MAN TGE van review
Truck maker MAN has entered the large van market with the TGE, and aims to deliver truck-style service to buyers
The large panel van sector has a new arrival in the shape of the MAN TGE. German company MAN Truck & Bus is an established truck manufacturer that today is part of the Volkswagen Group, but the arrival of the TGE marks its first venture into the light commercial vehicle market.
If the TGE looks familiar, that's because it's essentially a rebadged version of the Volkswagen Crafter. The two vans are built in the same factory in Poland, and the differences between the two largely centre around the front end and the badging. The Crafter's two-bar grille with large VW roundel is replaced by a piano black trim piece on the TGE that features the MAN logo with the company's lion badge above it. In addition, the TGE features its model designation on the front wing ahead of the doors. Further back, only the different manufacturer badges differentiate the two models.
Like the Crafter, there are a variety of body, chassis and drive options on sale. The panel van version has three roof heights - Normal, High and Super-high - and three body lengths - Standard, Long and Extra-long - while the latter two feature a long wheelbase. MAN also offers TGE Chassis Cab and Crew Cab body styles. The Chassis Cab comes in the same three lengths as the panel van, while the Crew Cab comes in Standard and Long forms.
Under the skin, the TGE's running gear is the same as the Crafter. That means van weights starting from three tonnes and up to five tonnes or more, front, rear (including twin wheel derivatives) or four-wheel drive, a six-speed manual or eight-speed twin-clutch auto gearbox on selected models and 2.0-litre diesel power in four outputs. It's clear from the variety of models on offer that MAN is serious about catering for every requirement in the large van sector, and it has also teamed up with leading body builders to supply pick-up, tipper and Luton bodies for the TGE Chassis Cab.
MAN uses its truck naming structure for the TGE, so different models are identified by their numbers which relate to their gross weight and the power output of the van's engine. So a three-tonne van powered by the smallest engine is called the 2.100, while a 3.5 tonne model with the mid-range diesel is the 3.140. At the top of the range, the five-tonne TGE with the most powerful diesel is called the 5.180. It will make perfect sense to those familiar with MAN's trucks, but might be confusing to the uninitiated.
The TGE benefits from the same safety technology as the Crafter. That means electronic driver aids such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, traffic sign recognition, park assist and trailer assist are all available, although these are all on the extensive options list. Other available extras include a touchscreen sat-nav, ergoComfort suspended seats, seat heating, climate control, a rear camera and side sensors that detect objects in your blind spots. There are a number of load area upgrades, too, including additional sliding doors with optional windows, different bulkhead designs and access steps.
The one thing that will separate the TGE range from the Crafter and its other van rivals is the service back-up that will be available from MAN Truck dealerships and service centres. While rivals such as Ford, Renault and VW are establishing dedicated van service centres around the country, the TGE will benefit from a service network that is already focused on quick turnaround times to ensure that work vehicles are off the road for as short a time as possible. Currently there are 64 MAN dealerships in the UK, which is small in relative terms, but the service they provide should see a van off the road for the briefest time, while 24-hour service centres can get your van back on the road overnight if necessary.
Another benefit of choosing MAN is its MAN Mobile24 emergency service, which will send out a dedicated MAN service and repair technician to you to help you get going as quickly as possible. This should provide a better level of service than with rivals that simply include cover from a breakdown company as part of their after-sales package.
As well as the Crafter, the TGE challenges all the main large van rivals, which includes the Mercedes Sprinter, Renault Master, Peugeot Boxer, Citroen Relay, Fiat Ducato, Ford Transit and Vauxhall Movano.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
Running costs are a significant part of owning a van, so a good balance between performance and efficiency is required. Fortunately, the MAN TGE uses the same 2.0 TDI diesels as the VW Crafter, so there are three single-turbo engines and the twin-turbodiesel at the top of the range, all of which offer competitive fuel economy and feature stop-start as standard.
Power outputs range through 101bhp, 120bhp and 138bhp for the standard diesel, and 175bhp for the twin-turbodiesel. While MAN doesn't quote official MPG figures just yet, these engines in the Crafter deliver some of the best economy of any large van. That's thanks in part to the lightweight construction that goes into the van, while the engine features direct injection to boost efficiency. These units also use SCR catalytic technology to help reduce emissions, so there's an 18 litre AdBlue tank to go along with the standard 75 litre fuel tank.
Service intervals for the TGE are competitive, while MAN prides itself in offering the same 24/7 breakdown and maintenance service on the TGE as you would get on one of its trucks. That means your van should be off the road for as short a time as possible when being serviced – indeed some outlets are trialling a system where operators are given a courtesy vehicle if their van is off the road for as little as two hours - while a fleet of MAN experts is designed to get drivers moving in the unfortunate event of a breakdown.
Load Space and Practicality
As it's based on the Crafter, the TGE has the same kind of load volume as its VW counterpart, and it has a similar selection of body styles and load volumes on offer. The standard panel van has a wheelbase of 3,640mm and a load volume of 9.9 cubic metres with the standard roof and a total of 10.7 cubic metres in high-roof guise. The All Wheel Drive TGE has slightly less volume to make room for the extra drive parts under the skin, but the rear-drive high roof in standard wheelbase (there's no standard roof version) has the same cargo volume as the front-drive model. The largest load volume in the TGE is 18.4 cubic metres.
There's enough floor space in the standard TGE to fit five Euro Pallets inside, while the longer models have room for six. If you're carrying Euro 3 Pallets, there's room for three in the standard TGE, or four in the larger vans. Load space length in the TGE ranges from 3,450mm to 4,855mm, while the load space height ranges from 1,726mm to 2,196mm in the TGE Super High.
Payload is another strong point for the TGE. The smallest models have payload weights of 815-833kg, while the 3.5 tonne GVW version has a payload ranging from 1,315-1,333kg, depending on which engine you choose. Adding four wheel drive or rear-wheel drive knocks around 130kg from these figures.
The long body version of the TGE has a payload ranging from 1,052kg to 1,196kg in 3.5 tonne GVW form, depending on which engine and drive system you choose, while the five-tonne version has a payload of 2,356kg or 2,365kg, depending on engine. The extra-long version has slightly lower payload capacities, so it's worth considering whether you need your TGE to carry the most or heaviest amount of stuff before choosing the body for you.
In addition to these payload weights, the TGE is capable of towing trailers up to a maximum of 3.5 tonnes if you add an optional trailer hitch.
All models get double rear doors with 270-degree opening and magnetic holders to keep them in place, while a single sliding side door is included with double locking available. There's a steel bulkhead separating the load area and the cab, grab handles to boost access, and lashing rings to help tie down items in transit.
Reliability and Safety
Standard safety equipment on the TGE covers the basics, so you get ABS with electronic brake assist (which automatically brakes the van if the sensors detect an obstruction ahead), stability control with cross wind assist, a driver's airbag and three seatbelts. Halogen headlights are standard, while the handbrake features hill start assist to stop the van rolling backwards when pulling away on a slope. Like other vans of this size, the wing mirrors are vast and feature wide-angle sections lower down to boost visibility around the van.
If you want more advanced safety kit, then you'll have to raid the options list. Even a passenger airbag is optional, while curtain airbags are also available at extra cost. Other options include LED headlights, cruise control, a driver tiredness recognition system and lane keeping assist. There are a number of speed limiters on offer, with hard-wired systems set to 62mph, 75mph or 56mph (the latter is standard on vans over 3.5 tonnes by law), or a driver-controlled system is also offered. Adaptive cruise control is also available if you choose the eight-speed auto gearbox. This adjusts the distance to the vehicle in front and works all the way to a stop if necessary.
A reversing camera can be added, as well as a reversing alert, while park assist helps with low speed manoeuvres by steering the wheels to slot the van into a space. You can also add side assist, which detects objects to the left or right of the van that are at risk of being hit when turning, while trailer assist helps with reversing when a trailer is fitted. In addition, you can add truck-style kit such as a tachograph, auxiliary heating and ergoComfort suspended seating to boost the TGE's versatility.
MAN offers a variety of service and maintenance packages on the TGE to ensure it stays on the road for longer, but as it's based on tried-and-tested VW components, there's every possibility that you'll be clocking up plenty of miles before the TGE needs repair.
Driving and Performance
Lightweight construction and strong diesel engines help the MAN TGE feel remarkably nimble for such a large van. The tall driving position gives a clear view of the road ahead and your surroundings, which is helped by the large side mirrors giving a great view rearwards.
The diesel engine range is responsive, and the 138bhp version strikes a good balance between performance and economy. The six-speed gearbox can be a little notchy, but overall it's precise and the well spaced ratios make the most of the engine torque. When you have a heavy load on board you can feel the engine having to work harder, although it's not what you would call strained.
The cabin is quiet and refined at speed, and the engine is only really vocal when you're using maximum revs. But thanks to the spread of torque, it's not really necessary to rev the engine that much.
The eight-speed auto gearbox really takes the strain out of driving. Shifts from the twin-clutch box are smooth, especially downshifts, which don't cause any jerkiness in the cabin. Light steering makes manoeuvring the TGE a piece of cake, but the wheel weights up at speed so never feels overly light or twitchy when travelling at higher speeds.
The TGE's suspension is well resolved, and the van doesn't bounce around quite as much as rival vans when it's unladen. It still smooths out when you have a payload on board, but without anything on board the TGE still feels relaxed and smooth.
Go for the four-wheel-drive TGE, and you get a Haldex system that engages when the electronics sense a loss of grip. This isn't as reactive as a permanent 4x4 set-up, but it's acceptable enough for most off-road applications. The TGE has a slightly higher ride height and a marginally smaller payload capacity, but this is offset by running costs that aren't far off the standard TGE, and certainly better than the Mercedes Sprinter 4x4.
If you've driven a VW Crafter Mk2, then all of these traits will be very familiar to you, as both vans behave in the same way. That's no bad thing on the TGE's part - MAN has based its model on one of the best large vans on sale.
Cab and Interior
Like the exterior styling, the TGE has a cab that is lifted wholesale from the VW Crafter. The only differences are the MAN logo on the steering wheel and infotainment display when you turn the ignition on. But yet again, this is far from being a bad thing, because the Crafter/TGE has the kind of interior quality that leaves other large vans behind, and can match some cars for the quality of its fit and finish.
The seats are trimmed in hard-wearing fabric, but it stil feels like quality material, and the row is split into an individual seat for the driver and a double seat for passengers. The bases of those flip up to reveal deep storage space underneath - big enough to fit two crash helmets - and the middle seat back folds down to reveal a table. A big glovebox, deep door bins and a number of trays are dotted around the dashboard mean storage is excellent.
All TGEs get a five-inch TFT infotainment screen as standard with USB and 12v sockets for charging, although MAN does offer a VW-sourced sat-nav system with an eight-inch touchscreen. DAB digital radio is also an option, although Bluetooth is standard across the range, as is a multifunction steering wheel.
Again, MAN offers a lot of options to upgrade the interior. There's a leather trimmed heated steering wheel, extra 12v sockets, ergoComfort seating, electrically heated and folding wing mirrors, a heated windscreen, seat heating or harder wearing seat covers.