The sheer cost of developing a commercial vehicle is such that even cash-rich manufacturers such as Toyota have to pool resources with rivals to make it economically viable.
When Toyota needed a new light van to replace the hugely respected Hiace, it looked to PSA (Peugeot Citroen) , chiefly because the Japanese company was already in a three-way split with them, making city cars.
Proace is little short of a rebranding of the Peugeot/Citroen/Fiat midi van and is built at the same Northern French factory. On paper it’s a logical move and a fair result – but is it what previous Hiace owners expect?
They know only too well that, along with Mercedes (Vito) and Volkswagen (Transporter), the Hiace, in its heyday, was a cut above the rest in terms of civility and build quality, making it ideal for owner-operators seeking a work, rest and play vehicle. This is one reason why Ford recently launched the stylish Transit Custom for such a market.
Unlike Mercedes, who insisted it lent a hand in refreshing the Renault Kangoo before it would put its three-pointed star on the front, Toyota has simply rebadged the French van, although did include a comprehensive five-year warranty as part compensation for paying the extra cost of owning a Toyota rather than the more common European trio.
The Citroen Dispatch/Peugeot Expert, while still a good van, is now showing its age compared with more modern rivals. Its good points remain the excellent diesel engine line-up, especially the higher-tune variants, an intelligently designed load bay boasting wide opening doors and ample load lashing points, and pure and simple driving ease where good, sure-footed handling and a comfortable cab environment quickly make you feel at home.
What it isn’t is the type of quality light van that made the Hiace stand out. Don’t get us wrong, the Proace looks and feels OK, but lacks a smoothness and upmarket feel you got from a Toyota. On the other hand, at least Toyota can now can offer a fuller range which includes a selection of wheelbase lengths and roof heights plus a crew cab variant.
Comparisons with the lower priced PSA alternatives are inevitable, and don’t forget Fiat with its near identical and even cheaper Scudo. In truth, the buying decision rests upon the individual dealer deals offered – and how much you want a Toyota-badged van, of course. It’s no better built than its in-house counterparts but may yield better resale values thanks to the badge.
But in our mind, the Proace is fooling nobody, least of all Hiace fans, and we’d opt for a Peugeot, Citroen or Fiat version instead and pocket the savings – to put towards the real Hiace which we hear Toyota is already developing.
Van Toyota Proace 2.0HDi (128) long wheelbase
Warranty 5 yrs/100,000 miles
Service Intervals 1yr/10,000 miles
Load size (l/w/h) 2584mm/1602mm/1750mm
Max towing limit 2000kg
CO2 emissions 168 g/km