Each year the panel of What Van?’s s editorial staff draw on expertise gathered over decades of experience to select the vans, brands and innovations they believe most merit gaining a prize.

This task gets more difficult with every passing year with the quality of products improving relentlessly.

Many categories included contenders that had a good shout in their segment but ended up disappointed, but with the high standard of the competition some were bound to come away empty handed.

With so many exciting products in the van market for customers to choose from we have also awarded Highly Commended status to those deemed to have pushed the winner closest of all.
But only one name on the shortlist can triumph in each category so congratulations to all the prize winners and for those that haven’t won – good luck in 2014.


What Van? Awards 2013 Editor’s Choice Mini Clubvan


Never the coolest or most fashionable segment of the automotive industry it doesn’t take much to add a little glamour to the light commercial vehicle segment.

But that’s certainly what the new Mini Clubvan is providing. Based closely on the Mini Clubman passenger model that was launched back in 2007, the Clubvan is aimed at top-end commercial vehicle users for whom a van is also a statement about their business and therefore want something that makes an impression.

But, despite a higher list price  that doesn’t mean the Clubvan will be expensive to run. Mini’s passenger car efficiencies mean the 112hp 1.6-litre diesel has an official fuel consumption figure of 72.4mpg, while the two petrol versions, at 98hp and 122hp, both offer an official figure of more than 50mpg. Also, the residual values for the Clubvan should be excellent for a light commercial vehicle, due to a combination of Mini’s brand prestige and the expected low numbers that will mean the used market should be keen to get hold of any being sold.

The cabin is identical to the Mini passenger car, including the huge centrally mounted speedometer, and there will be a longer list of optional equipment than normally expected from a van, with many of the Mini car options offered, including items such as Xenon headlights, audio system upgrade and three different interior upholstery upgrades.

Practicality and load functionality aren’t the biggest Clubvan selling points, with a load volume of 0.9m3 that is no bigger than a Vauxhall Corsavan, and a 500kg payload that’s also average for car-derived vans. The load length is shorter than the Vauxhall or Ford’s Fiesta van as well, but the Mini is about more than simple load-lugging, and the excellent driving characteristics, likened to go-kart-like handling, are present for van drivers for the first time.

The load area is accessible via the twin rear doors with tinted glass or the small side door on the driver’s side. The flat load floor and side walls come trimmed with carpet, and feature six tie-down points and a 12-volt power socket. There’s a half-solid half-mesh bulkhead protecting driver from load.
The Clubvan is an attractive, stylish and fashionable small van that will offer businesses that trade at least partially on reputation to be seen in a vehicle that makes their operation more memorable. There’s currently nothing else like that on offer in the mainstream marketplace, and it’s an exciting development that we’re looking forward to welcoming in to the UK light commercial vehicle arena.


Highly Commended

What Van? has selected the Great Wall Steed as Highly Commended in this Editor’s Choice category. The second Chinese brand to launch into the UK after DFSK’s microvans arrived late last year, Great Wall has kicked off with the UK’s cheapest pick-up but is planning an entire range of vehicles in due course.

Excluding VAT, the Steed is under £14,000 from new, putting it up against used pick-ups from the more established brands. Stepping up £2000 to the SE trim level adds an impressive amount of goodies including body-coloured hard top with roof rails, rear parking sensors, chrome side bars and daytime running lights.

The Steed is a fairly crude and uninspiring vehicle to drive and lacks the polish or quality of its considerably more expensive pick-up rivals, but as a budget workhorse it’s certainly worth a look at the prices Great Wall is pitching its Steed at.


What Van? Awards 2013 Innovation: Emerald Automotive


The Innovation Award goes to Emerald Automotive for its t-001, the prototype for a lightweight hybrid -electric van that the firm believes could revolutionise large delivery fleets.

Co-funded by money from the Government-backed Technology Strategy Board as part of its Low Carbon Vehicles Innovation platform, Emerald built two demo vehicles. They are powered by high-voltage lithium-ion batteries supplied by Axeon, with 1.4-litre Ford Fiesta diesel engines used as  range-extenders. For the prototypes Emerald used Ford Transits as the basic component donor vehicles.

The van, which is scheduled to come to market in 2014, is targeted at meeting the needs of large fleets of at least 40,000 units using 3.5-tonne CVs.
During development Emerald consulted blue-chip companies such as Royal Mail and DHL. According to Emerald’s boss Andy Tempest, their chief requirements were to maximise economy without impacting upon payload capacity. They were also keen to eliminate the range anxiety that currently puts off fleets from making major investments in pure- electric vans.

So as not to eat into the 1400kg payload and 5.2m3 load volume with the introduction of electric components such as batteries, inverters and traction motors, Emerald has pioneered a lightweight structure for the vehicle based on techniques more commonly found in motorsport. The t-001 features an aluminium chassis, space frame cab and lightweight composite body panels. According to technical director Ian Collins, it is sturdy enough to pass the most stringent safety tests.
In tests Emerald claims the demonstrators achieved CO2 of 31.5g/km – an 80% reduction compared with the current best-in- class heavy vans – while fuel consumption was measured at a jaw-dropping 232mpg. But the manufacturer is still not satisfied with these figures and reckons CO2 can be cut to 25g/km and consumption stretched to 300mpg.

Emerald predicts the van will have a capacity of just over 64 miles in pure electric mode, with the batteries powering a 75kW motor, before the range-extender kicks in to drive up its range to 400 miles.

The diesel engine drives a 54kW generator that recharges the batteries and provides current to the electric motor – it does not drive the wheels directly.

Tempest says the production van will have a price tag of about £32,000 and adds that Emerald needs sales of 4000 to break even. The firm has a base business plan to produce 10,000 units a year rising to 100,000. Tempest reckons fleets are looking at a payback time of 22 months and predicts average annual fuel savings of £7200 per vehicle.

What Van? tested one of Emerald’s Range-Extended Electric Vehicle demonstrators and found it remarkably similar to driving a conventional automatic van – a characteristic that should ease its passage into the marketplace.


Highly Commended

Ford is recognised this year for a number of practical innovations on its new Transit Custom. Among them, the option of an integrated retractable roof rack, which can be deployed when required to carry equipment but otherwise sits flush with the roof to allow the Custom to fit underneath 2m-high car park barriers, is arguably the standout feature.


What Van? Awards 2013 Green: Vauxhall ecoflex


While electric and hybrid vans have been grabbing all the headlines, Vauxhall has been busying itself with a more prosaic way of cutting CO2 output.


 It has been getting Ecoflex versions of many of the key models in its light commercial line-up into production, a move that is helping to reduce the carbon footprint of its customers and their fuel bills. Such a praiseworthy initiative makes the company and its Ecoflex programme a worthy recipient of What Van?’s Green award for 2013.


The beauty of the Ecoflex approach is that it does not involve deploying complex and costly technology that may fail in service, frighten away potential buyers when the van concerned eventually appears on the used market, and as a consequence wreck its residual value. Instead, it involves making a series of fairly basic changes to the vehicle that, when working in concert, achieve the desired effect. We’re talking about such things as fitting low rolling-resistance tyres, optimising gear ratios, slightly altering the van’s aerodynamics, lowering its height, and using enhanced thermal management. You can add to all of that an indicator on the dashboard that tells you when to change up – or down – in order to achieve the best combination of fuel economy and driving dynamics.

Such steps have had a positive impact on the environmental credentials of, for example, the 115hp short-wheelbase standard roof 2.0 CDTi Vivaro.


Giving it the Ecoflex treatment has resulted in CO2 emissions falling from 198g/km to 180g/km. The combined fuel economy figure has improved from the standard model’s 37.7mpg to a more-frugal 40.9mpg.

In some cases, Ecoflex also includes stop/start. It automatically kills the engine if the driver allows it to idle wastefully in a traffic jam or while waiting for the lights to change. The engine can be restarted quickly when needed.
The 95hp Corsavan 1.3 CDTi  Ecoflex Start/Stop has achieved an astonishing 83.1mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions set at a mere 89g/km – one reason why the diminutive Vauxhall has driven off with our Small Van of the Year prize.
Nor are Ecoflex models dull to drive. Okay, on-the-road performance may suffer a little when compared to standard vans, but most drivers will barely notice the difference. Admittedly, they cost a little more than their mainstream equivalents, but you should soon see your money back in lower fuel bills.

It is also worth noting that Vauxhall is offering another means of helping van drivers save fuel, shrink their carbon footprint, and hopefully reduce the risk of speeding tickets and accidents, namely speed-limiters.

The Vivaro, for instance, is up for grabs with a selection of limiters that will restrict the vehicle’s top speed to 56mph, 62mph or 68mph.


Highly Commended

Our Highly Commended award goes to the Department for Transport’s Plug-in Van Grant. Announced at the start of 2012, it cuts the front-end price of an eligible environmentally friendly light commercial – Renault’s electric Kangoo Van Z.E is a prime example – by 20% up to a maximum of £8000.


What Van? Awards 2013 Safety: Mercedes-Benz


Light commercial manufacturers are rather too fond of attributing car-like handling to their products. If they are talking about a small light commercial based on a hatchback then they may have a point – but they certainly do not if they are talking about 3.5-tonne panel vans.


 Much bigger and heavier than a typical family runabout, they show markedly different on-the-road behaviour, especially if you throw one into a roundabout in the wet  with a heavy, unevenly distributed load on board. It is then that you discover that your vehicle is a lot less forgiving than your next-door neighbour’s Mini as you career all over the highway.


If you are driving a Mercedes van, however, then the safety technology it boasts might just save a lot of embarrassment, not to mention your neck. In fact, the high level of safety equipment provided has won Mercedes our Safety award once again.


For a start, the Vito and Sprinter are both fitted with Electronic Stability Programme (ESP). It is designed to stop the van from rolling over if the driver has to swerve suddenly to avoid an obstacle and the road happens to be slippery. The system Mercedes installs is adaptive – in other words, it takes into account the size and position of any cargo being transported as it makes its split-second calculations.


What is more, it has the potential to keep your vehicle under control if any trailer being pulled starts to sway dangerously.


Other standard safety features include ABS, Brake Assist, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and ASR, an anti-skid package.

Both vans are fitted with a driver’s airbag, large, electrically adjustable exterior mirrors, a bulkhead either as standard or as an option, and lashing points in their load areas so that cargo can be properly secured where possible and practical.


It’s good to see that the options list includes, depending on which model you are looking at, a speed limiter, a light and rain sensor, cruise control, a tyre pressure monitor, reversing sensors, and a reversing camera. Passenger, thorax and window airbags are all to be found on the list, too, not to mention headlamps with a cornering function.

The soon-to-be-available Renault Kangoo-derived Citan light van will come with a comprehensive set of standard safety features as well, including ABS and adaptive ESP. Passive safety features will include a driver’s airbag.


Highly Commended

Our Highly Commended accolade for this year goes to the latest Ford Ranger, the first pick-up to achieve a maximum five-star rating under the EuroNCAP crash-test protocol.

It scored 89% for overall safety, the best score ever earned by a pick-up and one of the highest scores recorded by EuroNCAP for any type of vehicle. Moreover, the new Ford Ranger achieved the highest rating of any vehicle ever tested by EuroNCAP for pedestrian protection, at 81%.
The organisation’s assessors described the Ranger’s test results as “remarkable” with “impressive” scores in all areas.

EuroNCAP secretary general Michiel van Ratingen added: “With such good pedestrian protection, the Ranger is undoubtedly raising the bar of safety.”


What Van? Awards 2013 4×4 Van: Mercedes Sprinter


Not everybody wants or needs a high-rise 4×4 light commercial that can forge ahead up steep, heavily rutted, boulder-strewn tracks, or descend precipitous inclines awash with floodwater. All many operators require is a low-rise all-wheel drive van that will keep going if the local B-roads get a bit slippery in winter and will not get stuck if the driver has to take it into a muddy field.


 The 4×4 version of Mercedes-Benz’s ubiquitous Sprinter more than fulfils this role and that is why What Van? has made it 4×4 Van of the Year for 2013.


A key reason for the award is Mercedes-Benz’s decision to fit the 4×4 Sprinter with a 4ETS Electronic Traction System rather than mechanical differential locks. One of the problems with such locks is that drivers have to figure out when to engage and disengage them, and that is likely to slow their progress. If they are not used to 4×4 driving then they may not be entirely sure when to take action, and may get stuck as a consequence. But the system Mercedes has fitted makes the decision for them because it is fully automatic. It kicks in when one or more of the vehicle’s wheels start to spin, braking each one individually while increasing drive torque at those that still offer sufficient grip. It also has the further advantage of being significantly lighter than mechanical diffs.

Four-wheel drive is selectable with a 35:65 split between the front and the rear axle, and gear reduction is available as standard. At up to 95mm the ground clearance is slightly higher than what is on offer from the mainstream rear-wheel drive model.

The Sprinter can be ordered in 4×4 guise at gross weights of either 3.5t or 5.0t, and as a chassis cab/chassis crew cab as well as with a van body.
For your money you get a choice of diesel engines: a 2.1-litre generating either 129hp or 163hp or a 3.0-litre V6 pumping out a mighty 190hp. A particulate trap is fitted in each case.

The 4×4 Sprinter shares many of the characteristics of its 4×2 stablemates including unimpeachable build quality, a well thought-out cab, quiet, smooth-running engines and, with the more-powerful versions, bags of torque on tap.


Highly Commended

Our Highly Commended choice is Volkswagen’s Caddy Maxi 4Motion. It, too, is designed to keep you going in ice and snow rather than for arduous off-road mud-plugging, a fact reflected by its modest ground clearance.
Drive to all four wheels is engaged automatically whenever slippage is detected, switching power to whichever wheels are gripping. When 4×4 is not required then 4Motion reverts to front-wheel drive.

Look under the bonnet and you will find a 110hp version of the 2.0-litre TDI four-cylinder diesel used in other Caddy models and across the Volkswagen light commercial range. Equipped with a variable geometry turbocharger and common-rail fuel injection, it is married to a six-speed gearbox.

No matter whether you choose a 4×4 Sprinter or a Maxi 4Motion, make sure suitable tyres are fitted before travelling anywhere really slippery; fail to do so and the extra expenditure incurred by opting
for four-wheel drive may end up being pointless.



What Van? Awards 2013 Pick-up: Ford Ranger


The new Ranger was the most eagerly awaited new addition to the pick-up sector in a long time and the pressure was on Ford to deliver in a market where models such as the Mitsubishi L200, the Nissan Navara and the VW Amarok had moved the game forward.


The Ranger scores points for its availability in single, super and double-cab guises. Double-cabs dominate sales across the sector, which is why some competitors do not offer the other bodystyles.

Ford offers the Ranger with a choice of three powertrains: an impressive 150hp 2.2-litre Duratorq TDCi, which delivers as much grunt as most customers could wish for and accounts for the bulk of sales, a 200hp 3.2-litre version for those who want even more power, and the entry-level 125hp 2.2-litre unit. Both engines are mated to slick six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.


The Ranger line-up is priced competitively against its rivals, considering the level of quality and refinement it brings to the table. Prices, excluding VAT, start at £14,754 for the single cab XL 4×2 and rise to £24,279 for the double cab Wildtrak 3.2-litre 200hp flagship.

Punters are not spoilt for choice in terms of trim levels either, with four specifications up for grabs: XL, XLT, Limited and Wildtrak.
The Ranger offers best-in-class payload capacity of 1152kg for the core double-cab models and also comes out on top with its towing capacity of 3350kg. So despite Ford pitching the new model more towards leisure customers with a penchant for outdoor pursuits, it is not about to get outmuscled when the going gets tough.

Ford worked hard to improve refinement, and the ride quality is much improved compared with the outgoing Ranger. Once on rougher road surfaces the vehicle soaks up the bumps without transmitting the impact to the cab’s occupants.

The new rack and pinion steering is responsive and far from agricultural, and succeeds in imparting a more car-like driving feel, which is enhanced by a reassuring lack of roll when cornering.

The cab is sophisticated, with a high-quality finish, and noise levels are well suppressed as a result of carefully tuned suspension and a frame that is 40% stiffer than the old Ranger. The seats are comfortable and manually adjustable in the lower two trim levels, but electrically adjustable in the Limited and Wildtrak versions. The steering wheel is adjustable for height and reach.

There is a decent level of standard kit but the excellent satnav and rear-view parking camera that comes with the Wildtrak costs £750 on the rest of the range.

Off-road the Ranger is highly competent – helped by water- wading capability of 800mm and ground clearance of 232mm.
Safety is another key strength – the Ranger is the first pick-up to receive a five-star crash-test rating from NCAP and, more remarkably, achieved the highest score of any vehicle for pedestrian safety.


Highly Commended

Highly Commended is the Isuzu D-max. Isuzu has high hopes for its new pick-up, which is available in four trim levels, from the entry-level D-max to the top-of-the-range Utah. Prices represent excellent value for money – going from £14,499 to £21,499, excluding VAT. Sophistication and refinement have stepped up considerably compared to the D-max’s predecessor, the Rodeo, but none of the ruggedness and off-road ability for which the brand is known has been lost.



What Van? Awards 2013 Large Panel Van: Iveco Daily


With ever-tougher regulations making 7.5-tonners less and less appealing, some operators are wondering if it might make sense to run a 3.5-tonner or two instead. Whichever one they pick, though, will have to be robust and capable of standing up to the relentless hammering that some types of activity – parcels delivery work for instance – can dish out. And that is where Iveco’s Daily comes in.


 Unusual for a 3.5-tonner in having a separate and highly robust chassis, it is favoured by everybody from Tesco’s home-delivery fleet to local authorities nationwide. It is favoured by What Van? too: we’ve given the latest Daily our Large Panel Van of the Year award, which means it has repeated the success it achieved in the same category last year.


Strong, flexible and smooth- running engines, a dependable gear change and remarkably good handling for a vehicle of its size have all contributed to its victory. Add to these plus-points a comprehensive range, a capacious cab, and support from a dealer network with an in-depth understanding of the requirements of CV customers and you’re talking about a winner.

Although we have trumpeted the rear-wheel drive Daily’s virtues as a 3.5-tonner, the line-up, in fact, extends from 3.3t all the way up to 7.0t, with a van body offering up to 17.2m3 of load area space.

 As well as vans, the Daily portfolio encompasses chassis cabs, chassis double-cabs, crew vans and even Irisbus-badged minibuses, and Iveco has recently started to offer a ready-bodied 3.5t chassis – tippers, dropsides and Lutons – under the DriveAway Options banner. There’s a  a 4×4 too.
Marketed in Euro5/Enhanced Environmentally-friendly Vehicle (EEV) guise, the Daily can be ordered with the optional AGile automated manual gearbox and with an engine line-up more impressive than it has ever been, including as it does a four-cylinder Euro5 twin-turbo 205hp 3.0-litre. We tested it in a 3.5-tonner recently and were bowled over. “We’re talking about phenomenally brisk acceleration here,” we said. “The Daily really gets a shift on, sprinting away from rest, thundering up through the gears and easily maintaining the maximum-permitted motorway speed up hill and down dale even when fully laden.” Nor did fuel economy suffer unduly.

Also available is a new 146hp 3.0-litre. Equipped with a variable geometry turbocharger, it meets EEV. It is alternatively available in Euro5 trim with a turbo wastegate and 20Nm less torque.

Also figuring in the line-up is a Euro5 146hp 2.3-litre with a variable geometry turbo plus Multijet 2+ fuel injection with up to eight injections per cycle. The Daily can also be specified with Euro5 106hp and 126hp versions of the 2.3-litre and as a 170hp 3.0-litre with either a variable-geometry turbo (Euro5) or twin turbos (EEV). A 136hp 3.0-litre EEV model that will run on landfill gas continues to be available alongside the, seldom seen, electric Daily.


Highly Commended

Highly commended are Renault’s Master, Vauxhall’s Movano and Nissan’s NV400. Sharing the same basic design, they deserve plaudits for their engines, handling and roomy cabs – we’ve rarely
seen so much in-cab storage space in a light commercial – and the breadth and depth of the line-up presented.



What Van? Awards 2013 Medium Van: Ford Transit Custom


As our 2013 Van of the Year, it’s probably not a massive shock to see the vehicle we’re rating so highly also grab the honours in the medium van category.


The Transit Custom is an excellent, clever and intelligently engineered new entrant that’s worthy of the market-leading position it’s inheriting.


Ford has been keen to explain how much effort has gone into the development of its new competitor, claiming the Custom will have been driven the equivalent of three million miles, including 250,000 with current customers, prior to launch. The parameters for development have been set by a year-long data-logging exercise of 600 vehicles across seven markets, and include an accelerated test of a decade of use condensed into six months, 24 hours per day. The front doors alone were slammed a quarter of a million times in testing, while sliding side door and rear doors each took 150,000 slams, compared to 84,000 on a car door development.

The Custom comes with two vehicle lengths and one height, as well as three engine options of 100, 125 and 155hp iterations of the 2.2-litre diesel unit, plus van, combi and double-cab alternatives.

Vastly improved over its predecessor, the vehicle has also enjoyed a big improvement in residual value, with Ford claiming valuation expert Cap has given the Custom a 10.5 percentage point uplift in predicted worth after three years and 60,000 miles of use, a £1975 improvement.

Over four years and 80,000 miles, Cap is predicting the Custom will be worth £1500 more than its current equivalent.

The strengths of the new Transit Custom, which will be joined by a new larger 2.0t Transit in the next 12 months, are numerous. They include what What Van? would certainly describe as a class-leading interior for quality, while there are numerous technological advancements and innovations in the cabin, load area and exterior that give the Custom the position of something of a pioneer. From voice-activated technology to LED load-area lighting, extra load length through the bulkhead and under the passenger seat, and an integrated roof rack that folds into the roof when not needed,

 there are numerous areas that Ford’s rivals will be looking at with interest and seeking to engineer into their forthcoming light commercial competitors.


The well-designed load area of the SWB Transit Custom can take three euro pallets stacked a metre high, which Ford claims no rival model can manage, and the firm is also claiming class leadership for distance between the wheel arches and the height of the sliding side door, making it a vehicle of choice for businesses carrying larger loads. But they had better not be too heavy, because the Custom’s one area of significant weakness is its poor payloads. Most rivals can better the new Transit by a wide margin, so be aware.


Highly Commended

Last year’s Highly Commended medium van is once more considered capable enough to command Highly Commended status in the category.

The VW Transporter provides a reliable and well-built workhorse, although the interior and exterior styling are both a little on the bland side,especially compared to the new Transit Custom. Ride, handling and refinement are all excellent and the range covers a wide spectrum of engine, body sizes and trims.



What Van? Awards 2013 Light Van: Doblo Cargo/Combo


This year’s light van award is shared between two LCVs that share the same DNA. The 2012 winner, the Fiat Doblo Cargo, retains the prize for the third consecutive year, but is joined on the podium this time by Vauxhall’s new Combo – essentially the same van under the skin but wearing the Griffin badge.


 Imitation, they say, is the greatest form of flattery and the collaboration between the brands makes sense in terms of quality as well as economy – Vauxhall has chosen the sector’s outstanding model on which to base its big-selling Combo.


The Combo has inherited the sophisticated bi-link independent rear suspension system that attracted rave reviews when introduced on the Italian van through enhancing ride quality and handling. It is also lightweight and compact, which is a boon for load capacity and helps to reduce fuel consumption too.

The two vans are offered with 90hp 1.3-litre, 105hp 1.6-litre and 135hp 2.0-litre common-rail diesel engines and like Fiat Vauxhall is also marketing its model with a 95hp 1.4-litre petrol engine. The 90hp 1.3-litre models manage impressively frugal consumption of 58.9mpg while CO2 starts from just 126g/km.


The manufacturers deserve credit for making stop/start widely available across their line-ups together with an indicator on the fascia to highlight the most economical moment to change gear.

With two wheelbases, two overall lengths and two heights up for grabs, load capacities step up from 3.4m3, to 4.0m3 to 4.2m3, while payloads go from 750kg to a meaty 1000kg.

The lower-powered vans come with five-speed manual transmission while the larger engines get a six-speed manual ’box. Vauxhall offers its five-speed Tecshift transmission with the 1.6-litre engine while Fiat markets its own 1.6 version with its automated Comfort-matic gearbox as an option.

The Doblo and its Combo twin are both available in two trim levels: base and SX for the Fiat and Combo and Sportive for the Vauxhall. Both vehicles are styled conventionally with an emphasis on functionality, and the result is a pair of sturdy vans. Customers can choose between asymmetrical rear doors that open to 180° or a glazed hatch-type rear door.

The cabins, meanwhile, are comfortable, quiet and come with an abundance of storage space.


Highly Commended

VW’s Caddy boasts rock-solid build quality and excellent engines. The 1.6-litre diesel is available with 75hp or 102hp; the latter can be had with VW’s peerless semi-auto, twin-clutch, seven-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG). A 2.0-litre 140hp engine is also offered and this can be specified with a six-speed DSG in the LWB Maxi derivative.



What Van? Awards 2013 Small Van: Vauxhall Corsavan


Want to give the chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, some sleepless nights? Then acquaint him with how frugal Vauxhall’s Corsavan can be.

Offering 95hp, the diesel-driven Euro5 1.3 CDTi Ecoflex Start/Stop version achieves an extraordinary 83.1mpg on the combined cycle, and by doing so offers one of the best ways of countering high diesel prices we can think of. Given that a ruinously steep percentage of the cost of every litre of diesel we buy is made up of VAT and duty, put a few more Corsavans on the road and the chancellor will have to start looking elsewhere for his revenue.


Such frugality alone would  justify our decision to award the Corsavan our Small Van of the Year accolade for 2013– which it picked up last year too – but it is not the only reason why we’ve decided to give it top marks. Low fuel use spells low CO2 output, and the version we have just referred to produces a mere 89g/km.

Now being fitted to a growing number of light commercials under a variety of different names, stop/start kills the engine if it is allowed to idle wastefully at the lights or in a traffic jam. Other features fitted to this most fuel-efficient of Corsavans include optimised gear ratios, aerodynamic wheel covers, and an indicator on the instrument panel that tells you when to go up a gear if you want to achieve the best economy figures.

Other Corsavan variants include a 70hp 1.2-litre petrol model and a 75hp 1.3 CDTi diesel – they can both be ordered in Start/Stop
guise if required – and a 95hp 1.3 CDTi diesel in top-of-the-range Sportive specifications.

Opt for Sportive and you benefit from a six-speed manual transmission – its stablemates are equipped with five-speed manual boxes – along with plenty of bling.

The standard fixtures and fittings include metallic or pearlescent paint, a chrome exhaust tailpipe, 15-inch alloy wheels, sports-style seats and air-conditioning, not to mention front fog lights. Electrically adjustable and heated exterior mirrors and electric windows are included in the deal too.
Vauxhall has prioritised safety across the entire Corsavan range: another sound reason for giving the smallest light commercial in the manufacturer’s catalogue a gong.  Devices provided that are designed to help protect drivers and their passengers include ABS, Emergency Brake Assist, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Cornering Brake Control and Drag Torque Control. Electronic Stability Programme with Traction Control is listed as an option.
Okay, the Corsavan cannot carry an enormous load, but there is more than enough space in the 0.92m3 cargo area for a good-sized tool box, documents destined for urgent delivery or a security guard’s dog. Across-the-board payload capacity is 550kg.

All Corsavans offer lively performance along with precise handling and a slick gear change. One of the vehicle’s more surprising plus-points when you consider its compact dimensions is the generously proportioned cab, with ample legroom.


Highly Commended

Ford’s attractive Fiesta Van is our Highly Commended choice this year, and in Econetic guise it combines Scrooge-like fuel economy with minimal CO2 emissions. It is fun to drive, too, and, like the Vauxhall Corsavan, seems likely to hold its value in the used market.



What Van? Awards 2013 Van of the Year: Ford Transit Custom


The Transit Custom – the name given to the new medium-sized Transit – is a triumph for Ford. Excellent to drive and good-looking, and with class-leading interior quality and an equipment offering unparalleled in the light commercial vehicle sector, the Transit Custom has done everything it needed to in order to maintain Ford’s place at the top of the pecking order as competitors increasingly try to make inroads into the Transit’s dominant market-leading position. 


The van comes with 100, 125 and 155hp versions of the 2.2-litre diesel engine and a choice of two wheelbases, both of which, claims Ford, offer class-leading load volume, although others in the sector manage more thanks to high-roof options. But with Ford aiming to promote the Transit as a van that users are happy to have parked outside their house, and one that can get into low-barriered car parks, a high-roof alternative won’t be offered, at least early on. The short-wheelbase model can also take three euro pallets with a one-metre high load, claims Ford, which it says is unique in the sector and something the previous Transit couldn’t handle.

The interior is a particular revelation, and borrows switchgear and materials from the passenger car range like never before. It’s an over-used phrase, but it is the most car-like interior this side of actual car-derived vans, and leads the market for quality. The welcome and very long-overdue reach-adjustment for the steering wheel helps increase comfort, as do the extra setting options for the driver’s seat.
There’s also much more in the way of car-like features being offered by the new Transit Custom. Ford’s optional Sync voice-activated system enables mobile phones and music players to be connected to the system and operated by voice commands, while the system also combines with the Emergency Assistance function that provides location information to the emergency services in the event of an incident. Lane-keeping alert, driver fatigue detector and a reversing camera are also available for various additional costs.
But the innovation doesn’t begin and end in the cabin, and Ford has certainly not rested on its laurels with the new van. A series of developments designed off the back of customer feedback to help make life easier for operators have been engineered in. Some of these are particularly groundbreaking, and can be expected to spread across the industry as rivals get a look at what Ford has done and likely devise their own versions.

One such feature, available as an option expected to cost around £350, is the integrated roof rack that drops seamlessly into the van’s roof when not in use. Three transverse bars are located
in the recesses of the roof, saving the hassle of fitting and removing a rack, or saving businesses money through the greater fuel efficiency and reduced drag of not having an unused roof rack fitted to
the vehicle.

The load-through facility in the Custom’s bulkhead is a clever yet seemingly simple answer to these medium-sized vans occasionally being required to carry longer loads, such as piping or ladders. A hinged panel at the foot of the bulkhead opens up, extending the van’s load length by almost half a metre to 3.0m in the SWB or 3.4m in the LWB by running into a space under the dual passenger seat.  

The cargo area itself has also been carefully considered, with the tie-down hooks and fixing points moved to the body side in order to leave the floor clear of intrusion or recess to help with both usability and cleaning. The loadspace will be available with what Ford calls an easy-clean load liner similar to a pick-up truck load bed, sealed and running up to 80mm up the side of the load area, protecting the steel base from loading damage. LED lighting is also being offered for the first time in the load area, with four high-output lights illuminating the rear for users employing the back of the van as workspace. That will also be aided  by the ability to lock the door arms in place at 90° to prevent the wind blowing them shut.

There is, though, more to the Transit Custom than clever innovation. It has also managed to maintain its strengths, particularly in the areas of looks and driving enjoyment. Very little can touch Ford light commercial vehicles for driver pleasure, which, while not important to larger fleets, is a consideration for owner-drivers and for anyone spending large amounts of time behind the wheel. Steering, gearchange, ride and handling are all up with the best in the business, and that added steering wheel and driver’s seat adjustment helps increase driver comfort.

The Transit Custom is one of the most stylish medium vans an owner-driver could have parked outside their house. While still a panel van and therefore not the most subtle of machines, the rounded, friendly nose is significantly less harsh than some rivals’ and makes it one of the more attractive on the market.

The only major weakness for the new Transit Custom is a payload that’s significantly below virtually all its competitors. If carrying heavy loads is crucial to a business, then this probably isn’t the light commercial to choose, but if that’s not a worry then the Custom is an excellent, clever, well-engineered and appealing new entrant that has every chance of extending Ford’s light commercial vehicle dominance to the end of the decade and beyond. It’s a very worthy choice as the What Van? 2013 Van of the Year.