Toyota Proace van review

Category: Medium Van

The Toyota Proace is one of the most economical and practical medium vans on the market

Toyota Proace
  • Toyota Proace
  • Toyota Proace
  • Toyota Proace
  • Toyota Proace load bay
  • Toyota Proace rear
  • Toyota Proace
  • Toyota Proace
  • Toyota Proace
  • Toyota Proace load bay
  • Toyota Proace rear
What Car?’s Proace deals

Introduction

What Car? says...

Toyota isn’t a name often associated with vans. People largely think its commercial vehicle repertoire begins and ends with the Toyota Hilux pick-up truck, but Toyota has a long tradition of making light commercial vehicles, particularly those in the mid-sized sector.

The Toyota HiAce was introduced in the 1960s and there have been many other "Ace" versions since, and while the Toyota Proace is in no way a relative or even a descendant of models from the past, the name certainly sets it out as a Toyota van.

Of course, the Proace isn’t exclusively a Toyota product – few vans these days are unique to one manufacturer. The Toyota Proace shares most of its mechanicals with the Citroën Dispatch, Peugeot Expert and Vauxhall Vivaro.

The current version is based on the third and most recent generation of the Stellantis platform and is a rival to the Ford Transit CustomMercedes Vito and VW Transporter.

Like the other vans, the Proace gets its own individual styling as well as a shared interior and cleaner engines. Shared parts between the Partner, Dispatch, Vivaro and Proace include everything from the bonnet backwards, with only the front two panels and headlight clusters varying between each of the vans. The rear portion is an updated version of the outgoing van, while the front is based on the Efficient Modular Platform 2 (EMP2) that Peugeot and Citroën both use for their passenger cars.

There are two engine options, the smaller of which also originates from the passenger car world. The 1.5-litre unit is available with either 100bhp or 120bhp and is paired with a six-speed manual gearbox. A more powerful 2.0-litre engine also comes with 120bhp or 174bhp options but it is only the bigger of the two that is available with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Unlike the other vans from Peugeot, Citroën and Vauxhall, there is no middle (147bhp) power rating for the 2.0-litre engine.

The Proace has Compact, Medium and Long body lengths, but there is no option of a high roof model. Trims range from the entry-level Active to the top-spec Design option. There is also an Icon trim level in between. Toyota also produces a combi van version of the Proace that can seat up to nine people. 

Read more: How we test vans

Overview

Toyota vans might not have the cachet of the firm's pick-up trucks, but the Proace is one of the most economical and practical on the market. Comfortable and fun to drive, it’s also one of the safest vans on the market if you add on all the options.

  • Comfortable interior
  • Fun to drive
  • Huge payload capacity
  • Not a great engine choice
  • Compromised visibility
  • Safety options come at a price

Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

The previous Proace was old from the moment it was launched as the van it was based on was already six years old in 2007. Fortunately, the new-generation van is a much newer and more sophisticated vehicle.

Toyota Proace image
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The EMP2 car platform used by the Proace makes it engaging to drive. It’s not only miles ahead of the van it replaces, but very close to being the best driving van in the sector. While the Proace doesn’t quite match up to the Ford Transit Custom in that respect, it does have a very smooth ride and feels really attuned to the road.

The old model was quite bouncy even when loaded, but the new van is much more composed with or without weight in the back.  The steering is much more direct and purposeful, and there is considerably more grip. It feels more planted on the road and therefore feels safer too.

The six-speed manual gearbox has a good action to it and matches well to the lower-powered engines. The additional power and torque of the bigger engine are better dealt with by the automatic option, so it is just as well that that is the only option in the Proace. The 174bhp engine is really at its best with the eight-speed automatic and together make a fine choice.

Fuel economy will suffer slightly as a result, if you choose this option, but not dramatically, with a claimed combined fuel consumption of up to 39.2mpg compared with the most efficient Proace, that being the 1.5-litre 120bhp option which achieves as much as 44.8mpg.

Visibility is perhaps the greatest weakness of the Proace. Its lower, more car-like seating position is great for enhancing the overall feel of the vehicle, but it does make forward visibility harder. Allied with what is a fairly narrow windscreen anyway and it becomes noticeably harder to see where you are going compared with a Transit Custom or VW Transporter. Going forwards is the easy part, as the Proace’s wing mirrors are also particularly small for a mid-sized van. They could really do with being larger.

Toyota Proace

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

Interiors in the medium van segment vary wildly, from the practical to the sophisticated. The Proace does a great job of sitting in both camps, and whether you’re in the Active, Icon or Design level interiors, you’ll find plenty of storage and enough room to get comfortable. The materials are of a high quality, and the interior has a great overall feel about it.

Entry-level Active vans are well equipped, with electric heated door mirrors, electric windows, cruise control, a DAB radio with Bluetooth and USB connectivity all part of the package. There’s a built in tyre-pressure monitoring system too.

Step up a level to Icon and you get rear parking sensors, manual air conditioning, a Smart Cargo load-through bulkhead, and a height-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support. You can also specify the 7.0in infotainment touchscreen as an option at this point.

Design trim models are the higher specification and get the touchscreen as standard along with an alarm, front parking sensors and blind-spot monitoring. It also includes the Toyota Safety Sense pack, which includes a Pre-Collision System with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control and a head-up display.

But, if you want a large-sized van, the Design model isn’t for you as the trim option is only available on medium panel and crew vans and the long version of the crew van, rather than the panel van.

It’s a comfortable interior to be in with the more adjustable driver’s seat being particularly useful. There’s plenty of forward and backward travel in the seat and the steering is height adjustable too. The gearlever is a fraction too close to the driver’s knee and the knob itself is probably the least appealing aspect of an otherwise very ergonomic interior.

Toyota Proace

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Compact, Medium and Long versions of the Proace are available and range from 4600mm in length to 5300mm. Compacts have a maximum loadspace length of 2160mm with Medium vans able to move a 2510mm length. Long versions can transport up to 2860mm but, when fitted with a folding front passenger seat and load-through bulkhead hatch, there is an additional 1160mm of room.

Load volumes for the Compact, Medium and Long bodies are 5.1, 5.8 and 6.6 cubic metres respectively, with an overall height for the van of 1940mm and a usable internal load height of 1397mm.

Maximum payloads have increased enormously over the old model, with as much as 150kg gained over the previous van. That’s not just because the old van was a bit heavy either; the kerb weight also compares favourably with rivals in the sector like the Ford Transit Custom, and enables the Proace to have a maximum payload of 1487kg for a 3.1-tonne van and up to 1100kg for lower-rated 2.6-tonne vans.

Toyota Proace load bay

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Given that the trim level you choose dictates the size of the van you can operate (or vice versa), it’s probably best to start with the Icon as the option you’ll need. It gives you a high level of standard trim but also means you can add features like the 7.0in touchscreen, which has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

Your choice of engine will largely depend on the sort of work you have in mind, but we’d recommend the 120bhp engine (unless you really need an auto). The 1.5-litre is the best bet on fuel but, whether you choose a 1.5 or 2.0-litre powerplant for your 120bhp van, you won’t be disappointed by its performance or refinement.

There are a few options also worth considering if you have the funds. Aside from the 7.0in screen, which does transform the look and functionality of the dashboard, there’s also additional reversing cameras, head-up displays and active safety systems to consider. Forward Collision Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control that goes as low as 12mph and a Pre-Collision safety system that prevents impacts when travelling below 18mph all significantly enhance safety.


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About the author

George Barrow is one of the leading van and truck reviewers, and is the UK’s only representative on the prestigious International Van of the Year jury. He has written about vans and commercial vehicles for the past 15 years, and can be found in titles including The Sun and What Van?, alongside What Car?.

Barrow is well regarded in the commercial vehicle industry, securing access to the latest models – and the people who made them – long before other titles.

Toyota Proace rear

FAQs

  • The Toyota Proace is made by the Stellantis group, and is essentially a slightly redesigned version of the Citroën Dispatch, Peugeot Expert and Vauxhall Vivaro. However, it does come with a five-year warranty as standard, and typically a higher level of standard kit (for a higher starting price). Read our full Toyota Proace review for more.

  • The Toyota Proace is sold with a standard five-year/100,000 mile warranty, which is longer than that of its stablemates the Citroën Dispatch, Peugeot Expert and Vauxhall Vivaro. With certain conditions, that can also be extended across ten years, underlining Toyota’s confidence in its products. Read our Toyota Proace verdict.

  • Yes and no. The Toyota Proace is badged a Toyota, sold by Toyota, serviced by Toyota and so on. However, parts sharing is not uncommon in the van world, and it is also true that it is made by the Stellantis group, and that it is a rebodied version of its Citroën Dispatch, Peugeot Expert and Vauxhall Vivaro vans. Read our Toyota Proace review for more.

  • The Toyota Proace shares its underpinnings and fundamental dimensions and engine line-up with the Citroën Dispatch, Peugeot Expert and Vauxhall Vivaro vans. As part of that collaboration, it is built by the Stellantis and manufactured in its factories. Read our Toyota Proace verdict.

     

  • The Toyota Proace is powered by engines made by Stellantis, owners of Citroen, Peugeot, Vauxhall and more. However, Toyota buyers have just two choices, a 1.5-litre unit with 100bhp or 120bhp, or a 2.0-litre engine with 120bhp or 174bhp, whereas customers of the Stellantis brands can choose between four options. Read our Toyota Proace driving impressions.

  • Essentially, yes, the Vauxhall Vivaro (and Citroën Dispatch and Peugeot Expert) are the same vehicle as the Toyota Proace, albeit with each being mildly restyled and sold with sometimes different engine and spec options. In the Toyota’s case this includes a longer warranty. Read our Toyota Proace review.