Best small vans 2021

  • Top 10 best small vans in the UK ranked and rated
  • Covers small panel vans and car-derived vans
  • Choices for all kinds of buyers, plus some to avoid, too

Modern small vans come in all sorts of shapes and sizes – some are based on the same platform as cars, others are cars with the rear windows blanked-out. You can get petrol, diesel and electric models, and the very best small vans have plenty of load capacity and 1,000kg payload ratings, even though they hardly take up any space on the road.

We’ve carefully compared every small van on sale in the UK using our extensive review and road-test experience and detailed analysis of technical specification to deliver this comprehensive top 10 list of the best – we’ve even highlighted a few you should probably avoid. You can read more about each of them in our full reviews, get insurance quotes from our partner business mustard.co.uk and search for new and used examples via our vans for sale pages.

There is also a 2021 Parkers Small Van of the Year award – find out more about the current champions.

Best small vans

10. Nissan e-NV200

9. Fiat Fiorino

8. Ford Transit Courier

7. Dacia Duster Commercial

6. Renault Zoe Van

5. Ford Fiesta Van

4. Fiat Doblo Cargo

3. Ford Transit Connect

2. Volkswagen Caddy Cargo

1. Citroen Berlingo / Peugeot Partner / Toyota Proace City / Vauxhall Combo Cargo

And the ones to avoid

Why buy a small van?

Small vans used to basic boxes on wheels, with few creature comforts – keeping prices low but often leaving drivers feeling short-changed. These days most of them have equipment lists that rival small cars and come in a variety of trim levels to suit all budgets. Whether you want high safety levels, fancy technology or sporty looks, there’s now a small van to suit you.

Their compact size makes them great for driving around busy towns and cities, and you shouldn’t find them difficult to park; most are available with camera systems to help with this as well. Even entry-level engines should have plenty of oomph for these urban journeys, but if you plan to go further afield don’t skimp in this area – as with all vans, more power and low down torque improves the driving experience, and often delivers the best mpg in the real world.

Best small vans 2021: Caddy Cargo being unloaded

A small work van is ideal for businesses that need this agility, such as local delivery firms including motor factors and florists, or those that don’t require the space of a larger van, such as mobile valeting companies and decorators.

They’re often the first type of van bought by self-employed people needing something more practical than a car but keen to minimise their investment risks – small vans are usually the least expensive, too.

Just make sure that whatever you choose has enough space and carrying capacity for the things you need to put in the back. You don’t want to discover you need to buy a different van just a few months down the line. All of our small van reviews have dedicated dimensions pages with payload and cargo space info, and you’ll find links to the reviews listed alongside the vans below.

Types of small van

As well as the small panel vans, there are also small car type vans – typically known as car-derived vans – and smaller commercial 4x4s as well.

Both of these sorts of small van are based on passenger vehicles, and have reduced load areas and payloads compared with small vans proper. They are usually also even better equipped and nicer to drive – though most modern small vans do very well in these areas, too. We’ve listed the best small examples below, but cover these categories in more detail on separate pages:

>> Best car-derived vans

>> Best commercial 4x4s

Dedicated small commercial vehicle vans also come in different types. The most common are city vans the size of the Citroen Berlingo, Ford Transit Connect and Volkswagen Caddy, and available in a choice of two body lengths: standard or short-wheelbase (SWB) on one hand and long-wheelbase (LWB) on the other, often labelled Maxi.

Many of these are also available as crew vans, meaning a second row of seats for extra passengers.

Best small vans 2021: Fiesta Van outside florists

There are also smaller vans than this, which we sometimes refer to as compact vans. While the Ford Transit Courier and Fiat Fiorino are particularly small in van terms, they are still more practical than a car-derived van, and usually cheaper.

All small vans are front-wheel drive (FWD) as standard. Some manufacturers offer packages that add grippier tyres and clever electronics to improve traction on slippery surfaces, which could be useful on building sites or in bad weather.

More rarely there are some four-wheel drive (4WD, AWD or 4x4) small vans available – with Vauxhall offering a special conversion Combo Cargo 4x4 and Volkswagen about to launch a Caddy Cargo 4Motion.

Petrol, diesel or electric?

Diesel is the traditional choice of engine type for small vans, and if you do a reasonably lengthy journey every day these still make the most sense in terms of fuel economy.

But if you do lots of short journeys in towns, don’t rule out a petrol small van. These usually cost the least to buy, can often deliver good urban mpg if driven sensibly, and don’t have a diesel particulate filter (DPF) to get clogged up through stopping and starting all the time.

Electric small vans are becoming more and more tempting, too. Their motors are punchy at low speeds, making them great in traffic, they’re very quiet and relaxing to drive, and running costs are the lowest of all if you charge them on a sensible tariff.

Driving range can be limiting and they are expensive to buy outright – though often very competitive on monthly finance or if leasing. On top of which, electric vans always come with an automatic transmission, useful around town and something you’ll pay extra for with rival petrol and diesel models (if an auto is available on these at all). Worth a look.

>> Best electric vans

Top 10 best small vans UK 2021

10. Nissan e-NV200

Best small van for electric practicality

Best small vans 2021: Nissan e-NV200 electric van

The Nissan NV200 was always a funny thing – a tall, upright small van, it was never very appealing as a diesel model, and has now been discontinued in favour of the NV250. But the e-NV200 electric version lives on, and if you want a practical small van solution with zero emissions this is your best bet at present.

A generous load space of 4.2 cubic metres and a decent 700kg payload isn’t bad at all for an electric van. Driving range is a limited 124 miles under the latest WLTP calculations – though in city driving the official figure is 187 miles, and how far do you really go every day?

The 109hp motor makes it plenty powerful enough, especially with instant electric torque, and it can easily cope with motorway speeds if required. Rapid charging means longer distances aren’t impossible, just less practical than with a diesel model.

>> Read our full Nissan e-NV200 review

>> Find a Nissan e-NV200 electric van for sale near you

9. Fiat Fiorino

Best small van for big space in a very small package

Best small vans 2021: Fiat Fiorino

The Fiorino is Fiat’s smallest van, and was also previously sold in the UK as the Citroen Nemo and Peugeot Bipper. It’s quite an elderly product these days, dating all the way back to 2008, so just loses out to the Ford Transit Courier as an overall package.

But of these two compact van rivals, the Fiorano has the slightly large load area, rated to 2.5 cubic metres with a fixed bulkhead, rising to 2.8 cubic metres with a folding front passenger seat. It also carries up to 610kg, which is impressive for a van of this tiny size.

The 1.3-litre Multijet turbodiesel is well proven – which is another way of saying it, too, is old. But this means it should be reliable, and while 80 or 95hp doesn’t sound like much, it is punchy enough for purpose here. Shame the ride is so firm, and the interior feels very outdated.

>> Read our full Fiat Fiorino review

>> Find a Fiat Fiorino van for sale near you

8. Ford Transit Courier

Best small compact van for mpg and equipment

Best small vans 2021: Ford Transit Courier

The Courier is Ford’s smallest Transit, a little brother to the very popular Transit Connect. It is very carlike to drive – which because it’s a Ford also means it’s fun – and more modern than its only direct rival, the Fiat Fiorino.

This shows not only in the interior quality and available equipment, but also in the wider range of engine choices, which includes a zippy 100hp 1.0-litre turbo petrol as well as two 1.5-litre turbodiesels offering 75hp or 100hp. The diesels are easily capable of 50+mpg.

What’s more, as well as four trim levels – topped by a Transit Courier Sport van – the Courier is available as a small kombi van as well as a standard panel van. Useful if you occasionally need to carry more than one passenger.

>> Read our full Ford Transit Courier review

>> Find a Ford Transit Courier van for sale near you

7. Dacia Duster Commercial

Best small van for off-road capability with incredible value

Best small vans 2021: Dacia Duster Commercial

We’re cheating here slightly, as the 2021 Duster Commercial is so new we haven’t driven it yet. But as a commercial 4x4 / car-derived van (it qualifies as both, depending on specification), this is basically a Dacia Duster passenger SUV with the rear seats removed, and we have spent plenty of time driving those.

There are two reasons it gets a mention here already. Firstly, as a commercial 4x4 it offers off-road capability that most small vans can’t match – though only top spec models are actually four-wheel drive. Most of the range is front-wheel drive (but still have a ground-clearance advantage over conventional small vans).

Secondly, it is astonishingly cheap – with prices starting at under £12k before VAT. And this for a vehicle with passenger-car quality in the front and all that promises for the driving experience. For some this will more than make up for the small 1.5 cubic metre load space and sub-500kg payload. Plus not looking like a van can have its advantages.

>> New Dacia Duster Commercial – details on Parkers Vans and Pickups

6. Renault Zoe Van

Best small electric van for driving range

Best small vans 2021: Renault Zoe Van

The Renault Zoe is one of the most successful electric cars in the UK and Europe, and already on its second-generation. The Zoe Van takes advantage of its proven capability to provide buyers with a car-derived van that can deliver a zero emissions driving range of 245 miles – something no other electric van can match.

With this you also get a smart, modern cabin, with lots of technology. The Zoe is fun to drive, too, being quiet yet very responsive – ideal for bashing motorways and nipping around town. And although it looks expensive on paper, monthly finance is very competitive, often more so than with the rival Ford Fiesta Van.

The downsides go beyond the time it takes to recharge, however. Load space is limited to 1.0-cubic metre – half that if you want to use the built-in load cover. Worse, payload is considerably less than 400kg. By far the lowest of any small van in this list.

>> Read our full Renault Zoe Van review

>> Find a Renault van for sale near you

5. Ford Fiesta Van

Best car-derived small van

Best small vans 2021: Ford Fiesta Van

As with its only direct rival, the Renault Zoe Van, the Ford Fiesta Van is just a passenger car with the rear seats replaced by a load area and bulkhead. As a result, it too has a small cargo space of just 0.96 cubic metres, though every version of the current model can carry over 500kg.

The Fiesta Van is also slightly unusual under the bonnet, as since mid-2020 it’s only available with petrol engines: 95hp and 125hp variations of the 1.0-litre Ecoboost turbo, the latter now available as a mild-hybrid (MHEV), too. These add to the sense of fun – which is in substantial supply in the Fiesta, regardless – but if you need maximum mpg you might want to seek out a nearly new diesel.

There’s a more basic trim for fleet customers but regular retail buyers only get the Sport model, which looks like a Fiesta ST with the rear windows blanked out. As well as being good to drive, these are very nicely finished inside and fully equipped like a car, ideal for businesses that need a small practical vehicle but not much actual space – critical time service engineers, perhaps.

>> Read our full Ford Fiesta Van review

>> Find a Ford Fiesta Van for sale near you

4. Fiat Doblo

Best small van for practical space

Best small vans 2021: Fiat Doblo Cargo

The Doblo Cargo is an oft-overlooked small van (and the previous Vauxhall Combo that was based in this very van was always a disappointing sales performer) but it packs a huge load space capable of swallowing three Euro pallets, and is the only current small van available with a high-roof option.

Combine that with the longer wheelbase, and you end up with a Doblo XL that has a medium-van rivalling 5.4 cubic metres of potential load space and a payload of over 1,000kg – if you pay the small fee for the high-payload upgrade (standard models carry 750kg).

The interior is a bit sparse and poorly equipped by modern standards. But the cabin is usefully practical, has some appealingly no-nonsense materials. It’s also no-nonsense to drive, with good handling and proven, efficient 1.3-litre and 1.6-litre turbodiesel engines providing up to 120hp.

>> Read our full Fiat Doblo Cargo review

>> Find a Fiat Doblo van for sale near you

3. Ford Transit Connect

Best small van for choice and fun, decent payload

Best small vans 2021: Ford Transit Connect

This small Transit van success story is usefully bigger than the Transit Courier inside and on the road, but just as light on its feet to drive. The Transit Connect also has even more on-board technology, including a standard-fit FordPass Connect mobile Wi-Fi system, and comes in a vast array of trim levels – from the most basic small work van to lifestyle-orientated MSRT and Active variants.

There are two body lengths, labelled L1 and L2 – and although the curiously shaped bulkhead intrudes into the load area, the longer model’s is specially shaped to accommodate 8x4 sheet, a clever trick for such a small van. Load volume is on the tight side, overwise, ranging from 2.9 to 3.6 cubic metres for the panel vans.

Payload is better, with an update in 2020 offering an upgrade on some models to nearly 1,000kg. There’s a good selection of fuel-efficient petrol and diesel engines, and an eight-speed automatic option. Just be aware this model is soon due to be replaced by a new Ford city van based on the latest Volkswagen Caddy. So make sure you’re getting a good deal if going for this one.

>> Read our full Ford Transit Connect review

>> Find a Ford Transit Connect van for sale near you

2. Volkswagen Caddy Cargo

Best small van for pretending you’re driving a Golf

Best small vans 2021: VW Caddy Cargo

Caddy Cargo is the new name for van versions of the VW Caddy, and this is the most up-to-date model in the small van market at the time of writing. Informally known as the Caddy 5 (for fifth generation), for the first time it uses the same MQB platform as many, many Volkswagen Group cars, enabling all sorts of the latest technology and doing wonders for the driving experience.

This is a much better Caddy to drive than the old one, and although extensive use of touch-sensitive buttons rather than physical ones won’t be to all tastes, it’s hard to deny the interior successfully manages to appear very modern while also being practical. Powered by a choice of super-clean ‘twin-dosing’ 2.0-litre diesel engines or a single 1.5-litre petrol, performance isn’t an issue here.

The standard-length version is bigger in the back than before, too. But the Caddy Maxi is now smaller, and neither has a payload rating greater than 800kg, which is disappointing compared with rivals. Still, you can have 4Motion four-wheel drive and seven-speed DSG auto if you need them, and there’s now Caddy California campervan. Truly a VW small van for all occasions.

>> Read our full VW Caddy Cargo review

>> Find a Volkswagen Caddy Cargo van for sale near you

1. Citroen Berlingo / Peugeot Partner / Toyota Proace City / Vauxhall Combo Cargo

The best small vans you can buy

Best small vans 2021: Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner, Toyota Proace City, Vauxhall Combo Cargo

With some small exceptions – notably the Peugeot’s ‘i-Cockpit’ interior – these four small vans are all technically identical. There are some minor spec, equipment and version availability differences, too, and Toyota will give you a five-year warranty, but whichever one of these you buy you will be getting essentially the same experience. Which is no bad thing at all.

These are our reigning Parkers Small Van of the Year award-winners. They combine a relaxing, refined driving experience with fantastic practicality – with payloads of over 1,000kg on some versions and the choice  of two body lengths, plus load-through bulkheads for longer items.

There are some oddities in the cab, such as the poorly positioned and badly lit ventilation controls, but with lots of high-tech extras available – including permanent rear-view cameras, head-up displays and built-in payload overload sensors – they are right at the top of the small van game. Efficient petrol and diesel engines, and an eight-speed auto option, complete their appeal.

>> Read our full reviews of the Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner, Toyota Proace City and Vauxhall Combo Cargo

>> Find Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner, Toyota Proace City and Vauxhall Combo Cargo vans for sale near you

Small vans to avoid

Now, let’s be clear – none of the below are absolutely awful. In fact, they’re all versions of the same van. But there are reasons for avoiding all of them, not least that brand new versions are due in late 2021 / early 2022.

Mercedes-Benz Citan

Best small vans 2021: Mercedes-Benz Citan

The Citan is a Renault Kangoo with a fancy badge, some changes to the suspension bushes and a few bit of rather incongruous Mercedes switchgear in the cabin. For the money it costs you can do so much better. We’re looking forward to the new one, though, as Mercedes has apparently had much more input into the design and development.

>> Read our full Mercedes Citan review

>> Find a Mercedes Citan van for sale near you

Nissan NV250

Best small vans 2021: Nissan NV250

The NV250 is a stop gap van, occupying the space between the end of diesel versions of the NV200 and the arrival of an all-new Nissan small van based on the next Renault Kangoo in 2022. Weirdly, being based on the current Kangoo makes the NV250 older in origin than the NV200 it replaced. Nissan has never let us drive one. Draw your own conclusions.

>> Nissan NV250 details on Parkers Vans and Pickups

>> Find a Nissan NV250 van for sale near you

Renault Kangoo

Best small vans 2021: Renault Kangoo

The best version of the current Renault Kangoo is the ZE electric model, but although it will travel a claimed 143 miles between charges, the 60hp motor is much less powerful than the e-NV200’s and makes for relatively poor performance. The rest of the range is very much feeling its age, too (it was launched in 2008). Thankfully, the all-new model looks extremely impressive.

>> Read our full Renault Kangoo review

>> Find a Renault Kangoo van for sale near you

Also read:

>> New vans coming soon

>> Parkers Van and Pickup Awards 2021

>> Best pickups