Best medium vans: our expert top 10 list

  • Top 10 best medium vans in the UK, as ranked by the experts at Parkers
  • Covers mid-size panel vans for work, family and lifestyle
  • Want to know which to buy and which to avoid? Read on

Medium-sized vans are almost as easy to drive as small vans but can offer payloads that compete with some large vans. We’ve driven all of the models listed below and used our expertise to create this definitive top 10 list of the best medium vans on sale in the UK.

Fully updated following the 2022 Parkers New Car Awards, as an indicator of just how good mid-size vans have become, the winner of the 2022 Parkers Medium Van of The Year award is also our overall 2022 Van of The Year.

Mid-size vans like these are sometimes referred to as 1.0-tonne models. Typical examples are the Volkswagen Transporter and the Ford Transit Custom, though if you’re looking for a medium work van you’ll also be drawn to the likes of the Vauxhall Vivaro and Renault Trafic.

They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are also the vans that best bridge the gap between commercial vehicles and lifestyle transport – so if you’re looking for a van to do double duty as a family car, it's a medium van that usually makes the most sense.

As well as detailed reviews and dimensions information, Parkers can also lead you to local vans for sale and our partner business mustard.co.uk can help you find van insurance.

Best medium vans

10. Nissan NV300

9. Fiat Talento 

8. Renault Trafic

7. LEVC VN5

6. Mercedes-Benz Vito

5. Vauxhall Vivaro

4. Citroen Dispatch / Peugeot Expert

3. Toyota Proace

2. Volkswagen Transporter

1. Ford Transit Custom

Why buy a medium van?

A medium van offers a good compromise between increased load space – and payload – over a small van while still offering relatively easy parking and a less intimidating driving experience than large vans.

They also work well as crew vans – also known as double cab vans and combi or kombi vans – as even with a second row of seats they still provide a generous load area, much bigger than the boot of any car. It’s for this reason that medium vans are particularly well suited to lifestyle or 'vanlife' buyers, as they can carry plenty of people and plenty of gear at the same time.

Best medium vans 2021: double cabs models are great for lifestyle and working buyers, Ford Transit Custom DCiV

Hence surfers’ traditional love for the VW Transporter family of vans; the Mercedes Vito and especially the Ford Transit Custom have huge enthusiast followings as well.

Most modern mid-size vans offer a driving experience that’s no longer too far removed from a large car or SUV, with a high seating position and good road holding. They will lean a little more round corners, and firm, load-carrying suspension can make them a bit more bumpy, but almost all of the latest high-tech equipment and options you’d expect in car are now available in these vans, too.

This also explains why medium vans are popular for day van and campervan conversions, with factory-backed examples now including not only the VW California but also the Mercedes Marco Polo, Ford Transit Custom Nugget and Vauxhall Vivaro Elite Campervan.

Best medium vans 2021: a great choice for campervan conversions, VW California

On the negative side, medium van running costs will be higher than with a small van, and large vans can offer much more load space.

Which medium van is best for me?

Medium vans come in a wide variety of types and sizes, from basic working vans with unpainted bumpers and limited standard kit to highly specced near-luxury models. Ford and Volkswagen in particular do a strong range of sport vans with bodykits, large alloy wheels and lowered suspension – check out the latest Transporter Sportline and MS-RT Transit Custom.

While these look good, they will be more susceptible to damage on work sites, reducing their practicality compared with more utilitarian models.

Best medium vans 2021: sport van choices include the MS-RT Transit Custom

On the other hand, lower-spec vans won’t be as well finished in the back – important if you need to protect your investment from damage when loading – and may be missing curious items such as engine undertrays and wheel arch liners that you would take for granted on a car, let alone creature comforts such as air-conditioning.

Cheaper vans aren’t always nicely trimmed inside the cabin, especially where there’s a second row of seating fitted. Which might be important for your family, as with very upright seat backs and door trim that doesn't even have armrests, it can feel like you're putting them in the hold rather than premium economy. The options list can fix these things, but upgrading to the next trim level is often better value.

Safety is another consideration. Check how many airbags come as standard, for example. And although Euro NCAP doesn’t routinely crash-test vans it has begun rating them based on advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), which has resulted in it singling out a few medium vans that it doesn’t recommend at all.

Best medium vans 2021: load volume and payload varies tremendously

How long do you plan to keep your new van? Most medium vans come with a three-year warranty, but Toyota now offers up to 10 years of cover, and there are several others with five-year warranties now – sometimes you even get extra coverage if you opt for a manufacture finance scheme.

When buying, it’s worth enquiring about service plans, too. These can be very cost-effective and help you better plan your monthly expenses.

What size medium van should I buy?

Beyond the trim level and specification, think about size. Some medium vans come in three body lengths – though a simpler choice between short-wheelbase and long-wheelbase versions (often labelled L1 and L2) is more common. Longer models can carry more in the back. But they will also be more difficult to park.

Most medium vans are sold as low-roof (H1) variants, though some makes do offer high-roof (H2) options; if you want to fit in multistorey car parks, a low roof H1 van is the sensible choice. The Stellantis-built Vauxhall Vivaro, Toyota Proace, Peugeot Expert and Citroen Dispatch are particularly short in stature for this reason.

Best medium vans 2021: load area

If you don’t need carpark access but will regularly be rummaging around in the back, a high-roof van may allow you to stand fully upright rather than hunched over.

Payload ratings in the medium panel van sector vary tremendously, so make sure that whatever you choose has the correct payload capacity for what you want to put in it. You can check this on a specific van’s weight plate (usually located under the bonnet), but remember to take any fitted equipment into consideration.

Towing capacity also varies, and can be checked in the same manner.

The dimensions pages attached to our reviews cover all these things in great detail for every medium van.

Diesel, electric or hybrid?

Though VW has dabbled with petrol power in the past, diesel remains the dominant and conventional choice of fuel for a medium van. However, there is an increasing number of 100% electric models to choose from, and some petrol-electric hybrids as well.

Diesel is great for torque and long-distance fuel economy. You can get it anywhere, and it takes mere moments to refuel.

On the other hand, modern diesel engines don’t like short journeys. So if you’re a multidrop driver such as a parcel courier, you may start to have issues with the diesel particulate filter (DPF) if you don’t give the van the chance to clear it out on a longer run once in a while.

We’ve also heard some horror stories about the damage that can be done to high-pressure injection systems by poor quality diesel fuel, so it’s best not to go for the budget supermarket stuff when filling up every time.

Best medium vans 2021: electric vans are becoming more popular, Vauxhall Vivaro-e

Electric medium vans don’t suffer with this problem, and they can also be super cheap to run in terms of both electricity costs and servicing. But they do bring people out in range anxiety – recharging one is not a short process.

The Stellantis models – e-Dispatch, e-Expert and Vivaro-e – can offer you over 200 miles of claimed driving range per charge now, however, and a very pleasant driving experience that’s quiet and vibration-free with the convenience of an automatic transmission. Great around town, and very responsive.

Even the shorter-range e-Transporter (82 miles) and eVito (92 miles)  are worth a look if you know your daily route falls well within their capabilities – we’ve seen some stonking monthly finance and leasing deals on these.

>> Best electric vans

Splitting the difference are the two PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) alternatives, the Ford Transit Custom Plug-In Hybrid and the LEVC VN5. These use an electric motor to drive the wheels, which is powered by a battery pack or the petrol engine under the bonnet acting as a generator.

Our full guide to hybrid vans covers these in much greater detail, but the advantage to these is a decent chunk of 100% electric driving from the batteries combined with flexible long-distance driving thanks to the petrol engines. The disadvantages include added complexity, poor mpg when using the petrol engine, and cost (more than some pure electric vans).

>> Best hybrid vans

Most medium vans are front-wheel drive (FWD), which should suit most buyers; there are a couple of rear-wheel drive (RWD) choices, though, and VW sells the Transporter with 4Motion four-wheel drive. A manual gearbox is standard on almost every van of this type, though automatic transmissions are an increasingly common option.

Automatic vans are typically smoother to drive and less hassle in traffic. And while they cost more initially they should also reduce tyre wear and clutch replacement costs.

Top 10 best medium vans UK 2021

10. Nissan NV300 / Primastar

Best medium van if you live next door to a Nissan dealership

Best medium vans 2021: Nissan NV300

There are no bad vans on this list. But we’re starting here with the Nissan NV300, which has just been updated and renamed Primastar. This van is technically identical to the Fiat Talento and the Renault Trafic – Renault builds all three in its factory in France.

The NV300 / Primastar has the advantage of a five-year warranty across the entire range – something you can get on the other two, but only with conditions. But Nissan's commercial vehicle network isn't as extensive as that of Renault and Fiat.

Still, the NV300 comes with a choice of three 2.0-litre diesel engines and in two body lengths, offering 5.2-7.2 cubic metres of load volume and up to 4.15m of loading length – some of the most generous stats in the medium panel van sector. Less impressively, maximum payload is 1,148kg.

>> Read our full Nissan NV300 review

>> Find Nissan NV300 vans for sale near you

9. Fiat Talento

Best medium van for looking like a Trafic while not being a Trafic

Best medium vans 2021: Fiat Talento

Fiat’s version of the Renault Trafic probably isn’t long for this world now that Fiat is part of Stellantis – which builds medium vans using a rival platform. But while it is around you can take advantage of some funky trim combinations (brown interior plastics!) and a wider selection of spec levels than the Nissan offers.

You can have a five-year warranty on these – in fact, the Fiat ‘555 campaign’ also includes a five-year service plan and five years of roadside assistance (four more than normal, which just reminds us that you only get one year of breakdown cover usually). But this is not included on basic entry-level models.

The 2.0-litre diesel engines offer between 120hp and 170hp, and there’s an option for a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. However, the Talento is also one of two medium vans singled-out by Thatcham and Euro NCAP to be ‘not recommended’ due to their limited amount of active safety equipment. Guess which the other one is…

>> Read our full Fiat Talento review

>> Find Fiat Talento vans for sale near you

8. Renault Trafic

Best medium van for lengthy loads and a sharp automatic

Best medium vans 2021: Renault Trafic

Yes, the Renault Trafic is the other medium van ‘not recommended’ by Euro NCAP and Thatcham, due to its lack of available active safety kit. Really want to wind up the sales person? Ask them to comment on the Australian crash test of the Mitsubishi-branded version: it scored no stars and bent in half like a ripe banana.

However, Renault has just announced a major facelift, that brings in a load of extra safety kit. Plus, like its cousins, the Trafic has a particularly lengthy load area (if also a rather limited payload), a choice of 2.0-litre diesel engines with up to 170hp, and a cracking six-speed DCT automatic gearbox option.

It also shares plenty of components with Renault’s car range, and is pretty nimble to drive. The Renault Pro+ commercial vehicle dealer network is extensive and experienced, and you can get the Trafic on a five-year finance package with matching warranty, service plan and roadside recovery.

>> Read our full Renault Trafic review

>> Find Renault Trafic vans for sale near you

7. LEVC VN5

Best medium van for hybrid-electric flexibility

Best medium vans 2021: LEVC VN5

You might not know LEVC but you will almost certainly be familiar with its most famous product: the London Taxi. Recently the London Electric Vehicle Company (based in Coventry, backed by Chinese automotive giant Geely) has turned its attention towards building vans as well, resulting in the impressive VN5.

This uses the same petrol-electric plug-in hybrid drivetrain as the taxi, giving the van a 61-mile pure electric range with the added flexibility of then being able to fire up the dinosaur juice and burn a bunch of that in the form of a generator. This allows the VN5 to travel 300 miles without stopping.

The cab is a little tight, but it has a Volvo-grade touchscreen system and digital dials, giving it premium impact. The proportions are unusual; despite appearances it’s larger outside than a Transit Custom but can only carry 5.5 cubic metres of load inside. Pricey, too. But you do get a five-year warranty and durable aluminium / composite construction.

>> Read our full LEVC VN5 review

>> Find LEVC VN5 vans for sale near you

6. Mercedes-Benz Vito

Best medium van for comprehensive choice

Best medium vans 2021: Mercedes-Benz Vito

While Mercedes doesn’t offer a high-roof version of the Vito, this medium van does come in two wheelbases, three body lengths and – uniquely in this class – a choice of front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive. So there’s likely to be a version to suit you.

The 2020 facelift is milder than korma on the outside but did bring a whole suite of updated engines – shame it didn’t also modernise the rather dated interior. You definitely need to spend a bit to get the Vito at its best, but even the latest infotainment systems are rather awkward and annoying to use.

Our preference is for the RWD models, which meet the premium Mercedes image expectations a little better. Payload isn’t super-generous, but you do get a three-year unlimited mileage warranty and Mercedes offers roadside assistance for up to 30 years. There’s an eVito electric version, too.

>> Read our full Mercedes-Benz Vito review

>> Find Mercedes-Benz Vito vans for sale near you

5. Vauxhall Vivaro

Best medium van for buying British

Best medium vans 2021: Vauxhall Vivaro

We’re about to run into another big family grouping of four basically identical vans. Which we’ve separated because they have slightly different strengths – and weaknesses.

The Vauxhall Version ranks fourth in this quartet because it has the highest starting price and the smallest model range. All of the others are offered in a third, super-compact body length, that’s actually quite useful if you need something just slightly bigger than a small van for running around town.

Still, this is a very modern medium van with payload ratings up to 1,458kg, and excellent fuel economy from its 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre turbodiesel engines – the most powerful 180hp model has an eight-speed automatic transmission as standard. You can get panel vans, crew vans and Vivaro-e electric vans, but there’s only one roof height. The off-set driving position is a crying shame, too.

>> Read our full Vauxhall Vivaro review

>> Find Vauxhall Vivaro vans for sale near you

4. Citroen Dispatch / Peugeot Expert

Best medium van for payload and electric power

Best medium vans 2021: Citroen Dispatch and Peugeot Expert

We’ve ranked the Citroen and Peugeot versions of these vans together because they are not only the original pairing, they also have matching trim-level strategies. Which is better for you will come down to the deal you get on the day, the dealer you prefer, or maybe whichever one catches your eye.

Both come in three body lengths and the one low-riding roof height. They shouldn’t be difficult to park anywhere, and they’re available with a lot of fancy high-tech toys – including sliding side doors you can open with a wave of your foot and head-up displays for added on-road safety.

They also have massive payload ratings of almost 1,500kg, economical 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre diesel engines with up to 180hp, and are come as e-Dispatch and e-Expert electric vans that travel over 200 miles on a charge – or carry over 1,200kg. It is a shame about the cab, which is cramped and has a very skew-whiff driving position.

>> Read our full Citroen Dispatch and Peugeot Expert reviews

>> Find Citroen Dispatch or Peugeot Expert vans for sale near you 

3. Toyota Proace

Best medium van for the longest possible warranty

Best medium vans 2021: Toyota Proace

The Proace is built for Toyota by Stellantis, and is technically identical to the Vauxhall Vivaro, Peugeot Expert and Citroen Dispatch – which means a mega 1,400kg+ payload, strong fuel efficiency and a choice of three body lengths, if only one roof height.

However, Toyota offers this with the lowest entry price and its Relax warranty, which covers you for up to 10 years (including if you buy used). The firm has made a big effort to improve its commercial vehicle dealer network in the UK, too, so you shouldn’t lose out in that area.

Toyota doesn’t offer the 150hp 2.0-litre engine, but you can still pick between 100hp and 120hp 1.5-litre engines, and 120hp and 180hp 2.0-litre models – the latter with standard eight-speed auto – plus a new Proace Electric. There’s plenty of tech for convenience and safety as well. But also still the same crooked driving position.

>> Read our full Toyota Proace review

>> Find Toyota Proace vans for sale near you

2. Volkswagen Transporter

Best medium van for style, comfort and enduring value

Best medium vans 2021: VW Transporter

The VW Transporter needs no introduction from us – it’s the icon of the medium van class, the first to cross the boundary between working vehicle and lifestyle accessory. It comes in a wide choice of trim levels, has strong 2.0-litre engines, plenty of safety kit, and forms the basis of the California campervan and the Caravelle people carrier.

It’s also a great choice if you’re planning to do long-distances, as it's comfortable and easy to drive – though they can be a little noisy in the cab. The Transporter is also the most reliable medium van according to the annual FN50 survey. The e-Transporter electric version has a disappointingly short range, but is also excellent to drive.

It’s not the best choice if you need maximum payload, but with two body lengths, two roof heights and between 90hp and 204hp, plus the option of a DSG automatic gearbox and 4Motion four-wheel drive, there’s a lot to like here. It also holds its value particularly well, making it cheap to lease or buy on monthly finance, and worth more when you come to sell it on.

>> Read our full Volkswagen Transporter review

>> Find VW Transporter vans for sale near you

1. Ford Transit Custom

The best medium van for all-round appeal and capability

Best medium vans 2021: Ford Transit Custom

The Transit Custom is the UK’s most popular van of any type – not only outselling its nearest rival (usually the VW Transporter) by a considerable margin but also almost every car as well. While Ford’s enormous Transit Centre dealer network and the Transit household name certainly help, the Transit Custom is so successful because it’s a great van.

Owners love them because they don’t feel like a van to be in or drive. The latest 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engines offer plenty of performance and economy, and trim levels range from barebones budget-friendly working vans right through to lifestyle orientated Active and MSRT variants. This breadth of talent saw us vote it the overall Parkers Van of the Year in 2021 and 2022, as well as making in the Best Medium Van Award winner.

The Custom comes in a wide selection of payload options that go nearly as high as the Stellantis family above, and is available in two lengths and two roof heights. There’s a Plug-In Hybrid variant as well. As an all-rounder, it’s a medium van that’s currently impossible to beat.

>> Read our full Ford Transit Custom review

>> Find Ford Transit Custom vans for sale near you

Also read:

>> Best vans for reliability

>> Best small vans

>> Best pickups

>> New vans coming soon

>> Is the best family car actually a van?