Each year we sort the best from the rest and determine the winners in each of the 12 categories in the following pages. We then select the number one model overall; the What Van? Van of the Year for 2008.

Every year the task becomes more difficult. Modern vans achieve standards that would barely have been dreamt of two decades ago. Exhaust emissions are lower thanks to tighter legislation and the colossal sums of money invested by manufacturers, and safety levels have soared thanks to the widespread use of ABS, Electronic Stability Programme and airbags.

Things still aren’t perfect. Some products definitely require further improvement and all the extra features fitted to vans have resulted in a widespread reduction in payload capacity; but the industry is without doubt getting there.

The verdicts represent the distilled experience of What Van?’s long-serving editorial staff. At one time or another we’ve driven and exhaustively assessed every light commercial sold in Britain. We’ve taken into account performance, ride, handling, noise, vibration, harshness, fuel economy, load cube, weight-shifting capability, equipment and value for money.

Manufacturers whose products have not won the top prize in each category may find that they’ve waltzed off with our much-coveted Highly Commended accolade instead. And if they haven’t been awarded a trophy this year, then they needn’t feel too disheartened. As we indicated earlier, the gap between the winners and those who have just missed out gets narrower and narrower as the years roll by.

Light commercial producers are under massive economic pressure worldwide as sales fall, factories slash output and workers are laid off. Let’s hope that 2009 won’t be as grim as the pundits are predicting and that vital research and development budgets won’t be cut as companies scrabble to save cash. The motor industry needs to keep improving its light commercials as customer expectations continue to rise and legislation gets tougher. In the meantime, congratulations to all the winners and keep up the good, and much-appreciated, work.







Citroën Nemo, Fiat Fiorino & Peugeot Bipper



Piaggio Porter



Vauxhall Corsavan

Highly Commended: Peugeot 207



Citroën Nemo, Fiat Fiorino & Peugeot Bipper

Highly Commended: Volkswagen Caddy



Citroën Dispatch, Fiat Scudo & Peugeot Expert

Highly Commended: Ford Transit



Iveco Daily

Highly Commended: Mercedes Sprinter



Mitsubishi L200

Highly Commended: Toyota Hilux


4×4 VAN

Mitsubishi Outlander

Highly Commended: SsangYong Kyron



Ford Transit

Highly Commended: Citroën Relay




Highly Commended: Ford



Light Van: Ford Transit Connect

Panel Van: Ford Transit



Michelin Agilis ll


Volkswagen Caddy


Piaggio Porter

With so many businesses eager to reduce their impact on the environment, it’s good to meet a manufacturer that makes it easy for them to do so. We’re talking about Piaggio, which produces its Porter microvan in electric as well as petrol guise.

Choose battery power and your Porter produces no exhaust emissions whatsoever. What is more, it costs you a small handful of coppers per mile to buy the energy you need to get your load from A to B, and you enjoy a variety of operational concessions as well.

Owners do not have to pay Vehicle Excise Duty, for example, or the iniquitous London congestion tax, and electric Porter boasts a range of around 85 miles between recharges. That should be more than sufficient to get you from the suburbs to the capital’s centre and back without having to get out and push.

Power comes courtesy of maintenance-free lead-gel batteries that are stowed beneath the vehicle so as not to intrude into the cargo area. It takes eight hours to charge them up fully using a domestic 13 amp socket or a praiseworthy two hours if you’ve got access to a three-phase supply.

Porter’s remarkable versatility given that it is such a small vehicle is enough to win it What Van?’s Microvan of the Year award yet again against admittedly sparse competition. It’s not just available as a van. You can buy it as a dropside with two different body sizes, as a tipper and as a chassis cab. It’s up for grabs as a pocket-sized MPV too, and as a 4×4 with an electronic locking centre diff if you’re not satisfied with a rear-wheel drive 4×2.

Porter van comes with a 3.0m3 cargo bay accessible from three sides; there’s a hatch-type door at the back. Looking across the line-up, top payload ranges from 440kg to 685kg, and Porter has proved to be a useful platform for a wide variety of specialist bodywork.

Married to a five-speed gearbox, the aforementioned 1.3-litre petrol engine pumps out 64hp. While some operators may regret the absence of a diesel, those 64 horses are more than enough for round-town delivery work and it’s in urban settings that the diminutive load lugger comes into its own.

It’s astonishingly manoeuvrable, easy to park and takes up so little space that it can squeeze into gaps that would defeat bigger vans. What is more, despite the fact that Porter is forward control — the driver sits on top of the engine in other words and in larger vehicles can face an awkward scramble up over the wheel arch to get behind the steering wheel — it’s easy to enter and exit the cab.

OK, the in-cab specification is basic and that’s putting it kindly. Do not expect to spend your working life in the lap of luxury. That said, the driver’s seat is surprisingly comfortable and Porter won’t cost you a fortune either to acquire or to operate; and that’s what matters in today’s grim economic climate.


Vauxhall Corsavan

On the face of it the advent of a new breed of small van like Peugeot’s Bipper and Fiat’s Fiorino ought to spell the end for light commercials based on compact hatchback cars. Bipper and the rest of them have sensibly-shaped, easily-accessible cargo boxes, are pleasant enough to drive, and impressively frugal too.

Their drawback so far as many prospective buyers are concerned however is that they look like vans, and cannot be mistaken for anything else. From the viewpoint of these status-conscious customers something like a Vauxhall Corsavan is a far more acceptable sight on the typical suburban driveway and much less likely to cause talk among the neighbours. What is more, Corsavan — What Van?’s Small Van of the Year for 2008 — comes with all the virtues of the car on which it is based. As a consequence it comfortably outclasses Bipper and similar products so far as driveability is concerned.

As for keeping your fuel bills down, how does 56mpg grab you? That’s what we averaged in a road test of a Corsavan powered by the formidable 75hp 1.3-litre CDTi diesel engine. An 80hp 1.2-litre Twinport petrol engine is on offer as an alternative.

Vauxhall’s smallest light commercial comes with a 0.9m3 load box accessed through a top-hinged rear door and fitted with four load-lashing rings and a half-height steel bulkhead. The diesel will cope with a 550kg payload and tow a braked trailer with an all-up weight not exceeding 1,005kg.

A five-speed manual gearbox comes as standard as does an impressive portfolio of safety devices. The line-up embraces ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Emergency Brake Assist. If that’s not enough for you to be going on with, then you’ll be gratified to learn that the package also includes Straight Line Stability Control and Cornering Brake Control.

The former helps to keep you pointing in the right direction under heavy braking while the latter makes the vehicle easier to manage if you have to slam on the anchors half-way round a bend. You also get something called Drag Torque Control. It helps keep the van stable if you suddenly lift your foot off the accelerator.

Diesel Corsavan pulls away strongly from rest, maintains momentum without hesitation as you accelerate through the gears and is a more-than-competent high speed motorway cruiser. 

If you’re in the market for something even livelier than the standard model, however, then you might care to get to grips with the Corsavan Sportive. It gets a 90hp version of the 1.3-litre diesel plus a six-speed manual ’box. The list of goodies provided includes air-conditioning, electric windows, sports seats, body-coloured side mouldings and door mirrors, 15in alloy wheels, a sports exhaust tail-pipe and front fog lights. That little lot ought to more than help keep your mind off the recession.

If Corsavan doesn’t float your corporate boat then check out Peugeot’s 207 Van, which collects our Highly Commended accolade in this category. Stylish, comfortable and practical, it delivers ample performance. 


Citroën Nemo, Fiat Fiorino & Peugeot Bipper

It’s rare for a whole new class of van to be created but that’s what’s happened over the past year or so. Citroën’s Nemo, Peugeot’s Bipper and Fiat’s Fiorino slot neatly between hatchback car-derived light commercials such as Peugeot’s 207 Van and Citroën’s C2 Enterprise and pukka high-cube vans such as Vauxhall’s Combo and Ford’s short-wheelbase Transit Connect. Perhaps not surprisingly, the three newcomers have waltzed off with our Light Van of the Year accolade and have between them won our Van of the Year award for 2008 too.

The fruits of a joint venture between PSA, Peugeot and Citroën’s parent company, Fiat and Turkish manufacturer Tofas, and little more than 3.8m long, the vans are made in Turkey.

They’re all pretty much identical apart from their badges, although Fiorino uses a 75hp 1.3-litre diesel rather than the 70hp 1.4-litre HDi diesel found in the other two. A 73hp 1.4-litre petrol lump is also available and would be suitable for a gaseous fuel conversion — Citroën already offers one under its Ready to Run programme — and each of the vans can be ordered with a semi-automatic gearbox although we wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. An electric Fiorino has been developed by Micro-Vett of Italy.

Nemo/Bipper/Fiorino’s front suspension employs MacPherson struts while an independent trailing arm set-up helps support the rear. You’ll find anti-roll bars front and back and the little load lugger sits on 14in wheels.

Power-assisted steering is provided with 2.8 turns lock-to-lock and offering a 9.95m kerb-to-kerb turning circle. Ventilated disc brakes are fitted at the front, drums provide the braking effort at the back, and ABS comes as standard.

A modest gross weight means that Nemo, Bipper and Fiorino are subject to car speed limits instead of the higher ones imposed on commercial vehicles. Payload capacity is 610kg

Rear entry to the cargo bay is by means of asymmetric twin doors with the narrower of the two on the offside. They swing open through 90° and through 170° if you release the easy-to-unlatch door stays. The doors conceal a compact yet practical 2.5m3 load box. Six load tie-down rings are provided — a lot for a van of this size — and sliding doors can be specified for one or both sides of the cargo area.

Maximum load bay length is 1,523mm. Maximum width is 1,473mm, narrowing to 1,046mm between the wheel boxes, while maximum height is 1,205mm. Rear loading height is 533mm. The usefully-square rear door aperture is 1,067mm high and 1,140 mm wide while the dimensions for the side door aperture, assuming a side door is fitted, are 1,041mm and 644mm respectively.

One of the big surprises when you hop into the cab is how roomy it is given the vehicle’s compact dimensions. Admittedly What Van? is populated by dwarves along with the odd hobbit, but even sensibly-sized people should have few problems with head, leg and shoulder room.

The driver’s seat is comfortable and a deep windscreen and deep door windows aid vision ahead and to either side.

Storage space includes a spacious, lidded but not lockable glovebox plus bins in each of the doors with a moulding that will clasp a soft drink can or a small bottle of water. You’ll find trays for your small change in each door, another change tray to the right of the steering column and a tray for your pens directly in front of the gearstick.

There are a couple of cup-holders between the seats plus a 12v power point and the prominent hazard warning lights button on the facia is a welcome touch. A passenger seat that folds into the floor can be specified. It extends the length of the cargo area to a handy 2,491mm.

The availability of remote central locking with deadlocks allows you to lock the load bay separately and all the doors lock automatically anyway once the van is in motion.

Even when heavily laden, the diesel Nemo/Bipper/Fiorino is an eager performer. A slick gearchange and a nice chunky gearstick enabled us to get the best out of a willing engine which, to our surprise, seemed as at home on the motorway as it is around town. That’s as true of the diesel fitted to the Fiat as it is of the one fitted to its two stablemates.

The 1.3-litre has the edge over the 1.4-litre so far as on-the-road performance is concerned, although if we’re honest there’s very little in it. Fuel economy is a dead heat; we averaged 55mpg, no matter which diesel was under the bonnet, without really trying. That’s good news for your bank balance and for CO2 emissions too. At 119 g/km they’re the same for both diesels.

With plenty of feedback from the responsive steering, the handling proved to be better than we expected it to be. Noise levels seemed well controlled for such a small vehicle, but the little van’s ultra-short wheelbase contributed to a lively ride. Even with a bit of weight in the back it at times proved just that bit too bouncy for us; but that’s the only significant drawback of what is an otherwise superb, cost-effective, package.

Whether you choose the Citroën, the Peugeot or the Fiat is likely to depend on price in the current tough climate, and on the competence of the local dealer. No matter which model you pick, however, we doubt you’ll be disappointed; and with impressive fuel economy and low running costs, it’s an icon for today’s grim times.

Residual values should be healthy too and the same can be said about Volkswagen’s Caddy. With impressive diesel engines, rock-solid built quality, and a remarkably good dealer network, it wins our highly commended award.


Citroën Dispatch, Fiat Scudo & Peugeot Expert

Van buyers have a greater choice of vehicles in front of them than they have ever enjoyed before.  As well as the addition of completely new products to manufacturer line-ups – Citroën’s Nemo is a prime example – models that were previously available solely with a take-it-or-leave-it single wheelbase and roof height are now up for grabs in a wider selection of shapes and sizes.

That’s certainly the case with Citroën’s Dispatch, Peugeot’s Expert and Fiat’s Scudo; collective winners once again of What Van?’s Small Panel Van of the Year award for 2008. The collective accolade is justified because all three of the front-wheel drive vehicles share the same basic design thanks to a long-established joint venture between Fiat and PSA, Peugeot and Citroën’s parent company.

Purchasers get to pick from two common rail diesel engines, both of which are biodiesel-friendly. On offer are a 1.6-litre with 90bhp on tap and a 2.0-litre generating either 120bhp or 136bhp. Select the 2.0-litre and you’ll soon discover that it’s married to a six-speed gearbox. ABS comes as standard along with Emergency Braking Assistance.

The existing line-up’s predecessors were produced in just one size. Their successors, however, are marketed with three different cargo area capacities.

Load space extents from 5.0m3 if you go for the short-wheelbase standard roof model increasing to 6.0m3 if you favour the long-wheelbase standard roof van instead. If you need even more room, then you can always opt for the long-wheelbase high roof derivative. It offers up to 7.0m3 to play with. Whichever variant you pick, a sliding door provides access to each side of the cargo box. Payload capacity ranges from 1,000kg to 1,200kg and don’t forget that platform cab and people carrier variants are available.


Access to Dispatch/Expert/Scudo’s three-man cab is exemplary. The low floor means that there’s no step up and the handbrake lever won’t impede your progress, even though it’s positioned between the driver’s seat and the door.

The comfortable and supportive seat is set at just the right height for people on multi-drop delivery runs who have to hop in and out of the cab continually during the working day. Vision is good ahead and to either side, with vision backwards along the vehicle’s flanks aided by large exterior mirrors. There is plenty of in-cab stowage space for the bits and pieces drivers cart around with them.

Remember that Dispatch is equipped in almost all cases with Trafficmaster’s Smartnav satellite navigation package and Trackstar, its GPS-based stolen vehicle tracking service, when you’re deciding on the make of the van you want to acquire.

Light commercials the size of Dispatch/Expert/Scudo are nibbling away at the smaller end of the full-sized panel van market. In the UK they have the short-wheelbase Ford Transit in their sights; our Highly Commended choice for this sector of the market.

Now up for grabs with a new 115hp version of the 2.2-litre Duratorq diesel, it rides and handles well, offers a slick gearchange, boasts a well-designed cab and residuals tend to be rock-solid. Nobody ever got shot for buying a Transit.


Iveco Daily

Iveco is eagerly burnishing Daily’s environmental credentials. Earlier this year it delivered ten diesel/electric hybrid vans to FedEx Express for extended on-the-job evaluation in northern Italy. Plans are afoot to commence volume production of a Daily hybrid by the end of 2009. As if that weren’t sufficient Iveco has come up with a version that will run on compressed natural gas and is developing a battery-powered model too.

All that is praiseworthy enough, but even more so are the standard diesel engines that power the mainstream Daily; What Van?’s Large Panel Van of the Year. They are without doubt among the best units in their class.

The 2.3-litre HPI (High Performance Injection) is produced at 96hp or 116hp. An HPT (High Performance Turbo) version of the same power pack pumps out 136hp, the difference being that it’s fitted with a variable, as opposed to a fixed, geometry turbocharger. Its 3.0-litre companion can be ordered at either 146hp (HPI) or 176hp (HPT). A six-speed automated manual AGile box is listed as an extra-cost option and is one of the most competent ’boxes of its type on the market.

Back in 2006 Daily underwent a whole host of revisions including all-new external styling and a reworked interior. Less visible changes were made too, including the introduction of bigger brakes, a beefed-up van cargo box and a re-jigged, fully independent front suspension system. All of these alterations have combined to improve significantly a vehicle that was already heading in the right direction.

Daily customers are faced with an almost-bewildering amount of choice. They can pick from vans, chassis cabs and chassis double cabs, gross weights run from 3.2 to 6.5 tonnes and payload capacities run from 1,060kg to 3,640kg. Van load areas extend from 7.3m3 to a yodel-inducing 17.2m3.

ABS and EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) both come as standard. The latter prevents individual wheels from locking under heavy braking. ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) is available too. It takes into account the height and positioning of any cargo being carried when trying to stop the vehicle turning over if the driver has to swerve suddenly. It also includes a hill-holder function to stop you rolling backwards when you’re trying to move away on an incline.

Daily’s cab interior is a huge improvement on what Iveco served up previously and we’re especially impressed by the changes made to the dashboard. But we’re even more impressed by the quality and competence of the dealer network.

Iveco also sells a range of trucks so its dealers automatically provide light commercial customers with the high standard of aftersales back-up demanded by hauliers; a standard that remains an elusive concept so far as so many van dealers whose mainstream activity is car sales are concerned.

Of course Daily doesn’t have this sector of the market all to its self. Oozing class, with high quality diesel engines and on offer with an Eco Start system that cuts the engine if the driver allows it to idle at the lights, saving on fuel and reducing pollution, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter gets our Highly Commended award.


Mitsubishi L200

As stylish as ever, Mitsubishi’s L200 has waltzed off with our Pick-up of the Year award yet again. On sale solely as a 4×4, the 1,000kg-or-thereabouts-payload L200 is marketed with either a two-door Single Cab, a Club Cab — a stretched version of the Single Cab with a pair of occasional rear seats — or with a four-door Double Cab.

A 2.5-litre diesel generating either 136hp or 165hp provides the power. You get a five-speed manual gearbox — an automatic ’box is available on some models — plus selectable Easy Select dual-range four-wheel drive with a low-range set of gears to hand should they be needed. Some L200s are fitted with Super Select instead. It’s made up of a central viscous coupling that automatically adjusts the front/rear torque split and includes a traction control system.

A variety of specification levels are listed starting with the basic 4Work in a line-up that also includes Warrior and Animal trim. Goodie-laden derivatives such as Animal have always done well for the marque and helped boost its image as well as increase sales. More recently we’ve seen the debut of an updated version of the Raging Bull special edition Double Cab.

For your money you get Smartnav satellite navigation with a coloured touch screen, cruise control, Raging Bull leather seats with a colour-stitched logo, 17in alloy wheels, a 420 watt sound system, a Bluetooth hands-free system, privacy glass, Raging Bull decals and chrome on just about everything.

Pick-ups are often used to tow trailers and in this context it’s worth noting that L200 can be equipped with a digital tachograph. That may be of especial interest to operators contemplating the L200 tipper and the more recently introduced dropside. The latter comes with an alloy deck and quick-release alloy sides, a lockable tool box, load tie-down rails and thermoplastic moulded mudguards.

On the highway L200 rides and handles well, build quality is top-notch and there’s sufficient power on tap to meet the majority of requirements. It performs well in the mud too, with enough torque on hand to keep it out of most kinds of trouble. OK, it’s not perfect; the load bed could stand to be longer for example. But in our view its advantages more than outweigh its drawbacks.

Mitsubishi is of course far from being the only player in the pick-up market and Toyota’s Hilux richly deserves our Highly Commended award. After spending a year with a Hilux Double Cab we can testify in favour of its solid construction, roomy, well-designed interior, user-friendly gear change and respectable handling for a big 4×4.

Don’t forget that it’s up for grabs with a 3.0-litre diesel producing 171hp as well as the more prosaic 2.5-litre; and if that’s not enough punch for you then try tracking down the Invincible 200 special edition Double Cab. It features a version of the 3.0-litre with no less than 197hp on tap thanks to some sterling work by Toyota Motor Sport. Sounds good to us; and we’re willing to bet that Toyota could squeeze even more horses out of that engine if it wanted to.


Mitsubishi Outlander

Not everybody needs the exemplary off-road performance offered by the likes of Land Rover’s Defender and Iveco’s Massif. What they want is a 4×4 that will simply get them up an icy rural lane in the middle of winter or across a boggy field. They also want something that will be pleasant to drive on ordinary roads too; because that’s where it will be spending most of its time.

It’s a need manufacturers have recognised with the introduction of a new breed of 4×4 soft-roader van. Mitsubishi is well to the fore with the creation of its Outlander Commercial and we’re happy to hand the five-door our 4×4 Van of the Year accolade for 2008.

Pop open the bonnet and you’ll find a 138hp 2.0-litre diesel sourced from Volkswagen and hooked up to a six-speed manual gearbox. Four-wheel drive is selectable.

Drive goes to the front wheels when you’re in 4×2 mode, with four-wheel drive engaged electronically by turning a knob mounted just behind the gearstick. Twist it to 4WD and torque is channelled to whichever wheels happen to have the most grip subject to a maximum 70/30 front/rear split.

If the terrain starts to get a bit more demanding then you turn the knob to Lock. By doing so you lock the centre diff giving you a 50/50 front/rear split. ABS comes as standard along with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Traction Control and an Active Stability package.

Access to the vehicle’s 2.0m3 cargo bay is by way of an unglazed hinged door on each side plus a rear hatch. Top payload capacity is 705kg and Outlander Commercial can tow a braked trailer grossing at 2,000kg.

In-cab equipment levels are more than acceptable and include air-conditioning, electric windows and electric exterior mirrors.

Nobody ever got shot for specifying a VW diesel engine and drivers will be impressed with the level of performance available from the respectably frugal 2.0-litre and the smooth, unflustered way in which it is delivered. It’s an engine that packs plenty of mid-range punch and offers relaxed cruising at motorway speeds.

Nor is the gearchange likely to hinder your pleasure. It’s precise and glitch-free. The steering is equally accurate, offering plenty of feedback and allowing whoever is behind the wheel to corner with confidence.

Britain’s potholed and badly maintained roads are guaranteed to give van suspensions a hammering, but Outlander Commercial remains remarkably composed under pressure. Its suspension set-up will happily deal with all the ridges, humps and bumps that the van is likely to encounter. Off-road Outlander Commercial can ascend and descend some surprisingly steep and slippery slopes and is unlikely to be deterred by muddy farm tracks.

Although it operates in a niche market, Mitsubishi’s load shifter does not lack competitors. Despite its still relatively-unfamiliar name, one potentially strong challenger is SsangYong’s Kyron C-S 4×4. It’s well-put-together, well-equipped and offers more than sufficient performance plus a decent gearchange. Again it’s a five-door and features a 2.4m3 cargo box. Most importantly given the present economic situation, it’s remarkably good value for money. As a consequence we’re happy to hand it our Highly Commended prize.


Ford Transit

Anybody who has ever been on a school trip, been a member of a sports team, or been picked up at an airport and ferried to some far-flung car park has probably travelled in a Ford Transit minibus. An often-unsung success story for the Big Blue Oval, passenger-carrying Transits must have shifted millions of people from Point A to Point B during the many years they’ve been available. They have put up with the abuse they’ve suffered with very little complaint.

Peering through the mists of time, the writer can vaguely remember what the rugby team at the university he attended did to the Students’ Union Transit minibus one weekend. It wasn’t pretty. An ability to soak up punishment is one reason why Transit has won What Van?’s Minibus of the Year award yet again; that, plus the diversity of the line-up Ford offers.

You can order a Transit minibus as a nine-, a 12-, a 15- or a 17-seater. The biggest of the bunch can be specified with a high roof instead of a medium-height roof and they are all speed-limited apart from the nine-seater.

Front-wheel drive, the two smallest models are fitted with a 2.2-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel. The 110hp version was recently replaced by a 115hp variant and you can order one with 140hp on tap too. Whichever one you pick, you get a six-speed ’box to play with.

Rear-wheel drive, the 15- and 17-seaters come with a 2.4-litre Duratorq TDCi producing 100hp, 115hp or 140hp. Select either of the two most powerful options and you’ll find that a six-speed gearbox is included in the deal. It’s also worth noting that the 15-seater is listed as being available with Transit’s newly launched 4×4 AWD system.

Disc brakes are installed all round, ABS is a standard feature and so is Electronic Stability Programme unless you’ve opted for four-wheel drive. It includes a device that ensures you don’t roll backwards into the vehicle behind when you’re attempting to pull away on a gradient.

The whole range complies with M1 passenger car safety levels, every seat is equipped with a lap-and-diagonal belt plus an adjustable headrest and the 12-, 15- and 17-seaters come with a Schedule 6 pack. This includes decals that tell you where the emergency exit is, how many people the vehicle can carry and whereabouts the first aid kit that also forms part of the pack is kept are its most visible manifestation. It also provides a grab handle to make entry through the sliding side passenger door easier — the anti-slip step is illuminated — and a fire extinguisher.

All Transit minibuses are fitted with twin batteries; one to power any items that happen to be in use while you are stationary plus another that’s there to ensure that you will always be able to fire up the engine.

While the foregoing range includes enough choice to satisfy most requirements, do not forget that there are two other Transit people carriers; the upmarket eight- and nine-seater Tourneos.

Representing good value for money, Citroën’s Relay minibus wins our Highly Commended accolade.



With over 80 specially converted light commercial vehicles now available in the UK, the breadth of Citroën’s Ready to Run programme is astounding. That’s one reason why the French manufacturer has won What Van?’s One-Stop Shop award for 2008.

Recent additions to this already-praiseworthy line-up include chilled fridge conversions for Nemo, chilled and frozen conversions for Berlingo and box bodies built to chilled and frozen specifications for Relay. Dispatch and Relay fridge vans are available as well, as is a refrigerated Berlingo First.

Berlingos transformed into glass carriers by Supertrucks have just joined the party. So have versions of Nemo, Berlingo First and Berlingo converted to run on liquefied petroleum gas (lpg) by Nicholson McLaren Engineering (NME). In another first, vans that have been worked on by NME can also be converted to temperature-controlled specifications by Somers. As a result they can deliver sandwiches and other snacks to city centre workers in an environmentally friendly manner. If they do so in London the lpg conversions mean that they won’t be subject to the congestion tax.

Ready to Run further embraces 12-, 15- and 17-seater Relay minibuses, including wheelchair accessible models, converted by Advanced Vehicle Builders.

With seats, seat belts, seat mountings and an under-frame all tested to M1 passenger car standards, one neat feature of the standard minibuses is the ability to remove the three-seater rear bench easily and quickly. That’s a useful facility should you wish to carry more luggage, but fewer passengers.

Buckstone Motor Bodies supplies Luton vans to the programme while Ingimex contributes its usual high quality dropsides. The models are Relay-based, as is a car transporter courtesy of KFS, while Tipmaster produces a Relay tipper that represents remarkably good value for money.

Employing long and extra long wheelbase chassis, the Lutons offer load cubes of up to 20m3 and cargo deck lengths of up to 4,000mm. Offering a payload capacity of up to 1,180kg, the bodies employ anodised aluminium sections and 11mm grp panels. They’re equipped with colour-impregnated rear roller shutters plus full-height internal tie rails. The vehicles are also fitted with reverse parking sensors and a full-width combined under-run bumper and rear step.

Ingimex’s Thor dropside body features alloy dropsides plus a non-slip phenol resin bonded one-piece ply floor with retractable load tie-down points. Like the tipper, it is phenomenally good value for the modest price asked.

KFS’s transporter will move vehicles that weigh up to 1,600kg and its alloy body is supplied complete with alloy loading ramps.

The Ready to Run portfolio also embraces a 300kg-capacity internally mounted fold-away tail-lift for Dispatch and Relay panel vans sourced from Tipmaster. It tips the scales at just 145kg.

As well as the Berlingo referred to earlier, Berlingo First, Dispatch and Relay can all be ordered as glass carriers. The Supertrucks conversion includes an anodised aluminium roof rack, a side rack and two fixed internal racks, all complete with securing poles.

All Citroën Ready to Run bodies and conversions are covered by a three year/100,000 mile warranty with no mileage limit in the first two years to match the cover provided with the base Citroen vehicle.

Citroën is, of course, not the only light commercial manufacturer to run a One-Stop Shop programme. Ford is one of several competitors who do and its scheme receives our Highly Commended award.


Ford Transit

Yet again Ford’s Transit has driven off with What Van?’s Panel Van Security Award of the Year, and it’s not hard to see why. For a kick-off all Transits come with a Ford Safeguard Passive Anti-Theft System (PATS) engine immobiliser certified to Thatcham Category 2. Thatcham is shorthand for the Motor Insurance Repair Research Centre which happens to be based in the Berkshire town of the same name.

Your vehicle is additionally protected by shielded door locks with strengthened mountings and featuring a lock-in-latch arrangement. This means that there are no cables and rods linking the locks and latches, and as a consequence nothing for the thief to manipulate.

The remote central double-locking system features deadlocks. A warning sounds if the doors haven’t been locked properly and they are all locked automatically when you drive away.

You need the ignition key to open the bonnet, a feature we can only applaud. It’s a sensible anti-theft measure and we’d like to see it adopted more widely.

Transit owners can enjoy a reasonably secure cargo area with the presence of unglazed rear doors and a full-height steel bulkhead. A lockable fuel filler, a visible Vehicle Identification Number and VIN-protected audio units should help frustrate the criminally-inclined too, as should what Ford describes as a ‘torque slip’ anti-theft steering wheel. The act of wrenching it as hard as you possibly can in order to break the steering column lock has the effect of rendering the wheel useless.

If you feel all the foregoing may be insufficient to protect your pride and joy, then it’s worth noting that a Thatcham Category 1 alarm is available. It includes an interior scanner plus an independent battery back-up should a thief try to disconnect the vehicle’s own battery.

Transit can also be ordered with a trailer monitoring alarm. It sounds the alert if somebody unauthorised tries to separate your trailer from your van.

Another useful option is configurable unlocking. It allows the driver to choose which doors to unlock, and in which order, when selected buttons are pressed on the remote key fob; handy to have if you happen to be on multi-drop delivery work.


Ford Transit Connect

Ford’s Transit Connect boasts many of the security features of its Transit big brother and that’s more than sufficient reason for granting it our Light Van Security Award of the Year.

The cordon that surrounds it includes Ford’s Safeguard Passive Anti-Theft System engine immobiliser, shielded door locks with strengthened mountings, and the lock-in-latch system employed by Transit. For your money you also get central/double locking, a bonnet release operated by the ignition key, a locking fuel cap and a visible Vehicle Identification Number.

Remote keyless entry with rolling codes is standard on almost all models and the options list includes a perimeter alarm plus a choice of bulkheads.

All the anti-theft devices in the world are pointless, however, if you forget to take your key out of the ignition while you’re busy making a delivery or paying for your fuel at a service station. It’s equally worthless if you leave the key hanging on a hook by your front door where it can be found by any passing opportunist criminal. Manufacturer-fitted systems are no substitute for being security-conscious at all times; and using your common sense.


Michelin Agilis ll

When recession starts to bite and work is in short supply, there’s always the risk that van owners will skimp on maintenance to save a bit of cash; and tyres may be the first items on a vehicle to suffer. Odd tread wear patterns, including bald patches, are ignored. So are suspicious-looking bulges in the sidewall because doing something about them might cost money. Such supposed savings represent a false economy and are likely to place whoever is at the wheel in serious danger; not to mention other road users.

After all, tyres represent the vital link between your vehicle and the road surface. If they fail because they haven’t been looked after or replaced when necessary, then you’re in severe trouble. The importance of this link is continually stressed, not surprisingly, by Michelin. Over the years it has pumped vast sums of money into light commercial tyre development and the latest Agilis represents one of the fruits of all this investment.

Winner of our What Van? Technology award for 2008, and designed for light commercials grossing at from 2.8 to 3.5 tonnes, it replaces the old Agilis 61, 81 and 101 tyres. Aimed at smaller vans, the 41 and 51 will be replaced over the next couple of years.

Michelin’s latest offering has been designed to provide increased grip, robustness and longevity as well as providing a reduction in fuel consumption and thus lower CO2 emissions. The tread pattern is far more truck-like than it was on the previous version of Agilis, with larger blocks and wide trenches for better water egress. Improved rubber compounds mean that there is less deformation of the blocks under load. This helps keep the temperature down, improve performance and reduce fuel consumption.

The new Agilis also features the most up-to-date contact patch technology introduced as a consequence of Michelin’s experience with truck tyres. The contact patch — ie the area of the tyre that’s in contact with the road surface at any one time — is now much squarer than it used to be.

Van tyres can take a severe battering in service, perpetually bashed against kerbs and even mounting the pavement every so often. As a consequence, and like its predecessor, the latest Agilis comes with a series of raised blocks 6mm deep around the sidewall and the rubber used has been strengthened.

Under testing the tyre was scraped repeatedly against a kerb in an exercise that simulated some two years worth of use. The blocks lost a mere 1mm of depth. Michelin reckons the newcomer is good for an average 85,000km; 20 per cent more than the tyre it replaces.

To show the extent to which rolling resistance has been reduced — a key consideration when it comes to cutting fuel bills and CO2 output — Michelin rolled two identical Fiat Ducato vans each laden with a 1,000kg test load down a shallow incline. The one fitted with new Agilis rolled 18m further than its stable-mate, which was on the old version.

This equates to a saving of 0.2 litres of diesel every 62 miles. Not a huge amount, agreed, but the saving soon mounts up over a year; and any cut in CO2 emissions, however modest, has to be applauded.


Volkswagen Caddy

Launched just over a year ago, Volkswagen’s solidly constructed Caddy Maxi Van offers fans of the standard Caddy who need a bit more cargo space exactly what they are looking for. It boasts a 4.2m3 load box as opposed to its little brother’s 3.2m3 thanks to a longer wheelbase and a slightly greater rear overhang.

There’s good news on the engine front; one sound reason for gifting Caddy Maxi What Van?’s Editor’s Choice award for 2008. Maxi is up for grabs with a 2.0-litre diesel pumping out a healthy 140hp plus maximum torque of 320Nm. It comes with a six-speed gearbox plus a particulate trap as standard.

If you don’t fancy that — and we can’t for the life of us think why you wouldn’t — then you can always opt for a 105hp 1.9-litre diesel instead. Thinking about it there’s a sound reason why you might choose the less-powerful of the two units and that’s because it can be ordered with the optional and utterly superb six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox.

DSG can be used either as a manual or as an automatic but unfortunately it cannot for the moment be combined with the 2.0-litre engine. In passing it’s worth noting that while the 1.9-litre doesn’t come with a particulate trap as standard, it does if you decide to marry it to the DSG box.

Caddy Maxi’s top payload is 800kg, which means it can compete with quite a few of the smaller full-sized panel vans when it comes to weight shifting. It can even haul a braked trailer with a gross weight of up to 1,500kg.

Access to the cargo bay is via a sliding door on each side plus twin asymmetric rear doors with the narrower of the two on the right-hand side. Both can be swung through 170° if you release the stays. Eight load tie-down points are provided and it’s good to see a full-height bulkhead.

We’ve no quarrel whatsoever with the driving position. There’s plenty of head, leg and shoulder room, and both the steering wheel and the seat are height-adjustable.

Out on the road the 2.0-litre Caddy in particular packs plenty of punch, but whichever engine you pick you’ll get a van with VW’s usual precise gearchange. You’ll be in charge of a van that rides well too, and is manoeuvrable enough to allow you to wriggle into some surprisingly tight parking spaces.

Caddy and Caddy Maxi are being developed along two, slightly contradictory, fronts. On the one hand VW is busy promoting the low environmental impact BlueMotion Caddy as well as one that will run on environmentally friendly compressed natural gas, while on the other it’s busy promoting a fun-to-drive Sportline variant.

While anything that cuts harmful exhaust emissions and reduces a firm’s carbon footprint has to be welcomed, we’ll leave you to guess which of the three What Van?’s leaden-footed editor will pick if he gets the chance. However he might just fancy the 4×4 Caddy that’s also on its way; just what you want if you need something that will allow you to cope with some typical British slush and ice.