- What is the best mid-size van for you? Parkers is here to help
- Every medium sized panel van on sale in the UK ranked
- All aspects of ownership considered
What is the best medium van? We’ve driven every mid-size panel van on sale in the UK and after a great deal of careful consideration put them into order of preference based on their load-carrying capability, ease of use, running costs, reliability and driving experience.
Whatever you want to buy a medium van for, Parkers Vans is here to help, with a breakdown of the major pros and cons of every model alongside a link to the full review so you can find out even more. All to make sure you’re getting the best van for you.
Though not as diverse as the large van sector, there are still plenty of medium van bodystyles and working conversions available.
Plus these are the vans most often bought as lifestyle vehicles; spec two rows of seats and you’ve got super-practical family transport, while more adventurous types such as surfers, mountain bikers and fishermen also tend to favour this type of van.
Here’s the Parkers Vans and Pickups list of the best medium vans (2019), counting down in reverse order:
12) Hyundai iLoad
The Hyundai iLoad is the oldest medium van on sale in the UK – and it shows. Available as a panel or crew van but in just one body size, it has a single 2.5-litre engine option producing only a modest 116hp, not to mention the lowest payload rating and the poorest fuel economy of any van in this sector.
On the plus side, the interior is car-like, and with 343Nm of torque it doesn’t struggle to shift the load it can carry. It’s also cheap, comes with a five-year warranty and manages to meet Euro 6 emissions regulations without AdBlue, saving you that expense.
However, with a poor driving experience and limited equipment list, almost no options, short service intervals and no dedicated light commercial vehicle (LCV) dealer network, most buyers would do better looking elsewhere.
= 9) Citroen Dispatch / Peugeot Expert / Toyota Proace
It is perhaps controversial to place this closely-related trio so far down the best medium vans list – the platform they share is the newest in the medium van marketplace, and will shortly form the basis of the 2019 Vauxhall Vivaro (on sale February) as well. Big pros include on-paper fuel economy and class-leading payload capacity.
Being so new, they also have lots of high-tech features (though these are largely limited to the options list), while engine output goes as high as 180hp on the French pairing; the Toyota skips the higher power levels, but compensates with a five-year warranty to the others’ three-year coverage.
But there’s only a single roof height, the cab is cramped and lacks practical storage space, not all of the new tech works very well, and the driving position is off-set so you end up sitting with a twisted spine. New vans need to do better.
= 4) Renault Trafic / Vauxhall Vivaro / Nissan NV300 / Fiat Talento
Another set of cousins here – the Trafic is the lead van, with Renault also building the Nissan NV300 and Fiat Talento in its factory in France. The Vauxhall Vivaro is built in Luton, however, making it the last van still made in the UK (the all-new Vivaro coming 2019 will also be built in the UK).
Not every brand offers every option, but this design is generally available in two body lengths and two roof heights, and with a choice of four 1.6-litre turbodiesel engines. With 145hp at best, these aren’t massively powerful, but they make up for it with smoothness and real-world efficiency.
With relatively modest payloads, these are not the vans to choose if your loads are heavy. But they are comfortable, refined and packed with practical features, including large numbers of load-lashing points as standard. Long warranties (five years from Nissan) and good dealer network support also make these worth considering.
If you’re looking for maximum quality, the Mercedes Vito is the top dog – though you need to choose wisely, and be prepared to pay for it. For example, while it’s unique in the class for being available with front- and rear-wheel drive powertrains we’d definitely opt for a rear-wheel drive model, given the choice.
You get a bigger engine, for starters. But also a nicer driving experience. There are few vans that feel quite so much like driving a regular car, and higher specification Vitos even have the cab finish to match, making them a lovely place to spend long periods behind the wheel. Mercedes has launched a choice of three trim levels in 2019, too.
Three body lengths and a massive options list – including a seven-speed automatic gearbox – mean you won’t struggle to tailor the Vito exactly to you. And while it doesn’t have the highest payload ratings, it’s well equipped, well supported by the Mercedes dealer network, and has 30 years of roadside assistance cover.
The most reliable mid-size van for several years running according to the FN50 van reliability survey, the VW Transporter manages the neat trick of being both cool and exceptionally practical – with perhaps the most functional cab design of any model in this sector of the van market.
It comes in a massively wide range – including two TSI turbo petrol engines since mid-2017 (read our long-term test review of the 204hp version) – as well as front- and four-wheel drive, and trim levels that range from basic with bash-friendly unpainted bumpers to bodykitted Sportline models with lowered suspension (pictured above).
As with the Vito, maximum payload isn’t its greatest strength, but there is a choice of roof heights and body lengths. Sharp looks and tidy handling keep it popular with the lifestyle crowd, and it holds its value well. Just budget for earplugs, as they’re not the most refined vans inside. A facelift is on the way in 2019.
The newly facelifted Ford Transit Custom has overcome our only major criticism of the original version – the completely revised cab interior now has plenty of space to store things. The UK’s bestselling van just got more functional, not to mention better looking on the outside as well.
The future is bright for the Transit Custom, too, with a plug-in hybrid version set to join the range in 2019, promising electric only running for city use and the back up of a petrol engine for when you need to take on the occasional longer run.
There is a question mark over its reliability at the moment, particularly relating to oil life issues on the 2.0-litre Euro 6 engines. But since Ford sells more than double the number of these versus its closest rival (the Transporter), it’s hard to know if the complaints are actually an above-average percentage.
As an all-rounder, the Transit Custom really is tough to beat. Owners love the way it looks and the way it drives, high gross vehicle weights (GVW; the combined legal maximum weight of the van and everything inside) make for generous payloads, and it offers good value – from standard equipment to running costs.