Small van review, VW Caddy, Fiat Doblo, Opel Combo

Originally published in Your Business magazine in December 2010.

Getting the right wheels for your business is not such a simple decision.

A few years ago it was simple.

Which bakkie to get? And there were only four possibilities. But times have changed. Not only must we now consider the purchase price, but the cost of ownership over the life of the vehicle which includes the cost of fuel and the type of fuel and the overall efficiency needs to be considered. We also need to think about security, image and driver comfort and behaviour.

Bakkie vs Van

A base petrol bakkie with a basic canopy will cost you around R115 00, while a base model petrol van will cost around R 150 000. So what do you get for the extra R35 000?

For starters the specifications of the vans are more in line with the middle trim, if not top model of the bakkies. This includes little but important details like a place to keep your clip board, much better seats and so on. If you compare bakkies with vans of a similar specification then the price difference is about R10 000.

Secondly you get much easier access to your load. Remember the vans have a door on the side as well as fully opening doors at the back. The load bed is normally lower. At around 800 kg payload capacity the vans can carry more than the bakkies, except for the Nissan.

Thirdly and probably most importantly security is in another league entirely. The vans are safer to drive and your cargo is safer in the back.

Finally the cabs of the vans are as a rule better designed for a delivery vehicle and more ergonomic. If you need to keep your load cool you need to get a van with air conditioner like the Doblo.

With the diesels it looks a little different, but the difference is also around R30 000. If you compare the diesel vans and bakkies of the same trim levels the difference is around R5 000.

Fuel consumption is generally better for the vans.

Bakkies under one ton

There are broadly five makes available on the market. The smallest is the Chevrolet which used to be the Opel Corsa and the biggest the Nissan NP200.

Generally speaking you will need to add the cost of a canopy to the price of you bakkie. The most basic canopy from Canopy King is R5 200. Beekmans have a slightly more robust canopy which has a high roofline and full door at R6 600.

Cheapest Petrol Cheapest Diesel Canopy
Ford Bantam R101 950 R141 250 5200
Chevrolet (Corsa) R107 600 R151 300 5200
FIAT Strada R107 400 n/a 5200
Nissan NP200 R103 100 R143 600 5200
Proton R88 995 5200

The biggest selling small bakkie in recent years has been the Opel Corsa. In May it was facelifted, become slightly more expensive and is now badged  as a Chevrolet. It is a great little all rounder but has rather limited carrying capacity.

The Ford Bantam has also recently had a mid-life upgrade. It’s a great little bakkie and handles extremely well. The diesel engine is very smooth and effective.

The Nissan NP200 is the biggest of these bakkies concerning both the cabin space and the carrying capacity. Its also the newest design and shares a platform with the Renault Sandero.

The Fiat Strada has an ace up its sleeve in the form of the X-space an extended cab version. These Fiats are extremely economical.

The Proton Arena is made in Malaysia and offers a three year warranty.

Vans under one ton

Five manufacturers offer small vans. The best selling is the VW Caddy, the most versatile and the biggest is the FIAT Doblo. The Toyota is basically the MPV without the seats and windows.

Petrol Diesel Load volume litres Payload
FIAT Doblo R151 400 3200 850
VW Caddy R147 632 R175 351 3200 730
Toyota Avanza R140 100 955 600
Puegeot Partner R155 900 R168 200 3300 850
Opel Combo R155 940 2390 520

The Toyota Avanza is not quite in the same league as the others. It is more of a replacement for the previous Corolla Tazz micro van. If all you want is a very small delivery van then it’s quite a cost effective solution. I drove one in Johannesburg and can confirm that it is powerful enough to get the job done.

The Peugeots seem to be quite expensive although their cabins are well equipped and it is a recently introduced model with all the latest safety kit. One snag is the distribution of branches and service points.

The Opel Combo has been available for a few years. I have not driven one as they are quite rare and cannot comment on it. It is a little smaller than the Caddy and Doblo.

Fiat Doblo

I am quite a fan of the FIAT Doblo. It’s got a roomy well thought out cabin with lots of handy pockets, holders and storage spaces. All the doors open the way they should and the load area is actually quite big. I drove the previous diesel model and found it to be superb with a brilliant air conditioner. I am told the present petrol model is an upgrade. It certainly seems as comfortable and is well appointed but does not come standard with air conditioner. These vans come with all the modern safety equipment and ride enhancement tools fitted. Take one for a test drive.

VW Caddy

The VW Caddy is an efficient small commercial vehicle. It’s cab is a bit smaller and less well equipped than the Fiat’s but still comfortable and practical. They sell around a hundred a month of them. It reminds one a bit about the Polo of two generations ago.

You also get the Caddy Maxi which is 300 mm longer, has a capacity of 800kg and a load volume 4200 litres and costs R183 509.

There is also a Maxi crew bus which is a van with a second row of seats at just under R200 000. Safety features include disc brakes front and rear,  ABS / TCS / EBC, electronic power steering and rear fog lights.

If you want rubber floor covering it will be an extra R1570. Cruise control is R1 700 and air conditioning is R8 400 extra.

Conclusion

The side door together with the wide opening rear doors make these vans very efficient business vehicles. Add to that the added security and the comfort of the cabins and they become a real option to the old school bakkie with a canopy.

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4 thoughts on “Small van review, VW Caddy, Fiat Doblo, Opel Combo

  1. I would like to see more photos please! Updates more frequently possible? Keep up the good work though, I just love it!

    • Dear Jimmy, I will be doing a new van review early next year. Any pointers from your side ? Just reviewed the Hyundai H1 which is mid sized. Will do the new Kangoo as soon as they get it to me. Ciao

  2. Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your web
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