Official cars: who drives what?

If you’re looking for a new car or van, the choices can be quite daunting. Some people go for the best price, or best level of equipment. Most people read reviews and make their decision from them. There is another option – check out what the professionals are driving.

There’s probably no better endorsement of quality or practicality than having a car or van used by one of the emergency services or major UK organisations. So what are they driving, and why?

RAF – Ford Transit

The Royal Air Force, the oldest independent air force in the world, spend plenty of time in the skies in extraordinary machines. However, all personnel need transportation on the ground too – and that is where the newly delivered, 17-seat Ford Transit comes in.

Operating at the RAF Odiham base in Aldershot, the new Ford Transit was bought using funds raised by the RAF to transport the 200 personnel at the base.

Royal Mail – Peugeot Bipper

The Royal Mail is a British institution. Famous for the ‘Postman Pat’ style red vans, any supplier would have a lot to live up to – not least the environmental concerns of running such a large fleet.

Early in 2010, Peugeot stepped in to sign a deal with the Royal Mail to supply 2,000 low-CO2 Peugeot Bipper vans to the postal service. The vans, according to ex-Royal Mail boss Adam Crozier, offer "the highest emissions standards" and are more fuel efficient than outgoing models.

The green credentials of the Bipper van, designed for city deliveries, was clearly the defining factor for the Royal Mail, which was forced to reassure the public about fears over CO2 emissions when replacing bikes with vans in many areas.

The Bipper vans fulfil the criteria, and offer the load space needed to deliver packages and letters across the UK.

Police Vans – Vauxhall Movano

The boys in blue need a robust, specially designed van for use transporting prisoners from one location to another. The police van requires a ‘cell’ built into the back which must protect occupants if the vehicle was to crash.

Vauxhall has recently launched the Vauxhall Vivaro prison cell, designed using the strictest safety tests to ensure quick acceleration and crashes do not put the occupants in danger.

Vauxhall’s manager of vehicle conversions Dick Ellam said: "We have considered the potential risk to all the occupants of the vehicle in the event of a crash. Firstly we have ensured the installation is robust and there is no intrusion into the area immediately in front of the cell that could pose a potential risk of injury to occupant of the second row seating. Secondly we have considered the potential risk to unrestrained occupants of the cell and have chosen a seating arrangement that minimises this risk.

"The result is an extremely robust package which is unique to the market and a major step forward for the safety of Police van occupants," he concluded.

The van is the first designed specifically as a ‘prison cell’ offered to all 54 UK police forces. It was designed at Vauxhalls turnkey vehicle preparation centre.

Police Cars – Vauxhall Astra

Once again Vauxhall is given the honour of supplying the police with the vehicles needed to keep law and order. The Astra has been used by the police since 1979 and one out of five ‘panda’ cars used in UK police forces is a British-built Vauxhall Astra.

This year, a new generation of Astra police cars have been built, complete with integrated instrument panels specifically designed for police radio units.

Vauxhall’s manager of vehicle conversions Dick Ellam said: "We are particularly proud that this integration allows the devices needed by the Police service to be mounted within the standard architecture of the car’s interior."

Mountain Rescue – Land Rover

Mountain rescue are an invaluable emergency service for people in trouble in some of the most difficult to reach places in Britain. Uneven, steep terrain means a robust four-wheel drive is needed. There are no surprises for guessing what Mountain Rescue use.

According to the Mountain Rescue website:

“Mountain rescue teams respond to a wide variety of different incidents, over rugged terrain, often a good distance from the nearest road. And teams are often called to help in extreme weather conditions, or when roads are flooded or covered in snow and ice.

Consequently, the majority of mountain rescue vehicles are four wheel drive and, more often than not, Land Rovers, which allow a hill party of five and all of their equipment to be taken as close as possible to the casualty site.”

Land Rovers such as the Discovery continue to lead the way for off-road performance and equipment storage.