The best small vans: 10 vans that prove tiny can be mighty

Cheap to buy and run, small vans provide versatile, cost-effective transport for tradesmen and delivery businesses. Here are the best

BuyaCar team
Jul 20, 2021

Small vans are ideal for small businesses or tradesmen who need to zip around busy towns or park in tight spaces. And as well as being more manoeuvrable than larger commercial vehicles, a small van will tend to cost less to both purchase and run. There’s plenty of choice, in varying sizes and specs. 

Small vans such as the Ford Transit Courier are great around town, but have useful performance, space and payload should you need to venture further afield. Other small vans include the likes of the Volkswagen Caddy, Vauxhall Combo, and Mercedes Citan, which come in different heights and sizes. 

If zero-emissions driving is key for your business, 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 medium vans, for some alternatives with larger loadspace. Many of the vehicles below share some mechanical parts, but all have something slightly different to offer. The key figures to look for when looking at vans are loadspace and payload. The former being the area in the back for carrying cargo, the latter, the maximum weight of cargo you can carry.

In our list, we’ve also included fuel economy. This will help you figure out your running costs, a higher mpg figure should be somewhat cheaper to run. A word of warning though - these figures are from laboratory testing, so you might struggle to reach them in day to day driving. Regardless, they are a starting point for comparison.

Best small vans

1. Vauxhall Combo

Best small van for variety

Used deals from £7,995
Monthly finance from £197*
Loadspace
up to 4,400 litres
Payload up to 1,000kg
Fuel economy up to 57.3mpg

The last Vauxhall Combo was mechanically identical to the Fiat Doblo. But Vauxhall is now part of the same group as Peugeot and Citroen, and the new Combo is based on the Citroen Berlingo/Peugeot Partner.

Payload is improved over the old model, so you can get almost a tonne's worth of cargo in the rear. It comes in two lengths and one roof height, and there’s a crew van option with rear seats too. Three trim levels are on offer. Edition is the most basic, Sportive and LE Nav add niceties like body-coloured bumpers and an eight-inch touchscreen system.

What's more, there's a Combo-e on sale as of summer 2021, which offers up to 171 miles of range according to official tests.

2. Ford Transit Courier

Best small van for young delivery drivers

Used deals from £8,194
Monthly finance from £169*
Loadspace
 up to 2,300 litres
Payload up to 595kg
Fuel economy up to 56.5mpg

The Transit Courier is the second smallest van in Ford’s commercial vehicle line-up, behind the Fiesta van. It can't claim to have the loadspace or payload of its larger Transit cousins (it can accommodate 2,300 litres and up to 595kg) 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 1.0-litre Ecoboost 100hp – would suit a light user doing shorts runs but for heavier deliveries over longer distances, the 1.5-litre TDCi diesels are better.

3. Volkswagen Caddy Cargo

Best small van for comfort and quietness

Used deals from £9,975
Monthly finance from £241*
Loadspace
 up to 3,700 litres
Payload up to 700kg
Fuel economy up to 57.6mpg

You generally know what you’re getting when you buy a Volkswagen car, solid build quality, sophisticated engineering and a well-designed interior, and it’s the same when you buy a VW van. On the outside, the Caddy looks like a Volkswagen Golf that’s been converted into a van, and it’s a similar story thanks to features including a dashboard-mounted touchscreen display with digital radio and Bluetooth for wireless phone connectivity.

Pick a petrol engine for the most car-like experience: the 1.4-litre 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 a base-spec Mercedes Citan, with adaptive cruise control, which maintains a set distance from the car in front, and a large sat-nav. More importantly, it's available with a version called the Caddy Maxi, which has a slightly larger cargo area and a much bigger payload. The smaller version manages a 3,100-litre loadspace.

4. Citroen Berlingo

Best small van for minimising downtime

Used deals from £7,995
Monthly finance from £197*
Loadspace up to 4,400 litres
Payload up to 1,009 kg
Fuel economy up to 51.4mpg

The Berlingo is nigh-on identical to the Combo mentioned above. So it has the same top-of-the-class payload ratings, length and height variations.

Unlike the Combo, the Berlingo has four trim levels to choose from. The X model is the most basic, and designed with a view to keeping costs down. More expensive Worker models feature Citroen's Grip Control system which combines hill descent control and switchable traction control for different surfaces, as well as mud and snow tyres. These models also come with an additional 30mm of raised ground clearance.

Enterprise and Driver versions offer extra kit like cameras and large touchscreen media systems and there are two lengths to choose from.

5. Peugeot Partner

Best small van for fancy seating

Used deals from £8,378
Monthly finance from £202*
Loadspace
up to 3,800 litres
Payload up to 1,000 kg
Fuel economy up to 55.6mpg

Study the specs for this sister van to the Citroen Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo and you’ll learn there’s not much between the three.

The main difference between them is that this version, the Peugeot Partner, features Peugeot's innovative i-Cockpit layout inside. This means the Partner gets a small steering wheel with dials above it. For some, this gives the added benefit of more room in the interior, plus a lovely little wheel that is nice to use. For others, it’s an ergonomic nightmare. Short people who like to sit low down, might not be able to see the dials, as the small steering is too tiny to clear the dashboard binnacle.

If you're able to manage with this alternative cabin layout, you'll also be able to take advantage of the Partner's great payload rating.

6. Mercedes Citan

Best small van for a premium feel

Used deals from £8,995
Monthly finance from £218*
Loadspace
 up to 3,800 litres
Payload up to 661kg
Fuel economy up to 62.8mpg

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

As you’d expect with a Mercedes, it does feel a little higher-quality inside than most vans. While it's not as luxurious as a high-end Mercedes saloon, 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.

7. Renault Kangoo Z.E

Best small van for an electric future

Used deals Limited stock
Loadspace
 up to 4,600 litres
Payload up to 640kg
Range up to 143 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 Z.E. (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 over 4,000 litres loadspace and a payload of more than 600kg and you have a useful green van option at your disposal.

The latest version features a 33kWh battery pack which is based on what you would find in the lesser-powered versions of the Renault Zoe. That means the latest version promises around 140 miles off a full charge. If that's not enough for you, there are versions of the Kangoo with more familiar engines.

8. Fiat Doblo Cargo

Best small van for all of the reasons

Used deals Limited stock
Loadspace
 up to 5,000 litres
Payload up to 1,005kg
Fuel economy up to 61.4mpg

The Fiat Doblo once shared mechanical components with the Vauxhall Combo. The Combo has since been replaced by a Peugeot/Citroen based model, leaving the Fiat Doblo Cargo to soldier on alone.

A job it's well equipped to do given its competitive pricing, good range of engines and impressive load-carrying capabilities.

The Doblo comes in a choice of two body lengths (4,406mm and 4,756mm), 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. Payloads go as high as 1,005kg. As if that weren’t enough choice, there are four trim levels.

9. Nissan NV200

Best small van for impressive carrying capacity for the price

Used deals Limited stock
Loadspace
 up to 4,200 litres
Payload up to 728kg
Fuel economy up to 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 seven 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 digital 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. Take note, though, that Nissan no longer sells new petrol- or diesel-powered versions of this van.

10. Fiat Fiorino

Best medium van for urban deliveries

Used deals Limited stock
Loadspace
 up to 2,500 litres
Payload up to 660kg
Fuel economy up to 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-litre 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. Its payload is competitive with larger vans.

*Representative PCP finance - Ford Fiesta:

48 monthly payments of £192
Deposit: £0
Mileage limit: 8,000 per year
Optional final payment to buy car: £2,923
Total amount payable to buy car: £11,926
Total cost of credit: £2,426
Amount borrowed: £9,500
APR: 9.9%

BuyaCar is a credit broker, not a lender. Our rates start from 6.9% APR. The rate you are offered will depend on your individual circumstances.

 

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