Best small vans
If you need a small work van, read our list of the best to buy
We focus more on cars than vans here at Carbuyer, but some people need a vehicle that’s more practical than a car. Whether you need to hire one or buy one, a van’s primary purpose is to transport as much cargo as possible. Vans are workhorses with interiors that are built to endure years of rough treatment.
Smaller vans are often based on cars, but even larger ones often share engines and some interior features, meaning modern vans tend to have much more equipment than you might expect. They usually have several trim levels, with a basic version aimed at fleet buyers and a couple of relatively luxurious versions that can come with extras like alloy wheels, smartphone mirroring and a reversing camera, as well as different loadbay and seating options depending on your requirements.
Read on to see what our top picks are for the best small vans currently on sale, or head to our sister site Buyacar to explore great deals on nearly new and used commercial vehicles.
Citroen Berlingo/ Peugeot Partner/ Vauxhall Combo/ Toyota Proace City
Vans are often shared across several brands, and all the PSA Groupe brands offer essentially the same van but with different badging and subtly different styling. That means the Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner and Vauxhall Combo share mechanical parts, and now you can buy a Toyota-badged version too.
There’s a choice of standard or long body styles, plus a crew van with extra seats, and some versions offer an impressive one-tonne maximum payload. You can get a load-through bulkhead and lots of storage, plus Grip Control – a clever traction control technology that maximises traction on a variety of road surfaces and weather conditions – and a range of equipment like adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring. Your choice may simply come down to the design or dealer you prefer, but Vauxhall offers the best deals on the Combo, so it’s our pick of the bunch.
Ford Transit Connect
Ford is the king of commercial vehicles in the UK; the Transit and Transit Connect are always among the bestsellers. The latest Transit Connect gets sharp styling and shares its underpinnings with the Ford Focus, so it’s much better to drive than a van needs to be. Much of the interior is shared with the Focus, too, and higher-spec models get Ford’s impressive SYNC 3 infotainment system.
Like the four vans mentioned above, the Transit Connect comes with a choice of two, three, five or six seats, and we think it’s one of the best three seater vans on sale. There’s a choice of EcoBlue diesel and EcoBoost petrol engines, and you can even buy a souped-up version from van conversion specialists MS-RT, an offshoot of the M-Sport team that competes at the highest level in rallying – it features a body styling kit, 18-inch alloy wheels, and even rally-style sticker packages and a sports exhaust system.
The Volkswagen Caddy is the van to go for if you’d like a slightly more upmarket model, as we feel the Renault Kangoo-derived Mercedes Citan doesn’t quite live up to its high price. The Caddy is very comfortable and is available with plenty of the tech you’d get in a Volkswagen Golf or Volkswagen Polo.
There’s a new Caddy on the way named Caddy Cargo, packing much in the way of driver assistance technology and other toys, but the existing model is still worth a look and lives on for the time being in a few forms. This means there could be a few deals to be found. Engines are tried-and-tested, if a little long in the tooth now, but are still robust and economical. There’s an extensive range of body styles available too, ranging from full panel vans to crew cab vans, the Caddy Life passenger vehicle, and even a desirable Caddy California camper van.
If you work in a city that’s introducing low-emissions zones or you’re fed up with diesel engines, some vans are now available as fully electric vehicles. They’re slightly more expensive to buy but cost just a few pounds to fully recharge and are usefully clean, quiet and relaxing to drive, particularly over short trips. The electric Nissan e-NV200 comes with the option of fast-charging, which means you can top up the battery in 40 minutes.
With a drivetrain shared with the Leaf electric passenger car, you’ll be able to go up to 187 miles on a full charge (slightly less when it’s cold), but there’s still room for two Euro pallets and a load length of up to 2.8 metres. Some other vans have more modern interiors but the good-value, mid-spec Acenta model of the e-NV200 comes with automatic air conditioning, cruise control and a reversing camera.
Ford Fiesta Sport Van
For businesses that don’t need lots of carrying capacity, a car-based van might be more appealing than a purpose-built model. There used to be a huge choice of car-based vans but while very few remain these days, the Ford Fiesta is a welcome survivor. The panel van version is based on the three-door Fiesta hatchback, with the rear seats and windows removed. It combines reasonable practicality (there’s almost a cubic metre of loadspace) with all the impressive qualities of the Fiesta, a multiple Carbuyer Car of The Year award winner.
Like the regular Fiesta hatchback, the Fiesta Sport Van is very fun to drive, particularly given it’s based on the standard car’s sporty ST-Line trim, and is well-equipped with keyless start, air conditioning, DAB radio, lane-keeping assistance and a heated windscreen. The 84bhp diesel and peppy 124bhp petrol engine are both offered, with the latter making the Fiesta Sport Van one of the fastest small vans you can buy.
Renault Kangoo Z.E. 33
Electric power makes perfect sense for light commercial vehicles. Range limits aren’t as much an issue for vans that make similar trips each day and return to a depot to charge at night, while the power and torque characteristics of electric power make light work of heavy loads. It seems like a no-brainer for Renault’s Kangoo then, which is at its best in Z.E. 33 form, the number referring to the 33kWh capacity of its battery pack.
Renault was one of the first to get in on the electric van act, back in 2011, so it’s a strong seller in the market and a well-developed product. Renault quotes a real-world range of around 124 miles (against a 143-mile WLTP estimate) which should cover most daily needs, and there are different body configurations too, with payloads up to 639kg. Potential downsides include a lack of fast charging capability, and it’s not the quickest van on the market, but it’s well worth a look for light-duty, local users.
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