Van comparison: middleweight champions of the world

By: Matt Wood

The mid-sized van market is a tough battlefield. Here we compare two of the market leaders with two Euro competitors to see which one comes up trumps

Van comparison: middleweight champions of the world
The four contenders (clockwise from top-left): Renault Trafic, Hyundai iLoad, Toyota HiAce, and Ford Transit.


If model names were a part of vehicle judging criteria I’d make this a very short article indeed.

When sanity finally prevails and I am eventually elected president of this great country, one of my first acts will be to make the use of random capital letters in product names illegal.

But in all seriousness, there’s certainly nothing boring about van sales figures of late. They’re booming, the light delivery van segment of the Australian market has grown over 20 per cent since 2014.

While truck sales have languished and to a point probably normalised, final-mile delivery vehicle sales continue to grow. So you may think that vans are just a big yawn fest. But if so, it’s a contagious one.

The Battleground

In the mid-sized van segment some relatively recent arrivals have been seriously challenging the Toyota HiAce’s traditional sales supremacy.

The hugely popular Hyundai iLoad for example has had a recent update, Ford launched an all-new Transit about 18 months ago, and an all-new Renault Trafic arrived last year.

Do the European-engineered Transit and Trafic have what it takes to pose a threat to the Asian sales domination of the iLoad and HiAce?

We drove all four vehicles recently to see whether the market leaders are lunching on reputation alone or whether they really do have the goods to see them maintain the top of the sales score board.


First contender: Toyota HiAce TD Auto

Hi Ace

The Toyota HiAce TD Auto pretty much qualifies as a light duty elder statesman in this market.

It’s the last forward control style van left on the Aussie market yet has shown the longevity, durability and tenacity of a mountain mule.And despite the fact that it’s showing its age somewhat, it continues to dominate sales in the mid-sized van market.

Our long–wheel-base TD Auto had a load capacity of 6 cubic metres and could lug a load weighing 1,160kg. And it’ll tow a braked trailer load of 1200kg.

Continue reading: Toyota HiAce TD Auto


Second contender: Renault Trafic L2H1 


The Renault Trafic L2H1 is equipped with a very slick shifting 6-speed manual tranny.

Clearly the Trafic needs a torque converter auto to fully take the market by the horns.

But at least Renault didn’t go down the track of trying to use an automated manual and the inherent compromises that go with those types of ‘boxes.

More than one manufacturer has tried to pass off an AMT as a real auto option and regretted it. 

Continue reading: Renault Trafic L2H1 


Third contender: Hyundai iLoad Series 2

I Load

A 2.4 litre petrol engine mated to a 6-speed manual is available but as a commercial proposition we’re more interested in the diesel variants.

So our Hyundai iLoad CRDi Series 2was fitted with a 2.5 litre common rail turbo-diesel donk which makes 125kW and 441Nm when sitting in front of the optional 5-speed automatic.

Manual versions with the same CRDI engine use a waste-gate turbo instead of the auto’s VGT and create 100kW and 343Nm.

Continue reading: Hyundai iLoad CRDi Series 2 


Final contender: Ford Transit Custom 


The Ford Transit Custom uses a 2.2 litre turbo-diesel engine that makes 92kW and a decent 350Nm from 1450rpm.

Like its other European competitor the Trafic, the Ford is only available in 6-speed manual form. And like the Renault, the Transit is also front-wheel-drive.

Our SWB Custom had 5.95 cubic metres of room in the back and could carry a payload of 1,032kg. 

Continue reading: Ford Transit Custom



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