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Transit v Cabstar

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In many ways, comparing forward-control cabs with a conventional front-engined vehicle is extremely unfair. One dominates in terms of payload, while the other is vastly superior when it comes to comfort. There is an obvious winner and a loser, but which is which depends largely on what duties you want your vehicles to perform. Where the two go head-to-head, though, is in the cross over areas – particularly at the lower GVW end of the CV spectrum – where both a cab-over or panel van could quite easily do the job.

Since manufacturers started introducing their own off-the-shelf dropside, refrigerated and tipper models in front-engined vans, operators have had far greater choice. Forward-control stereotypes still remain but front-engined vans are getting a foothold in traditionally cab-over markets, so to really put the cat amongst the pigeons we thought we’d take two of the market leaders in each field at 3.5-tonnes and put them through their paces in the toughest of all working sectors, tipping.

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The price difference of nearly £6,000 between the two tippers is a lot, but if purchase price was the only concern when faced with making a buying decision we might all be living in nicer houses and driving better cars. Unfortunately for the Nissan once you factor in running costs there is a different story to tell, and things even out significantly.

Over the course of our test the Nissan managed a creditable 25.3mpg, while the Transit recorded a slightly higher 25.9mpg. While these figures will vary enormously depending on the nature of your business, they are encouraging figures nonetheless, but whole life costs extend far beyond fuel consumption.

When it comes to vehicles that endure a particularly rough working life, like the average tipper, spare parts also play a massive part in running costs, which is why – according to the Transit’s owners, CVS, they would struggle to justify purchasing a Cabstar.

Not only is the Cabster’s basket of commonly required spares nearly twice the price of the Transits, according to CVS’s commercial manager John McQue the Cabster’s appearance also poses a potential problem. McQue says: “It's worth noting that the cost of breaking bits off is higher on the Cabstar. The headlights for example are the size and cost of Mars - an important consideration for the construction industry.” However, it’s not just the headlights that are at risk of damage, the Cabster’s size makes it an ideal inner city work tool, but the wing mirrors are vulnerable. At £318 versus the Transit’s cost of £81 per unit, its little wonder McQue believes the Cabster isn’t right for rental in the construction business.

Coming from such a petite package the Cabstar’s payload is impressive, but its other ace in the hole – price – is in fact a snake in the grass. As much as the Cabstar reigns supreme in the forward-control community in the wider world there’s no doubting the Transit is still king.

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