Best small vans

Efficient and easy to drive, but with plenty of space in the back: these are the best small vans on sale now

BuyaCar team
May 3, 2017

Small businesses, in particular, depend on small vans to keep themselves trading. As a result, competition amongst manufacturers to provide the most practical, economic and easy-to-drive option, is intense.

If you’re in the market for a van, then you’re almost certain to secure a great deal on a competent and efficient model. But you can go one better: our guide below will help you find the perfect small van for you.

If you need something a bit bigger, then check out our guide to the best vans, for some alternatives with larger loadspace.

Many of the vehicles below share the same mechanical parts, but all have something slightly different to offer, and all are available brand new.

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Choosing the right van

As with any van, the key figures are loadspace - the area in the back for carrying cargo - and the payload, the maximum weight of cargo that you can carry.

We’ve also included fuel economy, which will give you an idea of running costs, but bear in mind that these are official figures taken from the European laboratory test that every new vehicle must undergo. The test bears little resemblance to normal driving, so it’s common to see a 10-15% reduction in mpg in the real world.

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Best small vans

1. Ford Fiesta Van

Best small van for economy

Our pick Ford Fiesta Van 1.5TDCi ECOnetic Trend  Manufacturer price £14,566 exc. VAT
Loadspace 1,000 litres  Payload 489kg  Fuel economy 88.3mpg

The Ford Fiesta is the best-selling car in the UK, despite its imminent replacement, thanks to its low cost, efficient engines and nippy feel. Those same characteristics are what make the Fiesta Van a top pick.

The looks aren’t deceiving: with a loadspace of just 1,000 litres this isn’t a large van. But that’s the beauty of the Fiesta Van, even though it might sound counter-intuitive.

It will only appeal to certain types of business – small traders, workmen, delivery companies that work locally or with small cargo, such as letters or small parcels – but for those fleet users it's incredibly practical and easy to use. It feels just like driving a Ford Fiesta supermini and you’ll benefit from the same features too. The Trend model has time-saving features such as a Quickclear windscreen for rapid demisting and Bluetooth for handsfree calls

When you factor in official fuel economy figures of 88.3mpg and CO2 emissions of just 82g/km (as found in the 1.5 TDCi), the Fiesta Van starts to make an enormous amount of sense. Even though you’ll struggle to achieve those figures in normal driving, it should still deliver low running costs.

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2. Renault Kangoo

Best small van for an electric future

Our pick Renault Kangoo ZE Electric Business  Manufacturer price £14,506 exc. VAT (includes govt grant)
Loadspace 3,000 litres  Payload 650kg  Range 106 miles

An electric van might seem like an odd idea, given that most electric cars are made to be light and aerodynamic to boost their range between charges. But for city deliveries, it’s the perfect solution: exempt from emissions-based charges and cheap to charge up. It also benefits from a government grant giving up to a 20% discount off the purchase price.

If you’re zipping within a city, then the range of the Renault Kangoo ZE (it stands for Zero Emissions) is likely to be acceptable, especially if you’ve got somewhere to give it a partial recharge during a lunch break. Official European tests estimate that it can manage 106 miles on a full charge, but few owners will achieve over 80.

Factor in the 3,000-litre loadspace and 720kg payload and you have a useful green van option at your disposal.
There are two versions of the Kangoo: the cheapest requires you to hire the batteries from £33 a month, excluding VAT. Opt for the i Van, which is roughly £3,000 more expensive, and the batteries are included in the price.

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3. Mercedes Citan

Best small van for a premium feel

Our Pick Mercedes Citan 112 Long 6G-DCT  Manufacturer price £17,355 exc. VAT
Loadspace 3,100 litres  Payload 512kg  Fuel economy 44.1mpg

Buying a van with the Mercedes three-pointed star on the front does bring a bit more prestige - even in the world of vans.

So you might decide to choose the the Citan (a conflation of ‘city’ and ‘van’) if you wanted to send the message of your business’ success.

As you’d expect with a Mercedes, the van does have a little extra quality inside: the materials are just a cut above what you’d find in most vans, and feel more durable and hard-wearing. However, it’s far from the level of a Mercedes saloon car, such as the C-Class. The Citan is unquestionably a workhorse.

There are plenty of variants, with three different lengths – Compact, Long and Extra-Long – while there are also crew van options, with seating for up to five, a Sport trim with additional styling features such as alloy wheels, plus an optional automatic gearbox if you choose the petrol engine, which makes driving much more comfortable in stop-start traffic around town.

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4. Volkswagen Caddy

Best small van for comfort and quietness

Our pick Volkswagen Caddy 1.4 TSI DSG Trendline  Manufacturer price £19,180 exc. VAT
Loadspace 3,200 litres  Payload 657kg  Fuel economy 49.6mpg

You generally know what you’re getting when you buy a Volkswagen car, and it’s the same when you buy one of the company’s vans, which feel solid, sophisticated and well-designed.

Outside, the Caddy looks much like a Volkswagen Golf that’s been converted into a van, and it’s a similar story inside, where a dashboard touchscreen with digital radio and Bluetooth for wireless phone connectivity, is standard.

Pick a petrol engine for the most car-like experience: the 1.4-litre engine has plenty of power and is extremely smooth if you choose the optional automatic gearbox.

Add a few choices from the options list, and you can have a car that’s considerably better-equipped than the Mercedes Citan, with adaptive cruise control, which maintains a set distance from the car in front, and a large sat-nav available. More importantly, it has a slightly larger cargo area and much bigger payload.

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5. Peugeot Bipper

Best small van for comfort

Our pick Peugeot Bipper SE HDI 80  Manufacturer price £13,908
Loadspace 2,500 litres  Payload 660kg  Fuel economy 64.2mpg

Plenty of van names can be described as unusual, but Bipper has to be one of the weirdest.

It’s a strange choice because there’s nothing weird about the Bipper itself, which is a useful, practical small van that shares its mechanical parts with the Citroen Nemo and Fiat Fiorino. It marks itself out from its rivals, however, with a well-shaped cargo bay that’s spacious for the price and a large payload.

In SE or Business trim, the driver’s seat offers lots of adjustment making it more comfortable for longer journeys and delivery runs.

However, fuel economy is only average at under 65mpg, and the relatively low-powered engines can be noisy at higher speeds.

Small-van practicality comes courtesy of a pair of hinged rear doors, but you’ll need to pay extra for double sliding side doors, that make loading and unloading easy in tight spaces. You only get one as standard on SE and Business models, and none on entry-level S vans.

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