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PLENTY of light commercial action at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, with electric vans taking centre stage, alongside some rather less eco-friendly pick-ups. Here’s the pick of the new commercial vehicle releases from the Swiss automotive showcase. Report: Mark Bursa.



Show Highlights

Ford B-Max, Geneva 2011
Ford B-Max

Is this Ford’s new compact van? The Ford B-Max was undoubtedly one of the Geneva Show star cars, and we think Ford will make a van version of the B-Max to plug the gap in its range between Fiesta and Transit Connect, giving it something to compete with the likes of Peugeot Bipper and Citroen Nemo. B-Max is a very clever Fiesta-based compact MPV, with pillarless doors that give unobstructed access to the front and rear seats. Just imagine how useful that would be as a delivery van. The front doors are conventional, but the rear doors slide – when closed, the give the car’s body its rigidity. It’ll be built at Ford’s plant in Romania, alongside the Transit Connect – and Ford has already said it will build three models at the plant…

Ford Ranger, Geneva 2011
Ford Ranger

At the other end of Ford’s LCV range is the all-new Ranger pick-up. It’s a lot more handsome than the old model, especially the range-topping Wildtrak double cab version, a lifestyle-oriented 4×4 version powered by a new 3.2-litre five-cylinder turbodiesel that cranks out 200PS and 470Nm of torque. A 2.2-litre four-pot turbodiesel is also available. Designed and developed in Australia, Ranger will come with three different cab body styles, 4×2 and 4×4 drive trains, two ride heights and up to four trim levels. UK models will be sourced from Ford’s plant in South Africa – which once supplied the popular P100 pick-ups.

Isuzu D-Max, Geneva 2011
Isuzu D-Max

Isuzu doesn’t often show up at European motor shows these days, but it reminded us of its highly competent D-Max pick-up, sold in the UK as the Rodeo Denver, with this stylish version complete with a custom satin paint job. The Rodeo Denver is up for a facelift in the next year or so, so you can expect improvements to the look and the finish of this robust and competitively priced vehicle.

SsangYong SUT1, Geneva 2011
SsangYong SUT1

Korean automaker SsangYong has updated its Actyon pick-up as the SUT1. Improvements include a new 155PS 2.0-litre diesel engine which develops maximum torque of 360Nm at 1,500-2,800rpm, and meets Euro 5 emissions standards. It also has better fuel efficiency and produces lower CO2 emissions. In rear-drive form with a manual transmission, the Actyon produces only 193g/km of CO2. SsangYong Motor is recovering from its financial troubles and will start production of the SUT 1 in the second half of 2011 – though the company hasn’t yet decided if it will come to the UK.

Ford Transit Connect EV, Geneva 2011
Ford Transit Connect EV

Urban delivery vans are ideal for electric conversion – they tend to operate from a fixed base over a regular route. Ford is one of the first to market with the Transit Connect EV, assembled by Azure Dynamics. It has a Siemens electric motor and a 28kWh lithium-ion battery pack that gives a top speed of 75mph and a range of up to 80 miles. It can be fully recharged via a standard power outlet in about 10 hours. Cargo volume is 3.8cu m but payload is reduced slightly due to the battery pack, to 410kg. It’ll go on sale in Europe later this year.

Renault Kangoo Maxi Z.E., Geneva 2011
Renault Kangoo Maxi Z.E.

Transit Connect’s main rival will be the Renault Kangoo Z.E. – now available as a Kangoo Maxi long-wheelbase van as well as standard length Kangoo. Like the Connect, it’ll be on sale by the end of the year – though unlike the Ford, Renault is making the vans on-line without using a third-party assembler. The Kangoo Van Maxi Z.E. will cost £17,990 excluding VAT as a standard two-seat panel van and £18,690 as a five-seat crew van. You’ll have to lease the battery pack separately at a cost of £59 per month. Renault claims a 105-mile range for the Maxi Z.E., and a full recharge in six-to-eight hours.

VW Bulli, Geneva 2011
VW Bulli

Now wouldn’t this make a fun retro-style delivery van? Volkswagen wants to revive the spirit of the original Microbus – known affectionately as the “Bulli” in Germany, and first unveiled at the Geneva Show back in 1954. But it wouldn’t be too hard to create a van version, which might fit neatly into the range as an alternative to the Caddy. And guess what – the new Bulli is an electric vehicle, using a powertrain that VW will use in its Up! City car. VW claims an excellent range for the car of 186 miles, thanks to a 40 kWh lithium-ion battery, concealed in the sandwiched floor behind the sills and powering the Bulli’s 85kW electric motor. VW unveiled something similar about a decade ago, but put the programme on ice. This time, it looks like VW might be serious.

MIA Electric Van, Geneva 2011
MIA Electric Van

Talking of cute urban delivery vans, how about this? The Franco-German MIA van neatly gets round the left-hand/right-hand drive issue by having just one central driving position. And the two big sliding side doors give access to the 1.5cu m load bay as well as the cab. It’s an electric vehicle too, with a range of about 50 miles on the urban cycle. It can be fully recharged in under three hours, using a standard 220V power supply. A 10 minute rapid charge can provide an extra 8km of range. There’s a small car version too, which is about the size of a Smart. European sales start in June, and the van is priced at €22,500 (about £19,350).

Citroen Berlingo Airdream, Geneva 2011
Citroen Berlingo Airdream

Citroën is introducing its innovative e-HDi micro-hybrid technology to the Berlingo light van. Berlingo e-HDi has improved fuel efficiency by up to 15% in city driving conditions, with CO2 emissions reduced by around 5g/km. The e-HDi powertrain uses a second-generation Stop-Start system that puts the engine into standby mode when the car is stationary. Featuring a reversible alternator and an e-booster function, the system allows instantaneous and silent engine restarts. The electronically controlled alternator also uses regenerative braking to recover energy. The system even stops the engine before the vehicle comes to a complete halt and operates effectively in temperatures as low as -5°C.

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