Three vans leading the way in the Gulf

The lowdown on some of the most popular vans in the region

PHOTO: The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has proved a popular choice for use as ambulances in the Middle East. Credit: Supplied


The Mercedes-Benz name is undoubtedly a force to contend with in both the passenger cars and heavy commercial vehicle segments in the GCC. The German brand has also managed to establish itself in the vans market in the region, with one of its most popular and versatile vehicles: the Sprinter.

A sure indicator of the success of any commercial vehicle is its adaptability to a wide range of different applications, and the Sprinter is no exception.

“From our experience, the Sprinter has proven to be the ideal solution for ambulance services all over the world, and the same success story is continuing in the Middle East,” says Thomas Greipel, general manager at Mercedes-Benz Vans Middle East & North Africa.

“Our product portfolio around the Sprinter alone offers various solutions in multiple segments: ambulances, school buses, taxis and much more.”

The new Sprinter is available in three wheelbases, four body lengths and with three different roof variants, making it well equipped to handle a range of requirements in both cargo and passenger transport. The Sprinter panel van’s cargo volume of up to 17 m3 can be loaded from three sides, while the crewbus can carry up to nine occupants.

Safety features on the Sprinter include Electronic Stability Program (ESP), front airbag for the driver, three-point seat belts on all seats, hydraulic braking system and more. The Crosswind Assist feature, which provides stabilisation in strong, gusty side winds through automatic brake interventions, is available as standard on the 3.5t and 3.88t Sprinter in standard, long or extra-long body lengths, and with a standard or high roof.

Among the most sustainable vehicles in its class, the new Sprinter offers a fuel consumption as low as 6.3 litres per 100km, when equipped with the optional Mercedes-Benz BlueEFFICIENCY Plus package. An optional 7G-TRONIC 7-speed automatic transmission, offers the ride comfort of a passenger car, while increasing the shifting efficiency of the transmission and contributing to the Sprinter’s low fuel consumption.

As far as aftersales and maintenance goes, all Mercedes-Benz vans in the Middle East come with a universal two years’ warranty, and various service contracts are offered according to customers’ needs, Greipel says.


Even a cursory look at vans on the UAE’s roads reveals the dominance of the Hiace in this segment.

The vehicle is a popular choice in the LCV segment, recording a 10% sales growth in the GCC last year, according to Alan Carpenter, general manager – sales and marketing for Toyota at Al-Futtaim Motors, the Japanese brand’s UAE dealer.

The Toyota Hiace is available in two versions: the commuter van, sold to tourism, staff transportation, hospitality and rental companies among others; and the panel van, popular among delivery and logistics companies as well as individual business owners. A wide range of modifications can also be performed on the vans, from basic shelving and cab lining through to more extreme changes, Carpenter says.

Moreover, in order to cater to the needs of the high-end hospitality market in the UAE, Al-Futtaim has also recently launched a Hiace Luxury Wagon, offering leather seats, side tables, and foldable back seats for extra luggage.

The 2015 Hiace comes equipped with either a 2.7L petrol engine, or a 2.5L turbo diesel one. The vehicle is available in three different grades with different body sizes and engine choices, mated to both manual and automatic transmissions.

Safety features on the Hiace include dual SRS airbags, ABS protection, and WIL (Whiplash Injury Lessening) seats that help reduce injury in low-speed and rear-end collisions. Meanwhile, a front double-wishbone torsion bar spring suspension and a rear leaf spring suspension ensure greater stability and ride comfort for passengers.

Aftersales is an undeniable advantage for the Toyota brand overall and for the Hiace, Carpenter notes. “Toyota vehicles are known for their quality, durability, low total cost of ownership and high resale value. This is no different for Hiace, as the vehicle enjoys great fuel economy plus lower service and maintenance cost compared to other vans in the market.”


While GMC’s SUVs and pickup trucks are a favourite among automotive enthusiasts in the region, the American brand’s Savana van has been finding favour among fleet owners as well.

“The GMC Savana is doing a stellar job in the regional fleet market,” says Mohsen Kassem, Regional Sales and Marketing Manager for GMC.

A prime reason for the Savana’s popularity is its multipurpose nature, he adds, with the van available in cargo, passenger and cutaway versions.

The van has managed to carve out a niche for itself in the public and private ambulance market in both passenger and cutaway applications, Kassem says. “We also have a foothold in the security transport industry and total dominance of the cash-in-transit business across the region, as well as a healthy position with medium enterprise businesses that need the cargo capacity and performance the GMC Savana offers.”

The GMC Savana van is powered by a Vortex 6L V8 engine, generating 324hp (net) and 504Nm (net) torque at 4,400rpm. The vehicle is equipped with a standard anti-lock brake system (ABS) as well as StabiliTrak, a feature that uses sensors to read the position of the steering wheel, vehicle speed, brake pressure, lateral acceleration and turning rate to keep the van on track.

The Savana 3500 cargo van offers a maximum payload capacity of 1,899kg. For people-moving applications, on the other hand, the 2500 and 3500 passenger vans offer seating configurations of 2/3/3/4, and 2/3/3/3/4 on the 3500 EX T version.

When asked what customers in the Middle East are primarily looking for when buying a van, Kassem explains that dependability and capability are the most crucial factors. “Our corporate customers desire GMC Savana because they know they not only get a capable vehicle that will suit their requirements, but that they will also get a vehicle their business can depend on, with minimal downtime, long service windows, and a wide network of service support backed up by spare part availability.

“Savana’s three different variants ensure that any business looking to tow, haul or need special installations for their business have their requirements met.”


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