In Summary
  • As I said, I won’t be exploring the Delica any further beyond saying that it is a bit rare, so draw your own conclusions from that.

  • The Nissan Vanette is the Mazda Bongo, so no point trying to split hairs here because there are no hairs to split.

Hi Baraza,

 I am starting a delivery business within Nairobi. I am looking to buy a van that can do rounds in Nairobi and carry around 500kg of products per day. I talked to a friend, who advised me to get a Mazda Bongo van, Nissan Vanette or Mitsubishi Delica van since they will serve their purpose diligently. My mechanic, however, advised that I get either the Nissan or the Delica, not the Mazda. He wasn’t very clear why, so I come to you for advice — which, of the three, is better yet they look alike?

Also clarify:

 1. Between diesel and petrol, which is better?

 2. Double wheel or single wheel (rear)?

 3. Known shortcomings?

 4. Leaf springs: can they be modified so that they can carry more load without affecting stability?

James.

Hi James,

All the best in your fledgling business. I’m surprised your mechanic proposed the Delica for reasons I will not go into lest I get admonished against trashing brands again (I don’t trash brands, just to be clear). Incidentally, the one vehicle he is voting against is what I would vote for simply because there is a blue million of them doing rounds, which means there is no shortage of spares or expertise in maintaining them. And they serve as PSVs to boot: the most strenuous task you can put a vehicle through locally, short of taking part in weekly off-road challenges. Now:

1. Diesel vs petrol:

Diesel engines have better torque and economy while petrol engines are smoother and in some cases more powerful. Petrol engines are also cheaper to maintain and may last longer since turbo-diesel technology seems to have successfully eluded a fair proportion of home-grown grease monkeys. For a few select models of vehicle, petrol versions are cheaper than their diesel counterparts, a circumstance more common among commercial vehicles and Toyota Land Cruisers. It’s the opposite for Mercedes-Benz, where those powered by construction equipment are almost being literally given away, but nobody is talking about Mercedes right now.

2. Double wheel or single wheel (rear)?

This depends on how your business operates because it is a matter of some fine balancing whose final results can only be settled through extensive experimentation. The solution to what you want to achieve lies in the disparity between having a higher load capacity with the dually arrangement which increases tyre life since they suffer less strain per tyre — the trade-off being double the tyre costs come replacement time, and the single tyre wheel set-up which means the tyre experiences comparatively more strain and has a shortened life, but when replacing, you only do so one tyre at a time. Like I said, this kind of mathematical equation can only be solved by actually trying out the two set-ups and drawing graphs using their respective data, which you then extrapolate to find the break-even point at which the dually set-up takes the belt over the single wheel set-up. It may be lower in the graph (two or three tyre changes down the road) or it may need an extension of the x-axis onto another graph, but my maths degree tells me there is a point where the dually wins. Who said controlling overheads in a business is easy? Go for the dually set-up, is my university-educated but patently unverified guesstimate.

3. Known shortcomings?

As I said, I won’t be exploring the Delica any further beyond saying that it is a bit rare, so draw your own conclusions from that. The Nissan Vanette is the Mazda Bongo, so no point trying to split hairs here because there are no hairs to split.

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