Best vans

Maximum load capacity with low-running costs: you can have it all with our pick of the best vans

BuyaCar team
May 8, 2017

The dazed feeling when you’re trying to choose the flavour you want in a big ice cream shop is nothing compared to the headache involved in finding the right van.

Even if you decide to go for the most popular van in Britain - a Ford Transit - then you’ve still got to decide on which of the 374 different versions you’d like. That includes different models, varying lengths, heights and engine sizes, as well as more technical options, such as the choice between front-wheel drive, four-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive in some cases.

There are running costs to consider, as well as driving licence limitations: some versions of the vans on this page can’t be driven if you have only passed the car driving test and did so since 1997.

These licences limit you to vans that have a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of 3.500kg. This is the most that a van can weigh before driving it on the public loads becomes illegal. It adds together the weight of the van, plus 75kg for the driver, plus the payload (the maximum weight of cargo that it can carry).

To drive a van with a GVW of more than 3,500kg, you’ll need to pass another test that adds category C1 to your licence.

The list of best vans below is a good starting point, whether you’re in the market for a medium-sized eco-friendly model, or a tall and powerful cargo carrier with a vast loadspace.

Alternatively, have a look at our choice of the best small vans for some more compact options.

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Best vans

1. Volkswagen Crafter

Best van for all-round ability

Our pick Volkswagen Crafter Medium Panel Van CR35 2.0 TDI 140PS  Manufacturer price £31,655 exc VAT
Loadspace 10.5 cu.m  Payload 1248kg  Fuel economy 36.7mpg

The latest Volkswagen Crafter has just gone on sale and the all-new model is available with a vast load compartment. There’s 18.4 cubic metres of space in the tallest and longest version (our recommended model is somewhat smaller).

You can also opt for a Crafter with a raft of safety features, including adaptive cruise control, which will maintain a set distance from the car in front, taking some of the stress out of long motorway journeys.

The Crafter is also hugely flexible and adaptable, with 69 different variants to choose from (including front-, rear- and four-wheel drive), plus the ability for buyers to have a bespoke version built to their specification.
And with the need to keep costs down a priority for all fleet operators, the new Crafter helps with efficiency gains of 3% compared to the previous model, thanks in part to the range of new diesel engines.

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2. Ford Transit Custom

Best van for value

Our pick Ford Transit Custom 130PS 270 FWD L1  Manufacturer price £22,990 exc VAT
Loadspace 6 cu.m  Payload 875kg  Fuel economy 44.8mpg

Although there’s a larger version of the Transit, which is a similar size to the VW Crafter, it’s the Transit Custom model that’s most common on the roads.

It’s by far the most popular van that’s sold in Britain, thanks to a new and efficient 2-litre diesel engine, which keeps running costs low, and a large loadspace, plus high payload, considering its size.

The Transit is also rewarding to drive and fitted with enough safety kit to earn it a five-star Euro NCAP rating – plus it has many car-like mod cons such as a digital radio and Bluetooth, helping to make it the ideal all-rounder for van drivers who spend most of their day in their vehicle.

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3. Mercedes-Benz Vito

Best van for quality

Our pick Mercedes Vito 111CDI Long  Manufacturer price £21,525 exc VAT
Loadspace 6.3 cu.m  Payload 852kg  Fuel economy 45.6mpg

The Vito scores highly amongst drivers who like the idea of being behind the wheel of a van built by Mercedes. It’s no luxury vehicle, but does feel solid, with tough plastics, which are a cut above most mainstream rivals.

This helps to compensate from the smaller load area that the Vito offers in comparison with the likes of a Ford Transit, as well as its price premium, which is less than it used to be.

You can opt for front-wheel drive, which offers more space, or rear-wheel drive, which gives you more grip when accelerating if you’re carrying heavy loads. There are also three lengths and two wheelbases (the distance between the front and rear wheels) to choose from.

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4. Nissan e-NV200

Best van for the environment

Our pick Nissan e-NV200 Acenta Rapid Plus  Manufacturer price £18,545 exc. VAT (includes govt. grant
Loadspace 4.2 cu.m  Payload 703kg  Range 106 miles

An electric van isn’t for everyone, but for van users who undertake shorter, less frequent journeys, in largely urban areas, the e-NV200 is worth considering.

The electric van with the largest load capacity on the market, Nissan’s e-NV200 is practical and usable, with plenty of features that enable it to double as a mobile office, if needs be.

If buyers go for a rapid-charging variant, 80% of the battery capacity can be charged in just 30 minutes, so a longer delivery/break stop will be enough time for a top-up, if required.

But the main advantage of an electric van is its clean-running nature and the positive impact it can have on air quality. And with congestion charges and low-emissions zones with tighter regulation springing up, that is going to be a useful quality that will save money and continue to enable access to urban locations.

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5. Fiat Ducato

Best van for diesel economy

Our pick Fiat Ducato 35 LH2 2.3 150 HP Multijet II  Manufacturer price £29,614 exc VAT
Loadspace 13 cu.m  Payload 1,525kg  Fuel economy 44.8mpg

The Ducato is Fiat’s biggest van, with a huge capacity of 17,000 litres if you opt for the tallest and widest version, and some of the most fuel-efficient engines in its class.

Indeed, one of the diesel engine powering the Ducato is one of the main points of difference between it and the Peugeot Boxer and Citroen Relay, as all three vans share many of the same mechanical parts.

Only the Ducato has Fiat’s 2.3-litre Multijet engine, though, which make the van one of the most economical vehicles of its type. The mid-range 150 horsepower version is also available in EcoJet form, with features that reduce fuel consumption even further.

The Ducato also has a very useful tight turning circle, making it very practical for urban delivery duties.

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