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
Jul 19, 2018

Small vans help keep big cities moving. And in what they lack in stature, they make up for in selection.

There’s plenty of choice, in varying sizes and specs. Small vans such as the Ford Transit Courier are great around town but have the performance, space and payload should you need to venture farther afield.
 
Then there are the classic small vans like the Volkswagen CaddyVauxhall Combo, and Mercedes Citan, which come in different heights and sizes. And there are even small electric vans too, like the Renault Kangoo Z.E.

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 are available as used or new models.

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.

One last thing: our quoted prices are the base price less on-the-road costs and VAT.

Best small vans 

Mercedes Citan

Best small van for a premium feel

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges) £14,950-£20,805
Loadspace 2,400-3,800 litres Payload 435-770kg Fuel economy 44.1-67.3mpg 

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.

Volkswagen Caddy

Best small van for comfort and quietness

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges) £15,065-£24,395
Loadspace 3,200-4,200 litres Payload 639-734kg Fuel economy 47.1-64.2mpg  

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 van 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. These increase when you opt for the larger Caddy Maxi.

Renault Kangoo Z.E

Best small van for an electric future

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges, and including plug-in grant) £14,799-£19,486
Loadspace 3,000-4,000 litres Payload 605-625kg Range NEDC 75-170 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 between 75 and 170 miles. Factor in up to 4,000 litres loadspace (the larger Kangoo Maxi) and 625kg payload (standard Kangoo) 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. Diesel options are also available.

 
Ford Transit Connect

Best small van for choice

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges) £14,770-£20,920
Loadspace 3,000-3,700 litres Payload 588-967kg Range 50.4-72.4mpg

The Ford Transit is a long-established name that today applies to a whole range of vans from the compact Courier to the biggest and longest Transits. In the middle sits the Transit Connect. 

There are two lengths: L1 (4418mm) and L2 (4818mm). Naturally, L2 has a bigger load volume: 3,700 litres. In addition there are a range of payload variants. For example, the L1 version has a payload of 625kg but you can specify a high payload version with up to 806kg. Payloads for the L2 range from 670kg to 961kg, making this version a spacious and strong load-carrier.

It pushes up the price, though, which is why the cheaper but still versatile L1 makes a lot of sense. The 1.5 TDCi 100PS engine is economical and responsive. If the van is destined to be a no-nonsense work tool, Base spec is fine but for those users who like to put on a bit more of a show, mid-range Trend, with its full wheel covers, foglights and body-coloured bumpers is better. It also has some practical touches including a heated windscreen and a plastic cargo floor liner.

Ford Transit Courier

Best small van for young delivery drivers

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges) £12,695-£15,970
Loadspace 2,300 litres Payload 625-660kg Range 53.5-76.3mpg

Until the all-new Fiesta Sport van arrives later in 2018, the Courier is the smallest van in Ford’s commercial vehicle line-up. It won’t have escaped your attention it’s full name is the Transit Courier. It can't claim to have the loadspace or payload of its larger Transit cousins (it has 2,300 litres and up to 660kg) but for urban-based businesses looking for a compact, practical and economical van that will be easy to sell on, it’s hard to beat.

The range goes from Base, a pared-down option for fleets, to eye-catching Sport for businesses that want to get noticed. There’s a passenger-carrying version called the Kombi, too.

Our favourite for affordability and all-round appeal is mid-spec Trend (it has useful extra storage and driver convenience features). A side door is standard across the range.The single petrol engine – Ford’s popular 1.0T Ecoboost 100PS – would suit a light user doing shorts runs but for heavier deliveries over longer distances, the 1.5 TDCi diesels are better.

Fiat Doblo Cargo

Best small van for all reasons

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges) £13,910-£20,260
Loadspace 3,400-5,000 litres Payload 750-1005kg Range 37.7-61.4mpg

Like many vans, the Fiat Doblo and Vauxhall Combo share many components and are distinguishable only by their engines, styling differences and equipment levels. This kind of cost-sharing is common among manufacturers and helps keep vans affordable.

However, with Vauxhall now falling under Peugeot’s umbrella, a company that has its own range of vans, the Combo is being run out. An all-new model will arrive towards the end of 2018.  This leaves the Fiat Doblo Cargo to soldier on alone, a job its well equipped to do given its competitive pricing, good range of engines and impressive load-carrying capabilities.

On that subject, the Doblo comes in a choice of two body lengths (4406mm and 4756mm), and standard and high roofs. The result is four versions called Cargo Van (standard length), Cargo Maxi (longer), Cargo High Roof and Cargo XL, which combines the extra length with the high roof. Meanwhile payloads go as high as 1005kg. As if that weren’t enough choice, there are four trim levels.

Nissan NV200

Best medium van for impressive carrying capacity for the price

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges) £15,525-£17,210
Loadspace 4,200 litres Payload 714-728kg Fuel economy 56.5-57.6mpg

Nissan might not offer the range of lengths and carrying capacities of some rivals listed here but its excellent value NV200 boasts some brilliant interior packaging and a simple range of quiet, refined and efficient diesel engines.

Available in Panel Van, Crew Van (complete with occasional seating in the rear) and Combi (seats up to 7 people), there's an NV200 to suit most requirements, while similar trim levels to Nissan's range of passenger cars makes it easy to kit out the right van for your needs.

Top spec Tekna models benefit from 14-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and a colour reversing camera but unfortunately modern navigation isn't on offer and a DAB radio conversion kit is an expensive optional extra. If you fancy an alternative to the Renault Kangoo ZE, there’s an electrically powered NV200 called the e-NV200.

Fiat Fiorino

Best medium van for urban deliveries

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges) £12,395-£15,295
Loadspace 2,500 litres Payload 610-660kg Fuel economy 40.9-72.4mpg

Smaller than the Fiat Doblo, the Fiorino is a car-based van ideal for urban deliveries. Its big selling point is that it can out carry other car-based rival vans including the old Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsavan models. If you want to carry people rather than stuff, there’s a passenger-carrying Combi version, too.

Basic equipment levels help keep prices down but there’s nothing basic about the Fiorino’s diesel engines which are smart enough to return up to 72.4mpg (the Ecojet 1.3 Multijet Diesel 80). The standard gearbox is a five-speed manual but there’s an optional automatic that will take the stress out of urban driving.

The 2,500-litre load bay can be extended to 2,800 litres by folding down the passenger seat and swinging the bulkhead clear. A sliding door and offset rear doors are standard. Payload is up to 610kg, which is competitive with larger vans.

Citroen Berlingo

Best small van for minimising downtime

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges) £13,990-£17,590
Loadspace 3,300-3,700 litres Payload 648-856kg Fuel economy 43.5-68.9mpg

The Berlingo is a popular van that has put in the hard miles and proved itself over a number of years. The downside of that is that it might feel a little dated now, but not so much that it can’t still hold its own with its rivals. And if you’re considering buying one now, it’s worth knowing an all-new model is expected at the end of 2018.

Indeed, the Berlingo has one standout feature that keeps customers coming back to it: the 20,000-mile service intervals means that it spends less time off the road than many competitors, minimising that all-important off-the-road downtime that can cost businesses.

Also in its favour is the sheer number of different variants that customers can choose from – something that you expect from larger panel vans but which is less common in this segment. There are also numerous options to enhance the comfort and convenience of the cabin, making it a good option for users who spend most of their working day in the van.

Peugeot Partner

Best small van for diesel-only operators

Base price (ex. VAT and on-road charges) £15,490-£17,505
Loadspace 3,300-3,700 litres Payload 648-854kg Fuel economy 65.7-68.9mpg

Study the specs for this sister van to the Citroen Berlingo and you may be surprised by its economy range. That’s because unlike the Berlingo, there’s no petrol engine in the Partner line-up. It’s a decision that points to this van’s clear, no-nonsense character. Van users rarely choose petrol power so why waste time offering it?

In other respects, the Partner is very similar to the Berlingo, right down to the fact that there’s an all-new model coming towards the end of 2018. Also like the Berlingo, there’s an electric version in the line-up, too.

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