Toyota Proace van review
The Toyota Proace van is better than ever in second generation guise, with clever positioning giving it an edge
Toyota has been selling vans in the UK since 1977, but it’s never been as big a player in the commercial vehicle market as it is in the passenger car sphere. As part of a rejuvenated Toyota LCV range, the latest Toyota Proace van is aiming to redress the balance.
The Proace is ostensibly a mid-sized panel van along the lines of the Volkswagen Transporter, Ford Transit Custom and Vauxhall Vivaro but it’s actually a little smaller than those models. In Proace Compact guise, it straddles the midsize panel van sector and the smaller compact van class below, where you’ll find models like the Ford Transit Connect, Fiat Doblo Cargo and Volkswagen Caddy. Larger versions of these vans compete with the Proace Compact in terms of load capacity, while the larger Proace Medium and Long versions face up to the aforementioned mid-sized vehicles in the class above, although the Toyota isn't quite as spacious.
This is the second generation of Toyota Proace to be sold in the UK. The first van was launched in 2013 and was a product of the same deal between Toyota and PSA Peugeot Citroen that brings us the current Proace. That arrangement sees the Proace built by the PSA Group in Valenciennes, northern France on the same production line as its two sister models – the Peugeot Expert and the Citroen Dispatch.
More reviews for Proace Van
The badge on the grille notwithstanding, there’s very little to separate the Proace from the Expert and the Dispatch. You get a range of panel vans that includes three body lengths founded on two different wheelbases.
The Compact version is 4,606mm long but can still offer load volumes of up to 5.1 cubic metres. The Medium and Long models are both on the same 3,275mm wheelbase but the Long model has an extended rear overhang yielding a 5,308mm overall length and a 6.1 cubic metre maximum load volume.
Beyond the vans, Toyota offers a Proace crew cab with a second row of seats behind those in the front, a full-on Combi minibus and a platform cab ready to take specialist modifications. Toyota dealers can provide bespoke aftermarket conversions, while the company takes pride in the fact that it strives to provide a personal service for those companies needing specific conversions. Completing the line-up is the Proace Verso - a plusher people-carrying version of the Proace designed to slot into the Toyota passenger car range.
In the engine department there are 1.6 and 2.0-litre Euro6 diesel units. The 1.6-litre offers a choice of 94bhp or 114bhp power outputs while the 2.0-litre options tops the range with 121bhp. The smallest engine gets a five-speed manual, while the larger engines are six-speed manuals (PSA's six-speed auto isn't offered) but all engines return impressive fuel economy figures. Even the least economical Toyota Proace tops 50mpg on the combined cycle, making this one of themost efficient vans of its size you can buy.
There are two trim levels to choose from, Base and Comfort. Base gets you remote central locking, a steel bulkhead, cruise control, electric windows and mirrors plus a DAB stereo. Comfort models have improved sound insulation for the cabin, air-conditioning, front fog lamps and a dashboard information display amongst other features. The desirable Toyota Pro-Touch touchscreen sat-nav system is part of a premium option pack on the Comfort models that also adds 17-inch alloy wheels.
The key strengths of the Proace are its outstanding fuel economy and that 5-year warranty. Both should grab the attention of operators wanting to keep costs in check. The engines being offered are solid units from a performance standpoint too but the Proace range lacks the power and the top end carrying capacity to compete head-on with the class-leaders in the mid-sized van segment. What the Toyota does do is mix compact van costs and manoeuvrability with mid-sized van practicality. Toyota's modest dealer network will be better geared towards serving sole traders rather than multi-fleet operators, and their personal service might be more appealing to these sort of van users.
MPG, CO2 and Running Costs
The Toyota Proace range sits across two sectors of the van market and depending on whether you view it as a compact van or a mid-sized panel, its fuel economy is either very good or excellent.
The entry-level 94bhp diesel engine is actually the least efficient, mainly because it’s the only one that doesn’t get stop-start technology. However it still manages combined cycle returns of 51.4mpg with CO2 emissions of 144g/km. The 114bhp version of the 1.6-litre unit does 54.3mpg and 137g/km, while the range-topping 121bhp 2.0-litre diesel manages 53.5mpg combined.
All the engines are compliant with the Euro 6 emissions regulations and feature a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system to clean the exhaust gases. This technology used Adblue to reduce levels of NOx emissions and all the Proace models have a 22.5-litre Adblue tank that will need refilling every 9,300 miles on average. The filler flap is mounted on the B-pillar and can be accessed when the driver’s door is open.
Load Space and Practicality
The majority of mid-sized panel vans kick off their ranges with a short wheelbase version that’s just under 5m long, but the Toyota Proace Compact is just 4.6m long - giving a good 200-300mm away to its rivals. As a result, the Compact is closer to smaller vans like the VW Caddy or Nissan NV200 than it is to the likes of the Ford Transit Custom. It offers a 1,000kg payload, a 4.6 cubic metre load volume and a 2,162mm load length.
If you step up to the Medium Proace model the capacities are more in line with mid-sized panel van rivals. There’s a 1,400kg maximum payload, a 5.3 cubic metre load volume and a 2.512mm load length. The Long (5.3m) version is bigger still, offering a 6.1 cubic metre load volume, the same 1,400kg payload and a 2,862mm load length.
The cargo space is accessed via double doors at the back and a standard pair of sliding side doors that are big enough to take a standard Europallet in all bar the Compact version. There’s also the option of a lifting tailgate in models without the 1.6-litre 94bhp engine. However, while the openings are a Euro pallet's width, the door openings aren't as tall as you'll find on the likes of the Renault Trafic/Vauxhall Vivaro, so larger items might be a bit tricky to load.
To help boost the practicality of the load space Toyota offers the further option of the Smart Cargo system that is standard on Comfort spec models. This features a front passenger seat that either folds upwards so bulky items can be housed on the cab floor or allows longer cargo to be poked underneath the seat base through a flap in the bulkhead. It increases the load length by 1.16m and boosts load volume by half a cubic metre, and is suitable for loading items such as planks or ladders. The Smart Cargo system also includes a useful in-cab laptop desk that is created by folding down the back of the middle seat.
Reliability and Safety
The Toyota Proace Verso received a 5-star rating when it was tested by Euro NCAP in 2016, which is a good indication that the Proace van will perform just as well from an occupant protection perspective. Standard safety equipment includes VSC stability control with Hill-Start Assist, plus front and side airbags. There’s also a tyre pressure monitoring system thrown in.
One of the big lures attracting customers to the Comfort spec models is the Safety and Security Pack that’s fitted as standard. It includes Forward Collision Warning that prompts the driver if an imminent collision is detected and a Pre-Collision system that primes the van’s safety systems before an impact occurs. There’s also adaptive cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, an alarm and the 7-inch Pro Touch Touchscreen interface.
All Toyota Proace models get a 5-year/100,000-mile warranty with unlimited mileage in year one for some extra piece of mind. Toyota sees this extensive warranty as an area that can win sales for the Proace against rivals that have less comprehensive cover. Service intervals are a lengthy 25,000 miles or two years.
Driving and Performance
Toyota offers three engine options in the Proace. Buyers can get a 1.6-litre diesel with 94bhp and 210Nm of torque or the same engine with 114bhp and 240Nm. Finally, there’s the 121bhp, 340Nm 2.0-litre unit. It’s worth noting that the Citroen Dispatch and Peugeot Expert also have 148bhp and 175bhp versions of the 2.0-litre engine, but Toyota is only offering these more muscular engines in the Proace Verso MPV for the time being.
On the road, the Proace makes a significant step forward from its predecessor in terms of refinement, ride comfort and handling. The dynamic bar is that much higher across the van segment these days, however, and operators expect a driving experience that’s closer than ever to that of a passenger car. To help the Proace achieve this, it uses a platform that's shared with cars such as the Peugeot 308 and 3008, and the Citroen C4 Picasso.
Against the current crop of rivals the Proace shapes up well. The ride was good in our test vehicle, which had a small load on the back to help subdue the heavy-duty rear suspension. The van was a little noisy when bouncing over rough surfaces but the suspension set-up keeps the van’s weight well in check through corners. The steering is responsive enough but with no feedback the Proace can be a little tricky to place accurately in corners. You find yourself making regular adjustments to keep the van on the desired line.
The manual gearboxes fitted to the Proace are not the smoothest shifting items you’ll encounter in a van, the 5-speed manual in the entry-level 94bhp models being particularly notchy. The brakes also take a bit of getting used to, as there’s very little travel in the pedal in comparison to the throttle and clutch. This makes it tricky to modulate the brakes at first but at least they stop the van quickly and securely.
Performance from the engines is tough to fault and it’s largely a case of buyers getting what they pay for as they ascend the range. The 94bhp unit is a noisier than the others but it doesn’t sound rough. On the motorway, there’s more of a droning noise but this may be partly down to the entry-level Proace models lacking the acoustic windscreen and other sound proofing measures of higher spec vans. The standard steel bulkhead helps keep tyre and wind noise in check at high speeds.
With the 114bhp and 121bhp options you get progressively more in-gear flexibility and general urge for overtaking. The 2.0-litre is probably only worth shelling out for if you’ll be carrying a lot of weight as the 114bhp 1.6 is an impressive engine that seems adequate in most situations. While an auto gearbox is available on the Peugeot Expert and Citroen Dispatch, Toyota doesn't offer it on the Proace.
Cab and Interior
Toyota has never had a problem delivering a well-constructed, durable interior in its vehicles but the same cannot be said for PSA Peugeot Citroen, and it’s they who actually build the Proace. Despite the fact that the van’s cabin components are clearly drawn from the French manufacturer’s parts bin, the general quality is very good, and the van feels like it can stand up to tough usage.
The Proace has a high seating position but the driver doesn’t sit quite as high as in the Transit Custom or the Vauxhall Vivaro. That means there’s less of a step up when you get in but the view out over other traffic isn’t quite as commanding. The high dashboard and low roof contribute to a slightly claustrophobic feel as you look out through the letterbox shaped windscreen but visibility is fine, aided by decent-sized mirrors (although these are single-piece with no wide-angle section) and side windows at a much lower level than the base of the screen.
If you're travelling three-up, your passengers both get conventional three-point seatbelts, but shoulder space can get rather tight for bigger passengers.
Cabin storage is OK but there’s limited space for larger items anywhere aside from the large door pockets. The low roof means there’s no overhead storage option but there’s plenty of small cubbies to keep smaller items in check.
Generally, the control interface in the standard Proace seems easy to work out but we’d recommend the optional 7” touchscreen to anyone who can afford it. The system brings a host of useful features and adds a touch of class to that cabin as a whole.
|Toyota Proace Compact||4,605mm||1,920mm||1,910mm|
|Toyota Proace Medium||4,959mm||1,920mm||1,940mm|
|Toyota Proace Long||5,380mm||1,920mm||1,950mm|
Load area dimensions
|Load length||Load width (between wheel arches)||Load height|
|Toyota Proace Compact||2,162mm||1,258mm||1,397mm|
|Toyota Proace Medium||2,512mm||1,258mm||1,397mm|
|Toyota Proace Long||2,862mm||1,258mm||1,397mm|