THE buzzword thrown around by the be-suited Iveco team on the new Daily's Australian launch was "excited".
Excited the new range of cab chassis and vans has landed on our shores, excited the dealerships have a new model they think should sell itself, and excited that we journalists should be excited.
Such confidence from the Italian brand is not without good reason. The new Daily has just been awarded the 2015 International Van of the Year by a panel of 23 European-based journalists, trumping rivals Ford Transit, Fiat Ducato, Mercedes Vito and Renault Trafic.
Key to the all-new Daily's success is the introduction of an optional ZF Hi-Matic eight-speed automatic gearbox, an industry first for the class, and favoured by the automotive segment in the likes of Jeep and Maserati vehicles.
Commercial vehicles are increasingly striving for more "car-like" features than ever before, and the Daily's decidedly non-agricultural new gearbox plus multiple airbags, MP3 and Bluetooth operated through steering wheel controls, cruise control, Eco switch and a rear parking sensor all as standard in the Daily add to the car-ness.
A workhorse it still is however, with van load capacity up to almost 20m3, while the cab or dual-cabs have numerous options with a bodybuilder-friendly chassis layout.
Launched at Anglesea's Australian Automotive Research Centre, the new Daily in its many guises was given to journos to sample on a 100kmh test loop and a series of slower speed undulating turns.
Sadly no chance to drive them in their other natural environments of stop-start city traffic or building sites, but with laden and unladen offerings, the tests revealed an assured and impressive new Daily.
The move towards being more car-like includes a lowered seating position over the outgoing model, a smaller steering wheel and key dash controls being within easy reach. Excellent comfort - with a touch of treating yourself - comes with spring suspension for the front seats (adjustable for the driver's weight), which are also heated. These are optional on entry-level Dailys, but standard on most of the range.
Being a commercial vehicle cabin finish isn't as plush as the vast majority of road cars due to an abundance of hard plastics, but there is a good overall feel of quality inside and the whole layout has a sprinkle of ergonomic style to it. Above all, the cabins feel hugely spacious and solid, and in dual-cab guise seating for seven is possible.
On the road
All Dailys use a completely redesigned chassis made of steel C-section with tubular cross-members, meaning the various bodies can be installed directly on the frame.
This rigid and strong chassis - combined with quad-leaf independent front suspension and a lengthened wheelbase - make for an impressive steer. The Daily steers directly for a large vehicle, and handles with confidence and surprising agility, most notably with a heavy load in the back.
"More" car-like rather than "truly" car-like is how we'd describe the drive experience, but in this segment the Daily certainly brings decent manners to the road.
The engines go a long way to playing a part in this, with each being pleasingly responsive to throttle input and reasonably quiet from within the cabin.
The entry-level 2.3-litre 93kW four-cylinder would handle all but the heaviest loads comfortably such is its decent 320Nm whack of torque, but the 3.0-litre 125kW four-cylinder with 430Nm suits the Daily better with its extra guts. Whether you really need the range-topping 151kW with 470Nm is debatable - impressive as it is - as the lesser 3.0-litre should be all you'd ever need.
Faulting the six-speed manual is hard to do with easy and neat gear changes, but it's the eight-speed ZF automatic you want.
Little wonder Iveco expects the take-up for this new gearbox to be around the 80% mark across the range, despite its $3700 premium over the three-pedal option.
What do you get?
Standard on the Daily Vans are driver, passenger and curtain airbags, radio MP3 and Bluetooth with steering wheel controls, cruise control, auto air-conditioning, rear parking sensor, full opening (270-degrees) rear door and an EcoSwitch to alter engine torque and improve fuel economy, especially useful when there's no load in the back.
The cab chassis offers the same minus the rear sensors and opening doors of course, while ESP and mechanical diff lock are options on both styles; air suspension is optional for the cab chassis, and sliding doors on both sides can be selected for vans.
An accessory we sampled was a desirable 15.7cm touch-screen multi-media system with navigation, once again bringing these Dailys closer to what drivers expect from cars rather than commercials.
The Daily's entire dash top is broken into three separate storage containers to give huge space, all backed up by numerous cubby holes, pockets and bottle holders, while the passenger seat raises on some models to give a mighty Esky-sized compartment here.
A 10.5-metre turning circle is best in class, as is the near 20m3 cargo area in the largest of the Daily Van offerings.
Fuel consumption is down 4.1% over previous model Dailys; not a huge shift here but appreciated nonetheless. As the automatics are set to be the volume sellers its figures are 7.5-litres/100km, with the gutsier 3.0-litres just 7.9-litres/100km.
With 80% of the Daily's bodywork components being redesigned for this edition, a near clean slate has meant an attractive and modern front end.
Commercial drivers are understandably demanding more car-like comfort from the likes of the Daily, and Iveco has delivered.
Not only does the cabin feature a decent array of toys and safety, but the well-designed chassis and suspension make for an assured drive.
The engine line-up suits the model well with bags of torque available, but key to these vehicles is the optional eight-speed ZF automatic transmission which is a seamless treat to use.
This car-like sequential gearbox gives the Daily a true point-of-difference over its rivals and should be a no-brainer to tick from the options list.
What matters most
What we liked: Eight-speed ZF auto gearbox is a treat for this segment, eager torquey engines, assured handling.
What we'd like to see: A wider range of luxury cabin options to appeal to buyers truly seeking a more car-like interior to match the Daily's practicality, ESP as standard.
Warranty and servicing: Three year/200,000km warranty with service intervals every 40,000km/12 months/800 hours. Capped price servicing for three years up to 120,000km.
Model: Iveco Daily Van and Cab Chassis.
Details: Front-engined, rear-wheel drive commercial vehicles in van and cab chassis variants.
Engines: 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel generating maximum power of 93kW @ 3000rpm and peak torque of 320Nm @ 1600rpm; 3.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel with 125kW @ 3000rpm and 430Nm @ 1600rpm or 151kW @ 3000rpm and 470Nm @ 1400rpm variants.
Transmission: Six-speed manual or ZF eight-speed automatic.
Consumption: From 7.5-litres/100km (combined average) for the 2.3-litre; from 7.9-litres/100km for the 3.0-litres (in automatic variant).
GVM: 3.8-5.2 tonnes (vans) 4.5-7 tonnes (cab chassis).
Bottom line plus on-roads: Vans from $49,501 (9m3 35S13 model) to $71,477 (20m3 50C17 model). Cab chassis $50,547-$63,602, and dual-cab from $70,137.
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