In 2010, new van registrations increased by 15.9 per cent. Not only was this one of the biggest annual growth figures ever, it also went against the economic situation in the country.
Increased confidence in the UK saw an upturn in UK companies expanding or renewing their van fleets.
Once again the market was dominated by Ford and ageless Transit van. However, in the age of skyrocketing fuel prices and high rates of benefit-in-kind tax (a tax on business vehicles), it is important a van is frugal and cheap to run.
New EU emissions laws (Euro 5 regulations) also put CO2 emissions in the spotlight, leading to a host of new and upgraded vans entering the market in the past 12 months.
We’ve rounded up ten of the best, most practical, reliable and frugal vans available in the UK today.
10) Fiat Doblo Cargo
Fiat is perhaps better known for its small cars, but the Fiat Doblo van and car range have been popular in the UK for several years now.
The Doblo Cargo medium size panel van has been given a revamp for 2010, and with it comes extra equipment and some styling touches to make it stand out from the crowd.
The real headline figures lie in Fiat’s award-winning engine range. These include three powerful ‘MultiJet diesels’ and a single 1.4-litre petrol.
The diesel engines are particularly frugal and cheap to run, offering Stopstart technology to stretch the fuel even further.
The Fiat Doblo Cargo is the International Van of the Year 2010, thanks to its load space, one-tonne payload and Fiat’s aftersales support team in its commercial division.
Starting from £11,305, it offers superb value too.
9) Ford Fiesta Van
Ford is onto a winner with the Fiesta car, but what about the van version of the UK’s most popular small car?
The van has been designed for the city, and is small and nippy enough to cope with even the busiest urban traffic.
Despite its compact dimensions it offers 1.0 cubic metres of loadspace and 515kg payload capacity. The load length is 1.3 metres and it can be fitted with a full-height steel bulkhead if necessary.
It will also be one of the cheapest vans to run, with the 1.4-litre diesel offering particularly low fuel consumption figures.
The Ford Fiesta van looks and handles like the car, meaning it is also one of the more enjoyable vans to drive on the market.
Starting from just £10,500, the Fiesta Van is a small, low-cost van to make you smile.
8) Peugeot Partner van
The Peugeot Partner van is a compact van, but offers more space than the supermini-based Fiesta Van and Corsavan.
The Partner is capable of carry 625-750kg payload depending on whether it is a short or long wheelbase version, and the load capacity comes in at over four cubic metres in the boxy rear.
Featuring Peugeot’s chunky styling at the front, the Partner also boasts large plastic bumpers to avoid bumps and scratches to the paintwork.
Inside, the Peugeot Partner is equally hard wearing and functional, with comfortable seats and a simple layout to the dashboard.
Under the bonnet, there is a choice of two diesel and one petrol engine – all in 1.6-litre form. Meanwhile, standard equipment focuses on practical additions such as power steering and ABS.
7) Vauxhall Vivaro
The Vauxhall Vivaro is a large panel van taking on the mighty Ford Transit. Practicality is the order of the day with the Vivaro, with a load volume of 8.7 cubic metres and a payload range between 1010 and 1275kg.
There are plenty of customisable options to suit each individual business. These include two roof heights, two wheelbases and three capable and reliable diesel engines.
Vauxhall has added its ubiquitous ‘Flex’ name to the loading area, which features fasteners to secure cargo to the sides and extra straps throughout.
The rear end is accessible via sliding doors, while the cabin is spacious, comfortable and hard-wearing to match the interior.
The Vauxhall Vivaro is styled with hints from Vauxhall’s car range, making it an attractive but ultimately practical option starting from £17,700.
6) Renault Kangoo Z.E.
We thought we’d focus on frugal vans for this top ten, and although it is only due for release at the end of 2010, the Renault Kangoo Z.E. will be by far the most frugal on the market.
This is because it will be powered completely by electricity, bringing down fuel costs to a minimum for UK businesses willing to take on the new technology.
Based on the standard Kangoo van, the Kangoo Z.E. retains the large, box-like rear end and the large battery is found underneath the floor to keep the load space intact.
The van will have a 100 mile range and runs on 60bhp from its 44kW electric motor. This is all powered by a lithium iOn battery.
The Renault Kangoo Z.E. van is expected to be popular as a lease vehicle because the manufacturer can take on the costs of the expensive battery, and is sure to be a popular option with forward-thinking UK businesses.
5) Citroen Berlingo
Competing against the Ford Transit Connect and Peugeot Partner was always going to be difficult, but Citroen may be onto a winner with the compact Berlingo van.
This is because Citroen has updated – or completely rebuilt – the Berlingo’s engines to improve CO2 emissions and bring down the cost of ownership.
This means the 1.6-litre HDi now delivers 147g/km compared to 153g/km for the previous version – at no extra cost.
There are four specification levels to choose from and the 3.3 cubic metres of load space is impressive.
The Citroen Berlingo matches off-the-wall Gallic looks with inherent practicality, and fuel economy of up to 48.5mpg.
4) Vauxhall Astravan
The Vauxhall Astra is one of the most popular hatchbacks in the UK, and the Astravan maintains the attractive design and driving dynamics of its brother.
Bigger than the Corsavan and Fiesta Van, the Astravan offers 1.8 metres of load length and 1.58 cubic metres of load space.
Payload capacity is 650kg – on par with larger vans such as the shorter Kangoo and Partner vans and the low load area and high-lift tailgate improve functionality.
Vauxhall Astravans come with Vauxhall’s impressive line-up of engines including four diesels matched with a six-speed manual gearbox with a single automatic option.
The Astravan is ideal for urban based businesses and offers the driver some high quality trims to improve the comfort of the cabin for longer drives.
The Vauxhall Astravan starts from £14,300.
3) Renault Master
The Renault Master panel van is vast. It is capable of carrying 8.,03 cubic metres of cargo and a maximum load length of 2.7 metres.
This is the largest version of the van, and here lies another plus point for the Master. Renault says there are over 350 different versions available, including forty body options, four body lengths and three heights.
The engines are now more frugal than ever – Renault estimates the new van can travel 870 miles on just one tank, while CO2 emissions are a respectable 187g/km.
The Renault Master Van has sold over one million units worldwide since its launch 12 years ago. The new van costs between £20,795 and £29,945.
2) Citroen Nemo
The Citroen Nemo compact van is remarkable for one reason; it is the most economical van on the market today.
This is according to the recent annual MPG Marathon designed to find the vehicles with the best fuel economy on the market.
A 1.4HDi Citroen Nemo returned over 81.93mpg – much higher than the official figure and showing what can be achieved with the Nemo.
With a 610kg payload and 2.5 cubic metres of load space, the Nemo combines French flair with functionality and efficiency.
The Citroen Nemo van starts from £9,165 for entry-level models.
1) Ford Transit
The Ford Transit panel can is the world’s most popular van. In its 45 year history it has sold over six million units worldwide.
The success is down to the no-nonsense approach Ford applies to the Transit. They are big, practical, reliable and in recent years, efficient and inexpensive to run.
Packed full of equipment such as electric windows, air conditioning, Bluetooth and several innovative storage ideas, the Transit is a comfortable and upmarket van.
However, it is also a capable van, offering huge load spaces, ease of access and inherent durability.
The Ford Transit comes in a vast range of shapes, sizes and offers a choice of engines ranging from the frugal lower-end diesels to the more powerful units at the top of the range.
The Ford Transit is the most iconic van around, and it will continue to be the most popular van in the UK for years to come.