With great fuel economy and a five year warranty, Toyota’s Proace should appeal to the cost conscious operator, but it has a lot more going for it than that, as Van Ireland’s Phil Eaglestone discovered on a recent test drive, courtesy of Charles Hurst Toyota.
Spoiled for choice, the Proace comes in three different models – Compact, which is the perfect workhorse for tight spaces; and Medium and Long, both of which offer extra capacity for more intensive work tasks. There’s also a choice of trim levels: Base and Comfort.
Our test model was a Proace Medium fitted out with a Comfort trim and it certainly not only felt the part, but also looked the part out on the open road, with its simple yet stylish look, its car-like handling and its overall performance.
Always a great believer in first impressions, and the Proace didn’t disappoint from the moment we climbed into the driver’s seat and switched on the ignition.
Cruise control, electric windows and mirrors, air conditioning, an excellent information display on the dashboard and a host of safety features – what more could you want? Oh yes, plenty of cargo space behind the steel bulkhead – 4.9m of it, with a low loading floor accessible through wide opening rear doors and sliding doors on either side, sufficient to take a standard europallet.
Great sound insulation meant that the Toyota Proace was as quiet as they come out on the road, and ride comfort couldn’t be faulted, aided by a supportive seat, good suspension, responsive steering, and a smooth six-speed manual gearbox, while the 1.6 litre 115bhp engine provided sufficient pulling power; though, that said, we weren’t fully loaded.
When your business takes you on the road every day, you want to know, of course, that you’re travelling in safe hands and as we mentioned earlier, the Proace boasts plenty of safety features, when you specify the Toyota Safety Sense package.
That includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection; this can prevent collision with moving or fixed obstacles, including pedestrians, at speeds of up to 18mph, and above that it automatically cuts your speed before impact – the system also automatically coordinates with Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB).
It also has Forward Collision Warning which alerts the driver to react to a situation of risk or imminent collision. A visual and audible warning is emitted. This action comes just before AEB is triggered.
Then there’s Adaptive Cruise Control which keeps you at a minimum pre-set distance from the vehicle in front. If this distance falls, the system progressively reduces your speed using engine braking. If the distance increases again, ACC will gradually accelerate until you return to your chosen cruising speed.
Head-Up Display function, meanwhile, provides all the driving information you need, projected into your line of sight: vehicle speed, Cruise Control/ speed limiter information, vehicle distance, emergency braking alerts and navigation alerts.
Other driver assistance and safety features include Hill Start Assist Control, Vehicle Stability Control, Anti-Lock Braking with Electronic Brake Force Distribution and Brake Assist.
And talking of brakes: One thing that did immediately catch our attention when we approached our first road junction was just how responsive were the brakes. With very little travel in the brake pedal, we were taken a little by surprise, but once we got used to the feel, all was well!
Our model came with the innovative Smart Cargo option which features a two-person front bench and Mobile Office solution to give you valuable flexibility when you need to carry more passengers – and the convenience of a table when you don’t; a useful in-cab laptop desk is created by folding down the back of the middle seat.
All things considered, the Toyota Proace really impressed us with its handling, its performance and its easy manoeuvrability on both town and country roads. It does have competition in the marketplace, but you get a lot here for your money; an economical, good looking workhorse, it is a solid, quality built mid-sized van that will appeal to many, including sole traders such as tradesman or small delivery operators.