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 huge sums of money invested by manufacturers, and safety levels have soared thanks to the widespread use of ABS, Electronic Stability Programme and airbags.

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, payload, 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. The gap between the winners and those who have just missed out gets narrower and narrower as the years roll by.

Congratulations to all the winners and keep up the good work.



Nissan NV200



Piaggio Porter



Ford Fiesta

Highly Commended: Vauxhall Corsavan



Nissan NV200

Highly Commended: Citroën Nemo, Fiat Fiorino & Peugeot Bipper



Citroën Dispatch, Fiat Scudo & Peugeot Expert

Highly Commended: Ford Transit



Iveco Daily

Highly Commended: Mercedes Sprinter



Mitsubishi L200

Highly Commended: Ford Ranger


4×4 Van

Mitsubishi Outlander & Citroën C-Crosser

Highly Commended: SsangYong Kyron



Ford Transit

Highly Commended: Citroën Relay




Highly Commended: Ford



Light Van: Ford Transit Connect

Panel Van: Ford Transit



Smith Edison

Highly Recommended: Modec



Volkswagen Caddy


Piaggio Porter

It might look rather like a big packing case on little wheels, but we’ve still got a soft spot for Piaggio’s inexpensive and highly manoeuvrable Porter. That’s why we’ve awarded it our Microvan of the Year accolade, admittedly in the face of very thin competition.

One reason for our support for the compact load-lugger is its availability with environmentally friendly maintenance-free lead-gel-battery power. The batteries sit beneath the vehicle and as a consequence do not steal cargo space. Use a 13 amp socket and it will take eight hours to charge them up fully. That falls to a modest two hours if you can plug the battery pack into a three-phase supply.

Either way, a full charge will cost you just a few coppers and will take you up to 85 miles before the pack needs charging up again. What’s more, you don’t have to pay Vehicle Excise Duty or the daylight-robbery London congestion tax.

Porter isn’t available solely as a panel van in miniature. It’s also up for grabs as a tipper, as a dropside with two different sizes of body and as a chassis cab. You can order it as an MPV too, believe it or not, and Porter is also marketed as a 4×4 complete with an electronic locking centre differential.

Porter van is produced with a 3.0m3 cargo bay that can be accessed from three sides. You’ll find sliding doors on each side of the cargo box plus a hatch-type door round the back.

Looking across the line-up, maximum payload capacity ranges from 440kg to 685kg, and over the years the Italian-built Porter has proved to be a handy platform for a variegated assortment of specialist bodywork. It’s appeared as everything from a refuse collection vehicle to a cherry picker.

If battery power isn’t suitable for your operation, then the only alternative is a 1.3-litre 64hp petrol engine married to a five-speed gearbox.

While the lack of a diesel may prompt many operators to cross Porter off their shopping list immediately, those 64 horses are more than enough for urban delivery work; and it’s on the mean streets of Britain’s big cities that the Piaggio comes into its own. Taking up so little space that it can squeeze into gaps that would defeat bigger vans, and some cars for that matter, it’s easy to park. It’s easy to enter and exit the cab too.

Once you’re behind the wheel, don’t expect to be cosseted. The politest way to describe the cab’s interior is minimalist, with precious little in the way of goodies and extras. At least the driver’s seat is comfortable and vision to either side at T-junctions could scarcely be bettered.

You wouldn’t want to spend your life trundling up and down the motorway in a Porter, but if you’ve got an urgent delivery to make in the middle of Birmingham in the rush-hour, then it could be just the tool.


Ford Fiesta

Back with a vengeance, Ford’s all-new Fiesta Van is the hugely deserving winner of What Van?’s Small Van of the Year award. Based on the three-door version of the latest, and widely praised, Fiesta car, it’s on offer with three different engines all married to a five-speed manual gearbox.

Buyers can pick from an 82hp 1.25-litre Duratec petrol, a 68hp 1.4-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel or a 90hp 1.6-litre Duratorq TDCi diesel. The last-named is the only power plant on offer in the top-of-the-range SportVan version and buyers can order it with or without a particulate trap.

ABS comes as standard as does Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and electric power steering is fitted across the range. Good to see that Ford’s baby is equipped with the EasyFuel capless refuelling system which prevents the wrong nozzle being inserted when you stop at the pumps to fill up.

Maximum payload ranges from 490kg to 515kg depending on the variant chosen with a, surprisingly, roomy and practical 1.0m3 cargo area. Maximum load length is 1,296mm. Maximum width is 1,278mm narrowing to 1,000mm between the wheel boxes, while maximum height is 806mm. A half-height composite bulkhead is installed along with four load tie-down points.

Three different trim levels are listed, including entry level and Trend as well as SportVan. No matter which model you opt for, Fiesta Van is fun to drive. For your money you get responsive steering with plenty of feedback, despite the fact that it’s electric. The handling is sharp, the gearchange is slicker than slick and user-friendly and the driving position is little short of excellent. That’s partly due to the supportive seat; the kind you sit in and moulds itself around you rather than the kind you perch on.

If it’s performance you’re after then buy the SportVan. With lots of growling from the exhaust it’s a real hoot to drive, and you won’t feel short-changed so far as equipment levels are concerned.


The package includes 16in five-spoke alloy wheels, Bluetooth, air conditioning, Electronic Stability Programme with Emergency Brake Assist, sports-tuned suspension with a lowered ride height and knee and side airbags for the driver plus an active head restraint. You get a colour-keyed body kit too that includes a rear spoiler. The lowered sports suspension makes the already sharp handling even sharper. The ride is firmer too of course, but not unpleasantly so.

Nor will running SportVan cost you a fortune, unless you’re a real hooligan. On the combined fuel economy cycle it offers 67.3mpg and CO2 emissions of just 110g/km; the same as the 1.4-litre diesel.

All Fiesta vans come with an attractive cab interior with chunky dashboard controls for the MP3-compatible stereo/radio CD player and the heating and ventilation system. Storage facilities for all the bits and pieces drivers have to cart around with them include a decent-sized lidded glovebox and bins in the doors and you’ll find mouldings to hold a bottle of water and a couple of cups or cans between the seats.

Fiesta Van is of course not the only vehicle battling for sales in this sector and our Highly Commended award goes to Vauxhall’s frugal Corsavan. Check out the Sportive in particular; you won’t be disappointed.


Nissan NV200

If Dr Who drove a van, he’d probably drive Nissan’s new NV200. That’s because, like the TARDIS, it’s a lot bigger inside than it looks from the outside. Thanks to an intelligent bit of packaging it has the footprint of a short wheelbase van but the cargo space of one with a long wheelbase; a key reason why it’s our Light Van and Van of the Year for 2010 award winner.

Getting as much carrying capacity onto as small a platform as possible is vital if you’re on urban delivery work because parking anything like a big van is a major challenge in most city centres. Park your vehicle where you know you shouldn’t because there’s no room to leave it anywhere else and a traffic warden will be sure to pounce.

NV200 is at the forefront of Nissan’s plan to rejuvenate its light commercial range completely and move away from having its van catalogue dominated by re-badged Renaults. The front-wheel drive newcomer replaces the smaller Kubistar, which was Renault’s old-model Kangoo marketed under an alias.

Nissan is, however, making use of its Alliance partner’s components wherever it can in order to cut costs. That’s why NV200 is powered by an 86hp 1.5-litre Renault dCi four-cylinder eight-valve common rail turbodiesel which has also found employment in Kangoo. Top power kicks in at 3,750rpm while peak torque of 200Nm makes its presence felt at 2,000rpm. With a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 54.3mpg, NV200 looks set to be frugal and CO2 output is a modest 137g/km. The engine is married to a five-speed manual gearbox. If you want more power, then you’ll be pleased to hear that a 106hp version of the 1.5-litre is set to debut in a few months time.

So how has Nissan achieved the TARDIS-like effect? Creating a 4.2m3 cargo box in such a compact vehicle has involved some rather clever design. The seats are positioned as far forwards as they can possibly go without compromising legroom, the 55-litre fuel tank is mounted beneath them and the van is fitted with a compact rear suspension system employing wide single-leaf springs. Combined with 14in wheels shod with 175/70 R14C tyres, it also gives NV200 a low rear loading height of just 524mm.

Access to the load area is by means of twin, side-hinged, 70/30 split asymmetrical rear doors — the narrower one is on the offside — plus a sliding nearside door. A sliding offside door is on offer as an optional extra.

The doors open to reveal a cargo bed that is 2,040mm long and 1,500mm wide, narrowing to 1,220mm between the wheel boxes. As a consequence it can swallow two Europallets, always assuming that you’re willing to let a forklift anywhere near your pride and joy. Maximum load height is 1,358mm. Half-a-dozen floor-mounted cargo tie-down points are provided and the driver is protected from being clobbered by anything that slides forwards because it hasn’t been lashed down by a ladder frame mounted behind his seat.

That’s in E specification models. Opt for the more upmarket SE spec instead and you’re upgraded to a full steel bulkhead. Opt for the Versatility Pack too and you can extend the cargo bed to 2.8m by folding the passenger seat flat. Part of a mesh bulkhead can be swivelled through 90° and locked into position to ensure that whatever is loaded into the passenger area doesn’t end up in the driver’s lap. Adjustable load lashing rails that can be positioned above the wheel boxes also figure on the options list.

Top payload is 783kg and NV200 grosses at 2,000kg. It can tow a braked trailer grossing at 1,100kg and an unbraked trailer grossing at 640kg.

ABS and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution come as standard on all models along with Brake Assist and it is interesting to see that Nissan has opted for a traditional braking set-up; discs at the front and drums at the back. Electronic Stability Programme is on the options list.

Electric power-assisted steering is fitted offering a 10.6m kerb-to-kerb turning circle; 11.1m between walls. For the record, Nissan’s new baby is 4,400mm long, 1,690mm wide and 1,860mm tall.

Although the seats have been moved forward, there’s no lack of room in the cab. Nor is there any shortage of storage space. Facilities include bins in each of the doors, a deep glovebox and a lidded storage box between the seats along with an oddments tray and a couple of cup-holders. There’s a shelf on top of the dashboard too and it’s good to see a 12v power point.

The driver’s seat is set at just the right height to make it easy to get in and out and the occupant enjoys ample head and shoulder room. A driver’s airbag is included in the deal.

E trim is in many respects quite basic, although it does have remote central locking, and Nissan believes that the vast majority of buyers will opt for SE trim instead. It includes electric windows and mirrors. The options list includes air conditioning plus a reversing camera with a dinky, but perfectly adequate, full-colour screen mounted in the instrument binnacle.

Based on the same platform as the tried and tested Micra car, NV200 is an excellent little package, no question about, and a worthy award winner. It’s just a pity that it’s been launched at a time when the van market is deep in the doldrums and likely to remain there for sometime to come.

It is not, however, the only impressive package on the market. Citroën’s Nemo, Peugeot’s Bipper and Fiat’s Fiorino have collected the Highly Commended Light Van of the Year award. Slotting in between car-derived vans such as Ford’s Fiesta and high-cubes such as Vauxhall’s Combo, they are the fruits of a joint venture between PSA, Peugeot and Citroën’s parent company, Fiat and Turkish manufacturer Tofas.

Top payload capacity is 610kg and you get a 2.5m3 load bay for your money. They’re all pretty much identical aside from their badges, although Fiorino employs a 75hp 1.3-litre diesel also used by Vauxhall rather than the 70hp 1.4-litre HDi diesel found in the other two.


Citroën Dispatch, Fiat Scudo & Peugeot Expert

Compact panel vans that can shift a respectable amount of cargo by weight and by volume but don’t take up too much space in the high street or on a domestic drive are understandably popular. At the forefront of this sector of the market are Citroën’s Dispatch, Fiat’s Scudo and Peugeot’s Expert; collective winners once again of What Van?’s Small Panel Van of the Year award.

The collective accolade is justified because all three 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.

Buyers can choose from two common rail diesel engines; a 90hp 1.6-litre and a 2.0-litre pumping out either 120hp or 136hp. ABS is a standard feature along with Emergency Braking Assistance.

Cargo space runs from 5.0m3 if you opt for the short-wheelbase standard roof variant rising to 6.0m3 if you select the long-wheelbase standard roof version instead. If that’s insufficient for your needs, then you can always choose the long-wheelbase high roof. That gives you up to 7.0m3 to play with. Whichever one you select, a sliding door provides access to each side of the load bay.

Payload capacity extends from 1,000kg to 1,200kg and don’t forget that platform cab, crew cab and people-carrier variants are also available.

Access to Dispatch/Expert/Scudo’s three-man cab could scarcely be bettered. There’s no step up thanks to the low floor and the handbrake lever won’t get in your way, even though it’s mounted between the driver’s seat and the door.


The comfortable and supportive seat is positioned at exactly the right height for people on multi-drop work who have to leap in and out of the cab continually during the working day delivering packages and parcels.

Quite often these intensive delivery runs will take place in congested city centres; a traffic environment that requires you to have eyes in the back of your head. Fortunately the driving position offers good vision ahead and to either side, with vision backwards along the vehicle’s flanks aided by large exterior mirrors.

It’s worth noting that Dispatch is equipped in almost all cases with Trafficmaster’s Smartnav satellite navigation package.

If you have to keep moving in moderately muddy conditions, but neither want nor need a pukka 4×4, then you might want to take a look at the Dispatch 1200 XTR+. Based on the 120hp 2.0HDi, 1,200kg-capacity L1H1 van, it boasts a multi-plate FAM Reinforced Traction limited slip differential. It can automatically apportion up to 75 per cent of the engine’s torque to either of the driven front wheels depending on which one has the most grip. XTR+ also features a heavy-duty suspension system raised by 30mm.

Light commercials the size of Dispatch/Expert/Scudo are eating 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 — but we suspect it will manage to resist their combined assault. The Backbone of Britain looks unlikely to snap for a long time to come.


Iveco Daily

If we were to pick one van that has improved immeasurably over the past few years in terms of build quality, driveability and overall fitness for purpose, then it would have to be Iveco’s Daily. Available as a chassis cab and a chassis double cab as well as in van guise, it’s a worthy repeat winner of our Large Van of the Year award.

The Italian manufacturer has continually updated Daily over the years and extensively revised it yet again a few months back. The changes are all to the good and include new engines, a step up into a higher weight category and an understated facelift.

Among the new powerplants is a 3.0-litre diesel fitted with twin turbochargers to improve combustion and performance. Producing either 140hp or 170hp, it meets the EEV (Enhanced Environmentally-friendly Vehicle) standard. Designed with the future Euro 6 exhaust emission regulations in mind, EEV compliance is voluntary and involves lower particulate limits.

Also complying with EEV is a 136hp 3.0-litre that will run on compressed natural gas. It comes with a small, 15-litre, get-you-home petrol tank for use if you run out of cng. All Dailys that meet EEV are promoted under the EcoDaily banner to emphasise their environmental credentials.

Two new versions of the existing 2.3-litre diesel have been introduced at 106hp and 126hp and are offered alongside the existing 96hp, 116hp and 136hp options. The last-named is fitted with a variable-geometry turbocharger. The 146hp and 176hp 3.0-litre diesels remain available, with the more powerful of the two also employing variable geometry turbo technology.

Iveco has also decided to market Daily at 7.0 tonnes in both van and chassis cab guise with a payload capacity well in excess of 4.0 tonnes. The Daily 6.5-tonner continues to be available. Daily gross weights start at 3.2 tonnes, payload capacity starts at 1,060kg, and van load volumes run from 7.3m3 to a cavernous 17.2m3.

Turning to the facelift, the key external changes include a new, honeycomb-style front grille. Internal alterations include a revamped, aluminium-effect, dashboard. Increased stress is being placed on safety, with ABS, Electronic Stability Programme, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Hydraulic Brake Assist and Anti-Slip Regulator among the devices fitted. Hill Holder, which stops you rolling backwards if you’re trying to move away on a steep incline, is another feature. Synthetic engine lubricant is being used to allow drain intervals to be set at 25,000 miles and to reduce component wear.

The AGile semi-automatic gearbox continues to be available. A doddle to use, it executes changes smoothly, with none of the jerkiness often associated with boxes of this type.

Iveco should be praised for the work it has done developing electric and diesel-electric hybrid versions of Daily. A number are now on trial in various global markets.

Our Highly Commended choice is Mercedes-Benz’s Sprinter, now fully compliant with the Euro 5 exhaust emission regulations. That’s despite the fact that the rules as they affect light commercials grossing at up to 3.5 tonnes don’t come into force until 2011. Sprinter is marketed at gross weights of up to 5.0 tonnes. An all-new 2.1-litre diesel up for grabs at 95hp, 129hp and 163hp and fitted with Lanchester balancer shafts as an aid to smooth running is the key weapon in the redesigned vehicle’s armoury.


Mitsubishi L200

Once again Mitsubishi’s L200 has driven off with our Pick-up of the Year award; and this time around it is even more deserving of the accolade than it was in the past. That’s because the manufacturer has at last seen fit to address one of the stylish workhorse’s drawbacks; the fact that in four-door double cab guise, its load bed is a tad too short for some applications.

Solution? Add a Long Bed model to the line-up and sell it alongside the standard double cab offering. It gives owners an extra 180mm of load length to utilise — taking it up to 1,505mm — while retaining the same wheelbase as its shorter stablemate. What’s more, the cargo box’s sidewalls are slightly higher than the ones fitted to the standard model and have a more-horizontal upper edge.

Up for grabs solely in four-wheel drive guise, 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 the aforementioned Double Cab.


A 2.5-litre diesel generates 136hp, 168hp or 178hp depending on the model you pick. For your money you get a five-speed manual gearbox — an automatic ’box can be specified on some versions — along with selectable Easy Select dual-range four-wheel drive with a low-range set of gears to hand should the going get rough. Super Select is fitted to some L200s instead. It consists 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. L200 variants such as Warrior, Animal, Trojan and Raging Bull have always done well and helped build the vehicle’s image over the years. Especially impressive is the Walkinshaw Performance double cab with its fully-independent five-point multi-link rear suspension and 20in alloy wheels.

Internally you get Bluetooth, cruise control, a ten-disc CD auto-changer and leather seats. Even the less-well-specified Trojan double cab comes with climate control and electric windows and mirrors. At the more prosaic end of the market, L200 can also be ordered as a tipper or a dropside.

On the highway L200 rides and handles competently, build quality is unassailable and there’s sufficient power under your right foot to meet the majority of requirements. With 178hp to play with the beefiest models pack more than enough punch and are a real pleasure to drive, no matter whether you’re on the motorway or dicing with tractors and combine harvesters around country lanes.

L200 performs well in the rough too, with enough torque on hand to keep it out of most kinds of trouble. The most powerful version excels in this department, churning through the mud and refusing to admit defeat.

While 4x4s aren’t always all that manoeuvrable, that’s rarely a problem with Mitsubishi’s load-shifter. Even the Long Bed can cope with tight situations that would probably defeat some of its competitors and come out smiling.

Mitsubishi is of course far from being the only player in the pick-up market and our Highly Commended prize goes to Ford’s recently revised Ranger.


Mitsubishi Outlander & Citroën C-Crosser

Not everyone in search of a 4×4 light commercial needs something that will tackle heavily rutted, boulder-strewn terrain criss-crossed by deep ditches. All many operators require is a vehicle with modest off-roading ability that’s pleasant to drive on an ordinary road surface, because that’s where it will be spending most of its time.

What we’re really talking about is a soft-roader van, and both Mitsubishi and Citroën have come up with a product that fulfils that role admirably. Mitsubishi’s is called the Outlander Commercial, Citroën’s is called the C-Crosser Enterprise and we’re happy to present both models with our 4×4 Van of the Year award.

Why a joint prize? Because both the five-door vehicles share the same basic design thanks to yet another co-operative venture between manufacturers.

Four-wheel drive is selectable in both cases. When you’re in 4×2 mode drive goes to the front wheels, with four-wheel drive engaged electronically by twisting a knob positioned just behind the gearstick. Do so and the available torque goes straight to whichever wheels happen to have the most grip at the time subject to a maximum 70/30 front/rear split. If you’re still struggling then twist the knob again, this time to Lock. That locks 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.

An unglazed hinged door on each side of the cargo area plus a rear hatch provide access to 2.0m3 of space. Maximum payload capability is getting on for three-quarters of a tonne and there’s enough capacity to tow a braked trailer grossing at 2,000kg. Equipment includes air conditioning, electric windows and electric exterior mirrors.

There’s one big difference between the two vehicles. Open the Mitsubishi’s bonnet and you’ll find a 138hp 2.0-litre diesel hooked up to a six-speed manual gearbox. Open the Citroën’s and you’ll find a 156hp 2.2-litre diesel instead, again married to a six-speed manual.

No matter which version you pick, both vehicles are a pleasure to drive on the public highway. They handle well, with plenty of feedback through the steering and little if any body roll, and the suspension system is happy coping with the potholes that increasingly disfigure Britain’s fast-disintegrating road network.

Noise is not an issue. Nor is build quality, and to our eyes both vans look good. We doubt you’d feel ashamed if you had either of them parked on your drive.

Off-road they clearly have their limitations, but they’ll both get you up a muddy farm track or a snowy country lane without any dramas. In fact they can ascend and descend some surprisingly steep and slippery slopes without breaking sweat or getting bogged down. Obviously the C-Crosser offers more performance but we doubt you’ll feel short-changed if you opt for the Outlander instead.

The two soft-roaders aren’t the only attractive light commercials in their category. SsangYong’s Kyron C-S 4×4 is well-equipped, well-built, and offers more than ample performance. It too is a five-door, with a 2.4m3 cargo box. A product that deserves to become more familiar to UK buyers, it gets our Highly Commended prize.


Ford Transit

Like so much of the rest of the vehicle market, minibus sales have taken a hammering over the past 12 months. That’s despite the fact that they are invaluable workhorses for a wide variety of organisation, from schools and hotels to gang masters and construction companies that need them to move groups of workers from one site to the next.

To achieve their aims they need a vehicle that is reliable, comfortable, rides and handles well and is cost-effective to operate; all reasons why Ford’s Transit has driven off with What Van?’s Minibus of the Year award once again.

Transit minibus is up for grabs as a 9-, 12-, 15- or a 17-seater. The largest model in the line-up can be ordered with a high roof instead of a medium-height roof and they are all fitted with speed-limiters aside from the nine-seater.

The two smallest models are front-wheel drive and equipped with a 2.2-litre Duratorq diesel producing either 110hp or 140hp. Both versions are married to a six-speed manual gearbox. A 2.4-litre Duratorq TDCi producing 100hp, 115hp or 140hp powers the rear-wheel drive 15- and 17-seaters. Go for either of the two most powerful versions and again you get a six-speed manual ’box included in the deal.

It’s also worth noting that the 15-seater is listed as being available with Transit’s 4×4 system. That could be handy if you regularly need to transport gangs of workers to awkward-to-access locations.

ABS comes as standard. Electronic Stability Programme does too unless you’ve opted for the AWD model, and includes a device that ensures you don’t roll backwards when you’re attempting to pull away on a gradient.

All Transit minibuses meet M1 passenger car safety levels. Each seat is fitted with an adjustable headrest and lap-and-diagonal belt and the 12- 15- and 17-seaters all arrive with a Schedule 6 pack. It includes a fire extinguisher plus a grab handle to make entry through the sliding side passenger door easier. The anti-slip step is illuminated. Also included are decals that tell you how many people the vehicle can carry, where the emergency exit is and whereabouts the first aid kit that also forms part of the pack is stowed.

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

While the foregoing range is without doubt comprehensive, the story doesn’t end there. The Transit line-up also encompasses a pair of people-carriers; the upmarket eight- and nine-seater Tourneos.

In Limited guise the eight-seater boasts air conditioning, a heated and comprehensively adjustable driver’s seat, a six-disc stereo radio/CD player with an auxiliary MP3 connector and steering column-mounted controls, and 16in five-spoke alloy wheels.

Offering good value for money in these tough times, Citroën’s Relay minibus wins our Highly Commended prize. Available in 12-, 15- and 17-seater guise, it’s a conversion executed by Advanced Vehicle Builders as part of Citroën’s award-winning Ready to Run range. ABS comes as standard and the list of options includes a wheelchair ramp and access steps.



With an almost-bewildering variety of different specially converted light commercial vehicles now available in Britain, the breadth of Citroën’s Ready to Run line-up is frankly staggering. That’s one reason why the French manufacturer has won What Van?’s Ready to Go to Work conversion programme of the year award again.

Ready to Go to Work vehicles are delivered to dealerships ready-bodied rather than as bare chassis cabs. As a consequence the dealer does not have to arrange to get them bodied locally and the body is built and fitted to a recognised quality standard. The chassis and body are covered by a comprehensive warranty package too.

Buckstone Motor Bodies supplies Relay-based Luton vans to the Citroën scheme. Employing long and extra long wheelbase chassis, they offer load cubes of up to 20m3 and cargo deck lengths of up to 4,000mm. Again employing a Relay chassis, Ingimex contributes its usual high quality dropside body. It features alloy dropsides plus a non-slip phenol resin bonded one-piece ply floor with retractable load tie-down points.

Tipmaster produces a Relay tipper that represents phenomenally good value for money while KFS’s car transporter will move vehicles that weigh up to 1,600kg. Box bodies built to chilled and frozen specifications can be ordered for Relay too.

A number of the Ready to Run conversions on offer are based on factory-built vans. The line-up includes chilled fridge conversions for Nemo and chilled and frozen conversions for Berlingo. Dispatch and Relay fridge vans are available as well, as is a refrigerated Berlingo First.

Versions of Nemo, Berlingo First, Berlingo and Dispatch converted to run on liquefied petroleum gas (lpg) come courtesy of Nicholson McLaren Engineering (NME). Vans that have been worked on by NME can also be transformed to temperature controlled specifications by Somers. This means that they can deliver lunchtime sandwiches and other goodies to urban workers in an environmentally friendly manner. If they’re used in London the lpg conversions means that their operators won’t be clobbered by the iniquitous congestion tax.

Ready to Run also includes 12-, 15-, and 17-seater Relay minibuses converted by Advanced Vehicle Builders. With seat belts, seats, seat mountings and an under-frame all meeting M1 passenger car standards, one handy feature is the ability to whip out the three-seater rear bench quickly and easily. It’s a facility that can prove invaluable when you need to carry a pile of luggage, but fewer passengers.

Berlingo, Berlingo First, Dispatch and Relay can all be ordered as glass carriers converted by leading specialist Supertrucks. The conversion includes a side rack and two fixed internal racks, all complete with securing poles and an anodised aluminium roof rack.

Earlier this year Citroën gave the range a boost with the introduction of a selection of Relay tippers, dropsides and Lutons under the Specialist banner with higher specifications than the standard Ready to Run offerings.

Citroën is of course not the only light commercial manufacturer to run a Ready to Go to Work programme. Ford is one of several rivals who do and we’re happy to give its One-Stop scheme our Highly Commended award.


Ford Transit

When recession strikes the murder rate falls, but theft rises steeply say criminologists. That’s why it is even more vital than it has been in the past for operators to ensure that their vans are protected against criminals.

While there are lots of aftermarket protects available that will help you raise your defences and plenty of common sense steps you can take to make your vehicle a harder target, it helps if your pride and joy has a good basic level of security built into it to begin with. Ford’s Transit does and that’s the reason why it has scooped What Van?’s panel van Security Award of the Year once again.

While much of the talk about security understandably centres on immobilisers and alarms, good-quality locks matter too. Transit features shielded door locks with strengthened mountings and a lock-in-latch arrangement. This clever set-up means that are no rods and cables linking the latches and locks, which means that the thief has nothing to manipulate. Deadlocks are a key feature of the remote central double-locking system. If the doors haven’t been shut and locked properly an alert sounds and they are all locked automatically when you drive away.

If you want to open the bonnet you have to have the ignition key to hand. It’s a praiseworthy anti-theft measure and it’s surprising that other light commercial manufacturers haven’t adopted it.

Configurable unlocking is a useful option and well worth considering. It allows the driver to choose which doors to unlock, and in which order, when selected buttons are pressed on the remote key fob.

Still with locks, Transit is fitted with what Ford refers to as a ‘torque slip’ anti-theft steering wheel. Wrench it with all the force you can muster in order to break the steering column lock and all you’ll do is render the wheel completely useless.

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.

Unglazed rear doors and a full-height steel bulkhead allow Transit owners to enjoy a reasonably secure cargo area. VIN-protected audio units, a visible Vehicle Identification Number and a lockable fuel filler point are all provided too. It’s also worth noting that a Thatcham Category 1 alarm is available. It includes an interior scanner and its own battery back-up should a criminal try to disconnect the vehicle’s own battery.


Ford Transit Connect

Ford’s Transit Connect boasts many of the security features of the classic Transit; a key reason why it has driven off with our light van Security Award of the Year.

Its defences include shielded door locks with strengthened mountings and the lock-in-latch system employed by its bigger stablemate. Ford’s Safeguard Passive Anti-Theft System immobiliser is fitted too in an anti-theft package that also includes a bonnet release operated by the ignition key, central/double locking, a visible Vehicle Identification Number and a locking fuel cap.

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


Smith Edison

Pressure to cut air pollution and reduce CO2 output in particular looks set to have a massive long-term impact on light commercial design. Tougher legislation at a local, national and EU level, possibly accompanied by a re-jigging of the tax system, may prompt more and more operators to switch to battery-powered or diesel/electric hybrid vans, assuming that they can do so without compromising operational efficiency. It is with these thoughts in mind that we’ve decided to present this year’s ECO award to the Edison from Smith Electric Vehicles.

If it looks familiar, then that is because the Edison is based on Ford’s Transit; a tried and tested product familiar to hundreds of thousands of van drivers and a point very much in Edison’s favour.

Fitted with lithium-ion iron phosphate batteries and a 90kW electric motor, it’s available as a chassis cab and a minibus as well as in van guise. It offers a top speed of up to 50mph and a 100-mile range between recharges. Opt for a 4.6-tonne gross van and you can achieve a gross payload of 1,800kg. Models grossing at 3.5 and 4.25 tonnes are also on offer.

With no internal combustion engine, Edison produces no exhaust emissions at all. It runs quietly, which makes it ideal for early morning or late night deliveries and it’s extraordinarily cheap to operate.

The fuel cost is measured in coppers rather than pounds. The batteries are sealed, the lack of a diesel engine means that there’s no need to change the oil and filter every so often, and Smith says that it’s worth noting that there are only four moving parts in an electric motor. As a consequence there is little that can go wrong. Electric light commercials are zero-rated so far as Vehicle Excise Duty is concerned and they’re exempt from the London congestion tax.
Set off in an Edison and you’ll quickly discover that there’s no lack of acceleration and that the ride and handling are pretty much the same as that of an ordinary Transit. So is the cab interior.

There’s a lot to be said in favour of the rest of the Smith Electric range. Also on offer is the Newton. A chassis cab grossing at 7.5, 10, or 12 tonnes, it employs a cab sourced from Czech truck maker Avia, now part of the Indian-owned Hinduja Group. It offers a 150-mile range.

Smith was founded as Northern Coachbuilders back in 1920, and the company used to build trolley buses. Based in Washington, Tyne and Wear, it has established a UK-wide network of 15 depots and 130 mobile engineers. While the technology it employs is basically reliable, it is not something that local garages deal with regularly; so it’s reassuring to see this level of support in place.

Our Highly Commended award in this category goes to Modec. Its distinctively-styled, Coventry-built ,big capacity battery-powered vans have found homes with a number of household-name fleet operators, including Tesco and UPS.


Volkswagen Caddy

Volkswagen’s Caddy is a versatile light van with an enviable build quality for its market sector. Available as a short- and long-wheelbase (Maxi) van, the latter can also be had as a five-seater Window Van and a seven-seater MPV, the Life. Load space ranges from 0.5m3 (Life) up to 4.2m3 for the Maxi Van and gross payloads go from 618kg to 800kg.

Diesel is the only fuel option, but there’s a choice of three engines. The least powerful is a normally aspirated 69hp 2.0-litre (SDI) and the highest power is produced by a 140hp 2.0-litre turbodiesel. Sitting neatly in between these two is a 1.9-litre turbo capable of 104hp. The SDI is reserved solely for the Caddy Van while the other two can be specified in any derivation.

Caddy is front-wheel drive and comes with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard on all models bar those with the 2.0TDI engine; they get a six-speeder. There is, however, a way of having a six-speed ’box mated to the 1.9TDI engine. It’s something that comes with the What Van? seal of approval and is one of the reasons Caddy has picked up the Editor’s Choice Award for 2010, making it two in a row. We’re talking about VW’s semi-automatic Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG).

It can be used either as a manual or as an automatic and it employs two wet clutches, in effect turning it into two gearboxes rolled into one. One clutch takes care of all the even-numbered gears while its stablemate looks after those with odd numbers, plus reverse. What this means is that there’s no loss of traction when the ’box changes gear. In effect the next gear is always pre-selected.

The floor-mounted gearlever looks like a conventional automatic transmission shift, with ‘D’ for Drive supplemented by ‘S’ for Sport. Switch to that setting and changes will occur at higher engine speeds. Flick the lever to the left at any speed you like and you can use the ’box in the way you would a manual. Shove the stick forwards and you go up the gears, pull it back and you come back down again.

Nor do you risk stalling when you are in manual mode. If you are approaching a roundabout, for example, and forget to change down, DSG will do it for you. A dashboard display tells you which position you’ve selected when you’re in automatic mode and which gear you are in if you switch to manual. Manual or auto, there’s a small amount of ‘creep’ built into the system to make parking and low-speed manoeuvring a doddle.

DSG combined with Caddy’s excellent steering and handling make it a pleasure to drive. The 104hp on tap is more than adequate in combination with the six forward gear ratios and gets our recommendation ahead of the 140hp 2.0-litre and it’s manual six gears, even in body-kitted, low profile tyred Sportline trim.

The only real downside is the £1,000 that DSG adds to the bill, but take it from What Van?; it’s worth every penny. Now all we’re waiting for is a 2.0TDI Caddy fitted with the seven-speed DSG from the revised Transporter due to reach these shores in January.