At A Glance
I'm delighted, no, I'm vibrating with happiness to introduce you to the Toyota Proace medium van! This is the 4th van we've reviewed that's built on the PSA Group EMP2 Platform - we've done the Vauxhall Vivaro, the Citroen Dispatch & the Peugeot Expert but today, let's see how the Toyota Proace handles the Vanarama Road Test...
The Outside Of The Toyota Proace
Let's start at the front where we always do… first impressions are that this is the first EMP2 Platform van that actually looks a little bit different. That's not a coincidence - when PSA Group & Toyotawere talking about sharing this platform, Toyota said "we'll do it, but we want our Proace to look different". Well, I think they've absolutely nailed it. You just have to look at the huge Toyota badge on the black gloss & metal grille that pulls your eyes around into the massive headlight clusters - they're not only bespoke & huge, but they've also got their own washers at this trim level.
At the Design trim level, you get all of these nice little features like the metal & a kind of brushed aluminium around the splitter. But that's not where the differences end... on the other EMP2 platform vans, instead of the nice body colour panels at the bottom of the front, you just have black plastic all the way around, but Toyota has ensured this area is cut out & the fog lights make it look that little bit different. Overall it looks a lot less snub-nosed at the front & actually feels like it's jutting out a little bit further. I for one, absolutely love it.
The front of this van is not the only show stopper. As I take a look at the side, the excellent 5-spoke alloy wheels really stand out. At the lower trim levels, you get steel wheels & although it's not a dealbreaker, why go for steel when you can have alloy? You also get body coloured wing mirrors at this trim level, which I think are really nice, plus they come with blind spot monitor warnings on them, so if there is anything in your blind spot, a little light goes on & keeps you safe. The whole side of this medium van just looks cool & the chrome door handles (which are also used at the back) are really the icing on the cake.
The Loading Bay On The Toyota Proace
When I open up the back doors, as you'd expect, they open to 90 degrees & when you disengage the locks, they open up to a full 180 degrees. Dimensions-wise, the door at the back is 1.2 metres wide & 1.2 metres high & the loading bay itself is 2.5 metres long. If you open the load through though, that extends to 3.6 metres, that is really really good in terms of width.
At its widest, it's 1.6 metres & just between the arches that's 1.25 metres. If you head round to the side sliding doors, they are 0.9 metres wide & 1.2 metres high & because this is the 2-litre diesel version, the payload is 1,400 kilograms - now that really sets this van apart from its competition, well, aside from all the other vans that share the same platform of course!
Inside The Cabin Of The Toyota Proace
Getting into the cabin of the Proace makes me think back to my reviews of the Citroen Dispatch & the Vauxhall Vivaro due to the interior similarities - but actually, the familiarity is only skin deep. Toyota has done a very good job of adding some bells & whistles at the Design trim level. Starting with the steering wheel, it has the same nice black durable plastic that you've seen in all the other reviews, but this one comes with some additional controls. On the left-hand side there are controls for the driver information display, as well as the audio controls & on the right-hand side there are controls for the radio stations, the screen & voice control.
Behind the steering wheel there's some paddle shifters. Now, this is an automatic vehicle so these don't actually engage unless you tell the vehicle that you want to use them. Once you've decided to go manual, they're very nice, very functional & very easy to use. The dashboard in the Proace is very clear & you get a full colour driver information display too, which shows all the usual information such as your speed, your average miles per gallon & of course your emissions. You've also got a nice clear speedo, rev counter, oil temp gauge & fuel gauge - just as you'd expect.
So let's move onto the important stuff… cup holders. Now look, I've spoken at great length about my disappointment with this group's cup holders so I'll say no more about it & just move on. If you're looking for storage, the Proace has a nice flip top cubbyhole - it's not the deepest ever but the addition of the lid means that anything you put in there will stay there. The big infotainment screen at the Design trim level comes with sat-nav as standard too, which is a lovely addition. On the screen you've got the usual settings such as all your car settings, the general settings for the screen itself, your apps where you'll be able to access Android Auto & Apple Carplay & also your phone settings so you can hook your phone up through a USB connection or through Bluetooth.
Below the screen, you've got your air conditioning system which in these vans is always ace. Below that you've got a line of buttons including your full lock, your load bay lock, your hazards & just next to that you can turn traction control on & off. Just below that there is also a little cubby hole where I stashed my key fob alongside the ignition button, a USB socket & a 12 volt socket as well. As this is an automatic vehicle, instead of a gear stick, you've got a radial dial, which is nice & very easy to use. Plus, as I mentioned, if you want to use the paddles to go full manual you can by pressing the M button which activates them.
Moving onto more of the storage in the van, let's talk about the glovebox first. There is a difference here to the typical PSA glovebox; whilst the others are just plain old black plastic, in the Toyota Proace it's lined with some lovely black felt. Below that you've got a small, strange little cubby hole with a divider… to be honest I'm not sure what it's for but below it you've got a nice deep cubby hole which seems to go on for miles right the way to the back. There are also 3 little additions to this one including a 12-volt socket, your aux-in & your on/off switch for the passenger airbag.
Moving on to the under-seat storage & just next to the driver seat there is a panel which you simply pull out to reveal a cubby hole that you could fit probably a couple of sandwiches or maybe a couple of digital devices into. Next to that another panel which rises up reveals your load through, which increases the loading base length from around 2.5 metres to 3.6, so if you've got any longer lengths of metal work, piping, timber etc, you can just shove them through there - a really nice addition!
Speaking of nice additions & another feature of the cabin which I really like is the familiar mobile office which you can pull down next to the driver seat. You've got a clipboard that folds out & the bungee cord to hold documents in place & a little cubby hole as well for business cards or maybe a couple of pens. Once you're done, you just fold it up & put it away.
The final feature of the interior, which I have to mention before we get on the road, is the heads-up display which slides up when you start the engine to show what speed you're going. You can also move it around using controls to put it higher, lower, brighter or darker depending on whether you're driving in daylight or nighttime. A lovely little addition & overall a great interior.
On The Road With The Toyota Proace!
Unfortunately, at the beginning of this review I thought it was going to stay relatively dry, but then the heavens opened & as I started my road test it was absolutely tipping it down. Actually, it's great as it gives me an opportunity to try out the wipers, the demister settings & all sorts of stuff. Let's face it, you're going to need to know these things for the British weather! In the cabin, I'm very nice & warm, the wipers are doing a very good job & my visibility is pretty much perfect. The heads-up display is also a really nice addition in weather such as this as when there's all that spray hitting the windscreen you don't really want to take your eyes off the road & with that you don't have to as you can always tell what speed you're clocking.
All the other vans I've driven that share this platform have been manual - this is the first one I've had which is fully automatic so it's a nice difference. This is a 2-litre diesel engine with an 8-speed automatic gearbox & it's very nice & comfortable. The transitions between gears are very smooth & I have to admit, not having to mess around with the gears is great. I can just sit back & enjoy it & when you're at the Design trim level in the Toyota Proace it's all about sitting back & enjoying its a very comfortable interior. It feels a little bit more refined than the other vans that share this platform - the heads-up display adds that kind of futuristic side to it & the big screen in the middle & the sat-nav as standard just give it that something extra.
Fuel economy is something that the PSA group & Toyota on this platform talk about a lot, their engines are all very efficient. This one is a 2-litre diesel engine, attached to that automatic 8-speed gearbox. I've got to be honest with you, I've been driving for a fair while now & I was expecting you know high 20s maybe just peeking into the 30s but actually I'm getting an average miles per gallon of around 36 to 39 miles per gallon, which for a diesel engine two litres in size, is pretty good.
I don't even mind in this van when I pull up to some traffic lights because of how comfortable it is & how relaxing it feels to have the automatic gearbox. I'm not worrying about when I have to take off. I just sit & wait - I can feel the hill assist kick in, the engine stops because it's stop/start & it just feels like everything is done for you, it's great.
A Final Verdict On The Toyota Proace
Overall, the Proace just feels very Toyota - the build quality on the outside is really nice & I love the fact that they made a fuss about making the exterior more interesting & different to the others that share the platform. I love the fact that the interior has those few little bells & whistles. I love that it's got the big infotainment screen. I like that the inside of the glove box is lined with felt.
What I've always said is that I don't believe platform sharing blunts innovation, there are a lot of industry observers that say that it does, but they are the ones that aren't taking into account the sheer amount of money it takes to actually develop a new van platform! It makes more sense to share & actually true innovation comes from those business realities. It costs a lot of money to develop a van platform, so share it with a close business friend - that's what we have done. They have also made it their own - Toyota actually said to PSA group 'we want it to be like one of ours, we know that it's going to have the same back end & the lack of height options, but we're going to make up for it by making it recognisably Toyota & they've done that. The innovation is very easy to see & I've got to say that the other platform sharers may not necessarily have done it as aggressively as Toyota. This van feels like a Toyota precisely because they pushed hard & they had to innovate on a common platform.
The van itself feels safe to drive, it feels efficient to drive & it feels like you're getting bags of power as well as a good response. There's enough bells & whistles in there to keep you happy & the heads up display is a great addition to this very very well-rounded offering from Toyota. The Design trim level is definitely the trim level I would recommend to anyone, not only does it have rear parking sensors it has front parking sensors, fog lights, it's got a really nice looking front end, it's got a splitter, it's got the name Proace on the front, on the back, on the doors, on the loading lip… there's an element of pride from Toyota to put their name on this van & I think I completely understand why they're proud! What they've created is a wonderful van. A big thumbs up from me!
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