Take a look around you – on your street or on the road next time you’re out and about – and chances are there is a commercial vehicle somewhere nearby.
Utes are big business at the moment, with the Toyota HiLux reigning as Australia’s favourite car for the past three years, and challenged by the likes of the Ford Ranger and Mitsubishi Triton.
Times have changed – drastically – over the last decade, firstly with the demise of the large sedan as the default choice of family transport and the subsequent rise in popularity for SUVs, but so have humble commercial cars, like vans and utes, which are more flexible and car-like than ever before.
However, they are still primarily created as work vehicles first, which led us to create the inaugural Drive Commercial Vehicle of the Year awards in 2018, adapting our rigorous Drive Car of the Year test program specifically for work vehicles to find the best of the best in seven key categories – plus an overall champion.竞彩总进球算法
So, returning for 2019 and presented by BP Plus, if your business – whether it’s a boutique inner-city baker or a multinational telco – requires a four-wheeled workforce, we have you covered.
The seven categories are divided into three for vans that are dictated by size – small, medium and large – three for utes that are separated by their intended use – 4x2 single-cab work ute, 4x4 dual-cab work ute and recreational utes – and one for dedicated four-wheel drives.
As we do for the regular Drive Car of the Year, the seven carryover champions from 2018 are eligible to return and defend their crown against the best new, or significantly updated, rivals that have been introduced into Australian showrooms over the last 12 months.
With three expert judges – Andrew Maclean, Nathan Ponchard and David Morley – the finalists are decided following comprehensive road tests during the year, and are then assembled for a week-long test program based at Wakefield Park, outside Goulburn in the NSW Southern Highlands.
The judges, first of all, metaphorically crawl over each contender, and their specifications, assessing them for value, safety, standard features, ownership costs and how well they are designed for their intended function as a work vehicle, such as scrutinising the cargo area for its accessibility and flexibility while noting any unique features.
Using the controlled confines of the circuit, each car is put through a series of simulated exercises – a double lane change and a slalom, both taken at 80km/h, and an emergency stop from 100km/h – to assess their active crash-avoidance features, such as anti-skid brakes and stability control, as well as using the rest of the track to critique their inherent driving dynamics.
Each vehicle is then driven by all three judges on a demanding road loop that takes in a variety of conditions and environments, assessing their inherent driving character without a load, marking them for refinement, ride comfort and performance, as well as the cabin’s ergonomics, comfort and vision.
The contenders for all three van categories, plus those 4x2 Work Ute and 4x4 Work Ute finalists, are then loaded up with varying weights of between 600–1400kg (with each category dictated by maximum payload capacities), and the judges cover exactly the same road loop to compare how they perform when carrying near their maximum load.
Considering the intended use for recreational utes is as much work as it is play, rather than load up the tray, we tested the seven contenders for their towing capacity using the same piece of road and pulling a horse float with a total weight of 2100kg.
Plus, along with the dedicated four-wheel drives, we also tested them for their off-road abilities with a demanding course at a specialist facility near Goulburn.
At the end of it all, the judges get together to discuss and debate their opinions before submitting blind votes for each category in order of their rankings. Democratically, the vehicle that scores the lowest number of points (and therefore the highest number of top votes) is declared the category winner.
Without any new competitors being introduced in the last 12 months, the Renault Kangoo Maxi automatically retains its title as the Best Small Van. The little Frenchie might be approaching the end of its life cycle – and will face off against much newer competition in 2020 with the imminent arrival of the all-new Citroen Berlingo and its Peugeot Partner twin – but it still impresses with its smooth and grunty turbo-diesel and intuitive six-speed dual-clutch powertrain combination, its comfortable on-road manners and smart, spacious cargo area.
The updated Ford Transit Custom reset the benchmark in the Medium Van class last year on its way to scoring the coveted Overall Commercial Vehicle of the Year award, presented by BP Plus. But in a closely fought contest that also included the updated Hyundai iLoad and new entry-level Renault Trafic Trader Life, the brand-new Peugeot Expert trumped them all as the Best Medium Van of 2019.
Toyota dominated both the single-cab and dual-cab Work Ute categories in 2018 with the respective HiLux Workmate variants, but the Japanese brand lost both this time around with the Mitsubishi Triton GLX winning the Best 4x2 Work Ute title and the Volkswagen Amarok V6 Core demoting it from the top step in the Best 4x4 Work Ute class.
Showcasing just how far the hay hauler has come in recent years, the Recreational Ute class of 2019 was our biggest with an all-star cast of seven heroic dual-cabs. Last year’s champion, the Ford Ranger Wildtrak, faced off against its dune-busting sibling, the Ranger Raptor, as well as the power-packed Volkswagen Amarok V6 Ultimate, Toyota’s HiLux Rogue, Mitsubishi’s flagship new Triton, the accessorised Holden Colorado Z71 Xtreme, and the deluxe Mercedes-Benz X350d.
While the Wildtrak was still a podium finisher, it couldn’t keep up with the competition. But the Blue Oval does keep the trophy, this time for the fantastic Ranger Raptor.
The chunky-bodied ute performed double duty as a contender for the Best Four-Wheel Drive, up against the loveable new Suzuki Jimny and last year’s winner in the Toyota LandCruiser Prado VX – three very different cars aimed at three very different buyers, but each equally as good at getting you far off the beaten track.
Ultimately, the Prado’s ability to mix everyday suburban duties – and a touch of luxury – with supreme go-anywhere-ness and Toyota’s reputation for reliability and dependability means it retains its title as the Best Four-Wheel Drive of 2019.
As we do in the Drive Car of the Year awards, only new category winners are eligible to be nominated for the overall 2019 Drive Commercial Vehicle of the Year, presented by BP Plus.
With four new winners this year – the Peugeot Expert, Mitsubishi Triton GLX single-cab, Volkswagen Amarok V6 Core dual-cab and the Ranger Raptor – the judges then debated the individual merits of each winner and the impact they have on their respective categories, whether it’s improving technology, capabilities, safety, performance or value.
All four nominees move the needle in different ways: the Triton is the best in class at carrying a heavy load and yet continues to offer excellent value for money; the Ranger Raptor redefines what a recreational ute should be; and the Volkswagen Amarok V6 Core brings an improved level of performance and premium quality to the work ute segment.
But, just as the Ford Transit Custom did in 2018, the Peugeot Expert brings a greater focus on comfort, convenience and, more importantly, safety to the Medium Van segment that is… (drum roll, please)… The 2019 Drive Commercial Vehicle of the Year, presented by BP Plus.
Priced from $42,490 (plus on-road costs) and powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder that generates 130kW and 400Nm, driving the front wheels via a six-speed automatic, the Expert – being based on the PSA Group’s lightweight EMP2 platform that also underpins vehicles like the 3008 and 5008 SUVs – brings more car-like driving traits to the segment than ever before.
It’s classy, quiet and refined to drive in any environment, its cabin is comfortable and equipped with modern conveniences like Apple CarPlay, and the cargo area is spacious, easily accessible and can carry up to 1300kg. It’s also got some clever storage solutions, too, including a built-in esky under the middle seat and a flip-up passenger seat to cater for extra-long items.
But, more than anything, it comes equipped as standard with a comprehensive suite of active safety features, including autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, a reverse camera, speed sign recognition and driver-attention alert – features that were exclusive to luxurious high-end limousines just a few years ago.
The Expert is what its name implies, and as such it makes light work of heavy loads, which results in it being a convincing winner of the 2019 Drive Commercial Vehicle of the Year, presented by BP Plus.
2019 Honour Roll
Overall 2019 Drive Commercial Vehicle of the Year: Peugeot Expert