Best medium vans

Haul cargo without eating up valuable space on the driveway with these manageable medium-sized vans

Jul 19, 2018

When we refer to medium-sized vans, we're not talking about size 9 skateboarding trainers. 

We are in fact, talking about vehicles to transport your goods and wares. Picking your van much depends on your usage, and there's a fair amount to consider. How much might you need to carry? How expensive is it to fuel, fix, and insure? Does it fit on the drive or in the yard?

These are all questions that should be asked before committing to a new van purchase but luckily, the marketplace for medium-sized cargo carriers is fiercely contested and there's plenty of choice to suit most requirements, tastes and budgets.

New models from the likes of Fiat, PeugeotCitroen and Mercedes-Benz mean there's more choice than ever, while recently refreshed models from Ford, Volkswagen, Vauxhall, Nissan and Renault ensures the crop of medium-sized panel vans is more rounded and accomplished than it has ever been.

Why buy a mid-sized van?

It might sound obvious but the medium van is smaller than its gargantuan siblings, meaning it offers a driving experience that isn't too far removed from a regular passenger car.

This makes them far more approachable, easier to wrangle around busy city streets, simpler to park and generally a more comfortable place to while away the long motorway miles.

Panel vans generally offer a rear load space up to around 10,000 litres depending on the length of the wheelbase, height of the roof and body style, while medium sized vans can also double-up as talented movers of people, with versions that offer seating for nine.

Finally, this category of van is also extremely popular with those looking to convert said workhorses into high-tech camper vans and other such leisure vehicles.

This added popularity means that used prices typically remain quite high when compared to the smaller and larger variants, but some bargains can still be found.

Best medium vans

Volkswagen Transporter T6

Best medium van for car-like comfort

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges) £20,010-£39,300
Loadspace 5,800-9,300 litres Payload 692-1221kg Fuel economy 29.7-47.1mpg

It takes a true warrior of the road to remain popular after 65 years of service, but the humble Transporter has been moving people and goods since the 1950s. Granted, it’s changed quite a lot in those years, and it’s now in its sixth generation. It comes in a range of Euro6 compliant petrol and diesel engines that offer an excellent spread of performance, economy and refinement too.

The latest seven-speed DSG automatic transmission is also worth a mention here, as its smooth shifting nature makes it the perfect comfy companion to the relaxing driving position, brilliant entertainment systems and cosseting seats for those who have lots of miles to rack up.

It's expensive compared to rivals, but residual values remain impressively buoyant, so it is very unlikely buyers will lose vast sums when it comes time to sell up, while the extensive range of wheelbase lengths, body styles and interior configurations ensure there's a Transporter to suit most needs.

Ford Transit Custom

Best medium van for array of choice

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges) From £20,995
Loadspace 6,000-8,300 litres Payload 675-TBCkg Fuel economy 39.2-46.3mpg

The Ford Transit hardly needs any introduction, as it has been the go-to set of wheels for the majority of tradespeople since the beginning of vans. As with the Volkswagen Transporter, the Transit has always offered an excellent blend of reliability, load-lugging abilities and an affordable price tag - a tradition that Ford is keen to continue.

Basic short wheelbase, low roof diesel models cost just under £21,000 from new, but return an excellent 46.3mpg and meet the new stringent Euro6 emissions standards, making it cheaper to own in the long run.

But above all else, the Transit has lived long enough to know what its customers want, so offers practical solutions in the form of on-board plug sockets, stowage compartments, a glove box big enough to swallow a laptop, door bins that accept large water bottles and myriad of cup holders.

Toyota Proace

Best medium van for compact proportions

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges) £20,038-£24,517
Loadspace 4,600-6,100 litres Payload 1,000-1,487kg Fuel economy 51.4-53.3mpg

Admittedly, the Toyota Proace shares much of exterior and interior with the Citroen Dispatch and the Peugeot Expert, but we've plumped for the Japanese marque due to its lengthy 5-year warranty and excellent reputation for reliability.

The Proace is offered in three different lengths, but its smallest variants are great for those who perhaps don't need masses of load space, and instead would prefer something more compact and easier to drive. Its range of engines is excellent in terms of emissions and fuel economy but customers are limited to just diesel, which could put off those private buyers wanting to join the hordes of petrol converts.

Despite the excellent spread of lengths and body styles, the range of trim options is a bit restrictive, with Comfort line models being lavished with the greatest number of creature comforts, while Base models have to make do with 16-inch steel wheels and fairly basic exteriors.

Nissan NV300

Best medium van for a long warranty 

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges) £21-365-£23,260
Loadspace 6,000-8,600 litres Payload 1,198-1,280kg Fuel economy 43.5-47.9mpg

Two different lengths and roof heights, one 1.6-litre diesel engine in four power outputs and three trim options – the Nissan NV300 aims to please as many users as possible. Just to be sure, it also comes with a long, five-year warranty, giving peace of mind to any fleet manager looking to control costs. On that subject, service intervals are only every two years or 25,000 miles.

On a practical level, the NV300 benefits from a bulkhead hatch that allows you to slide long objects through the van and under the passenger seat. For anything longer, one of the rear doors can be locked and the other left open to allow objects to extend out of the rear. An offside sliding door is optional on long-wheelbase versions.

The most economical engine is the actually the second most powerful of the four: the twin-turbocharged 123bhp 1.6. It returns 47.9mpg. It’s pretty spritely although you do have to work the gearbox because it’s quite long-geared.

Mercedes Vito

Best medium van for a refined driving experience

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges) £19,350-£30,185
Loadspace 5,800-6,900 litres Payload 665-1145kg Fuel economy 44.1-47.1mpg

Mercedes has a reputation for injecting some premium touches into the light commercial vehicle sector, beginning with the excellent and extra large Sprinter and continuing with the most recent Vito and recent X-Class pick-up truck.

To cut a long story short, the German marque offers the kind of interior technology, comfort and exterior good looks that its passenger car customers demand. That means heated front seats, an advanced touchscreen infotainment system, LED intelligent lighting and reversing camera technology are all available across the Vito range.

Better still, the latest model is also offered in front or rear-wheel drive variants, the choice of panel van, crew van and tourer body styles, as well as models optimised for urban driving, sportier variants and even specific models that are pre-prepared for a life as a taxi.

Renault Trafic

Best medium van for a variety of stylish exteriors

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges) £21,650-£27,800
Loadspace 5,200-8,900 litres Payload 1,075-1,280kg Fuel economy 40.9-47.2mpg

This Renault shares much of its underpinnings with the Vauxhall Vivaro, Nissan NV300 and Fiat Talento, but delivers plenty of passenger car creature comforts that make it worthy of your attention.

Intuitive sat nav systems, a rear-view parking camera that's integrated into the rear-view mirror and Grip Xtend for improved traction in adverse conditions are just a few technical highlights. Plus, optional equipment to turn the cabin into a mobile office via tablet and smartphone holders, as well laptop storage, can be added for a reasonable fee.

Again, there's lots of roof height and body styles to choose from, as well as some fetching sporty models and eye-popping exterior paint hues that ensure the Trafic looks good on the road. Unfortunately, there is only the choice of one diesel engine. But it is available in four states of tune and is refined and efficient.

Fiat Talento

Best medium van for practical touches

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges) £20,795-£26,295
Loadspace 5,200-8,600 litres Payload 1,074-1,249kg Fuel economy 40.9-47.9mpg

Effectively a rebadged Renault Trafic, the Italian model offers some impressive interior specifications, striking exterior looks and one diesel engine in four states of tune.

It's not quite as flexible as the aforementioned Trafic (and rivals) in terms of load carrying capacity, although there is a choice of two wheelbase lengths and standard and high roofs. It also features an optional loading hatch in the bulkhead, which allows users to make the most of the full load length for lengthy items, such as pipes and poles.

Peugeot Expert

Best medium van for fuel-efficient engines

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges) £19,540-£29,165
Loadspace 4,600-6,600 litres Payload 1,100-1,498kg Fuel economy 45.6-55.4mpg

Peugeot's latest range of panel and crew vans is a vast improvement over the outgoing models, with a slick line of stylish machines that boast some of the latest interior technology, frugal engines and some excellent practical touches.

One such highlight is the Moduwork bench seat, which sees the passenger pew fold up to create a space with a flat bottom, as well a hands-free sliding side door that's activated by waggling a foot under the rear bumper.

Maximum interior space trails the category leaders by some margin but payload limits are impressive. The two diesel engines (1.6 and 2.0 litres, the former in two and the latter in three states of tune) offer a great spread of power outputs, fuel economies and the handy option of automatic or manual transmissions.

Vauxhall Vivaro

Best medium van for body style variety

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges) £22,568-£27,180
Loadspace 5,200-8,600 litres Payload 1,060-1,265kg Fuel economy 40.9-47.0mpg

It's essentially a Renault Trafic but built in Britain and arguably more geared towards the rigours of daily professional use. There's the choice of a panel van (available in two wheelbases), a double cab variant and combi models that can seat up to nine people comfortably.

All models come with USB compatibility, while a bespoke Navi 50 navigation unit has been designed specifically for the Vivaro and offers drivers a 7-inch colour touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, steering wheel mounted controls, USB connection and Bluetooth audio streaming.

The range of bi-turbo diesel engines is strong and even the most powerful 143bhp variant returns an impressive 46.3mpg on the combined cycle.

Iveco Daily

Best medium van for huge loads

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges) From £21,545
Loadspace 7,300-19,600 litres Payload Up to 7,200kg Fuel economy Up to 34 mpg

The Iveco Daily only just about competes in this medium-sized market, seeing as it is available in variants that can quite easily handle 7.2-tonne payloads and overall vehicle lengths that extend to a gargantuan 7.5 metres.

It is also not based on anything else, so really falls into a category of its own, especially when you consider the separate chassis and body, much like a heavy truck, which flies in the face of unibody rivals.

It's a tough cookie and the engine range is big and powerful, even if it isn't particularly good on fuel, while interiors certainly aren't as refined of premium feeling as those offered by VW and Mercedes. Aside from that, there isn’t another van out there that can match the Daily’s 7-tonne maximum gross vehicle weight, or its 19,600 litres of maximum load volume, so poor engine economy can be somewhat forgiven.


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