international trade press and based on feedback from customers who are already using a new-generation MAN TGX, the significant improvement in fuel efficiency is proving just as popular as the new user experience. “The low fuel consumption – which is even lower than the predecessor model – is a real plus,” says Daniel Hoppenstock, director of HVL Transporte GmbH from Pattensen near Hanover, who has already had first-hand experience of seven new MAN TGX. Heimo Staber, Managing Director of Heimo Staber GesmbH and one of the first Austrian customers with a new MAN TGX is also convinced: “We are thoroughly satisfied with the vehicle, our expectations have been exceeded by far. We were particularly pleasantly surprised by the low fuel consumption, which is why we promptly ordered a further new-generation semitrailer tractor”.

Maximum efficiency and cost-effectiveness officially confirmed

New concepts for the driveline, aerodynamics and the MAN EfficientCruise efficiency assistant make the new MAN Truck generation up to 8.2% more economical than the previous vehicle generation. This potential saving was predicted by MAN and has now been officially confirmed by a TÜV Süd test drive. After a total of 684 kilometres, the result was clear: the new MAN TGX 18.470 Euro 6d required an average of 8.2% less fuel compared with the MAN TGX 18.460, the previous version, on the 342 km measurement section, which comprised both motorway stretches and country roads and was driven twice in succession. The profile of the normal motorway route section was a 90% match for the routes driven in European long-haul transport, and to ensure that the comparison focused on vehicle performance alone, the test vehicles exchanged semitrailers and drivers between the two drives.

“Low overall vehicle costs are crucial to the success of our customers. We have consistently developed the new MAN Truck generation with a view to maximum efficiency and economy – and we have fully achieved our goals! We are very pleased that this was also confirmed in a test conducted by an independent testing organisation. A big thank you to our entire team – great achievement!” said Dr Frederik Zohm, Executive Board member for Research and Development at MAN Truck & Bus.

New assistance and safety systems to prevent accidents

But the new MAN truck generation has not only arrived in classic long-haul transport. The company Bärnreuther+Deuerlein Schotterwerke GmbH & Co. KG also relies on the new MAN TGX for transporting bulk goods, has already ordered further vehicles and fleet manager Anna Bärnreuther is particularly impressed by the numerous assistance systems: “The safety of other road users is very important to us as a company. But the safety of our drivers is just as important to us. The new MAN TGX is equipped with exactly the right assistance systems”. These include tried and tested aids such as the lane return assistant, which intervenes if the vehicle inadvertently leaves its lane, or the MAN EBA emergency brake assistant, which helps to avoid rear-end collisions by warning of impending collisions, initiating emergency braking to a standstill if necessary and thus even exceeding the applicable legal requirements. But new systems to support the driver are also available on board if required. At intersections, the radar-based cornering aid defuses dangerous situations by issuing visual and acoustic warnings if other road users, such as cyclists, are in the area of the right-hand side of the vehicle, which is often difficult to see. An extended function is the lane change assistant, which warns the driver of vehicles approaching from behind when changing lanes – and this, so far unique on the market, on both the driver and the passenger side. The new Traffic Jam Assistant is also available for fatigue-free driving in traffic jam situations. As an extension of the previous ACC Stop&Go function and activatable in the low speed range up to 40 km/h, it automatically controls the drive train, brakes and steering up to a speed of 60 km/h, decelerates behind a stopping vehicle to a standstill if necessary and then restarts again automatically. The map material of the navigation system ensures that the system can only be activated on motorways. Similarly, the driver must always keep his hands on the steering wheel to use the system.

Alongside perfecting the vehicle technology, MAN Truck & Bus is constantly developing and improving all of the products and services associated with the new MAN Truck generation.

New digital services optimise vehicle availability

With MAN Now, MAN is taking digital vehicle management to a new level. This new digital service, which was launched alongside the new MAN Truck generation, enables customers to equip their new-generation MAN with additional functions via online upgrade without having to take the vehicle to a workshop. The “Online Traffic” application provides the driver with up-to-date data on the traffic situation, making it easier to avoid traffic jams, while “Map Update” provides the latest information about the route ahead. This allows short-term closures and road works to be quickly taken into account in navigation. More functions are set to be added in due course.

“For the future, our developments are already going much further, because digital solutions no longer only support the operational use of vehicles. More and more, vehicles can also be digitally modified up to digital platforms, becoming an integrated and active part of our customers’ logistics processes and providing data for the entire logistics ecosystem”, says Niklaus Waser, Senior Vice President Digital Transformation & Business Models.

As well as providing customers with a whole range of forward-looking developments, the new MAN Truck generation still offers everything that customers and drivers have always loved about their MAN vehicles – just even better than before. This is confirmed by Jan Plieninger: “We are already getting excellent feedback from our customers regarding the systematic driver orientation and high fuel efficiency,” says the director of truck rental company BFS Business Fleet Services GmbH.

Part of what makes MAN Truck & Bus special is its focus on personal customer relationships on equal terms, as well as the exceptional industry expertise that the company has developed with over 100 years of experience in the commercial vehicle sector. Peter Carr, CEO of Southampton-based Abacus Logistics Ltd, was delighted to receive the UK’s first MAN TGX: “As a family-run business we all, across the entire team, pride ourselves on the relationships we have with our loyal customer base, an approach that we know is both appreciated and valued. Over the last few years, MAN have clearly adopted the same approach and their customer-first level of service, support and focus is clear to see. Our local MAN dealership understands the requirements of our business, their link in our success and the need to keep our vehicles 100 percent turnkey ready at all times.”

MAN focuses on strong, personal partnerships

“Simply My Truck” – this is how MAN wants drivers and customers to feel about the new MAN Truck generation. But how can people get to know the new-generation trucks if local launch events cannot be held due to the coronavirus pandemic? To get around this problem, the team from MAN Truck & Bus Germany organised a spontaneous and highly unusual “first date” in May: over 400 guests attended a drive-in cinema in order to experience the new MAN TGX live. In a show with a difference, the MAN experts presented the vehicles via giant screens and car radios, while the enthusiastic crowd signalled their appreciation by flashing their headlights.

In order to reach a wider audience, MAN has also produced a series of videos in which product experts give detailed explanations of individual topics relating to the technical features of the new truck generation and demonstrate the features in or on the vehicles themselves. The videos can be found on MAN Truck & Bus’s social media channels, which is also where you can see the first outing of the “MAN Individual Lion”. The exclusive TGX with the largest GX cab and “Individual” sunblind showcases the comprehensive driver comfort package (available as an option) as well as the high-end equipment that can be ordered from MAN Individual on request. Exterior details such as sparkling stainless steel elements and interior features such as the multi-coloured LED ambient lighting, an on-board kitchen with microwave and coffee machine and an LED TV make it the king of the lions.

With the launch of the new MAN TGL, TGM, TGS and TGX for construction and special applications and for distribution transport, MAN’s pride of lions is now complete. In both segments, MAN’s new truck generation boasts a diverse product portfolio which enables the company to offer the perfect solution for all industry requirements. MAN provides industry customers with perfectly equipped vehicles ex works and ensures the best possible coordination and collaboration with the various body manufacturers.

SOURCE: MAN Truck & Bus