Bite-Sized LCV Reviews: Every light van model we've road-tested

Date: Thursday, September 12, 2019

Looking to buy a light van? Then read our handy, quick road test reviews of the models in the market before making your next buying decision.

Citroen Berlingo

Citroen Berlingo

The third-generation Berlingo is the holder of our 2019 LCV of the Year Award, along with its Peugeot Partner and Vauxhall Combo cousins.

Two wheelbase lengths are available and payloads go up to a 1,050kg with load volumes extending to 4.4m3.

A 1.6-litre Euro6.1 diesel engine is around for a little while at the same time as a 130hp 1.5-litre Euro6.2 that will eventually supersede the 1.6 and offer the same 75hp and 100hp outputs. It’s a sophisticated unit, although the 1.6 is credible too. A 1.2-litre Puretech petrol engine with 110hp and 130hp outputs can also be specified, with the 130hp getting an auto transmission (the other gets a six-speed manual).

This gearbox is also available on the 130hp diesel and is a gem – fast, smooth, and a boon to drivers in city traffic. A five-speed manual is fitted as standard on both 1.6 models, but it feels unsophisticated, while the six-speed manual mated to the 1.5 is an improvement.

Interiors, meanwhile, are smart and spacious, and come with driver assistance features such as traffic sign recognition and driver attention alert.

Sample model: Enterprise 1.5 130hp

Engine size    1.5-litre
Payload     1,000kg
Load volume    3.8mm3
Combined mpg 64.2mpg
CO2    116g/km
Price (ex VAT) £20,350


Fiat Professional Doblo Cargo

Fp -doblo -cargo

The Doblo Cargo’s virtues include top-notch handling, a high standard of build quality, and reliability.

Fiat also ensures plenty of choice: two roof heights and two wheelbase lengths, plus load area volumes of 3.4-5.0m3.

Gross payloads extend from 750kg to 1,005kg.

Sliding nearside and offside doors are fitted to most models, and the cargo bay is available with clever features, such as a rear roof flap through which over-length items like ladders can be poked.

Four trim levels and three impressive Multijet II Euro6 diesels are listed. The 1.3-litre produces 95hp while the 1.6-litre cranks out 105hp or 120hp. A 95hp 1.4-litre petrol power plant is available too.

Safety is assured by the usual mix of electronic devices – e.g. ABS and electronic stability control – some of which are mandatory. Connectivity is aided by Gateway, an interface that can be used to collect all the vehicle’s key onboard data, which can then be relayed to a fleet management system.

Finally, the cleverly designed bi-link independent rear suspension helps deliver sharp handling and a comfortable ride.

Sample model: Cargo 1.6JDT 16v Multijet II L1H1

Engine size    1.6-litre
Payload     750kg
Load volume    3.4m3
Combined mpg 55.4mpg
CO2    134g/km
Price (ex VAT) £16,190


Ford Transit Connect

New Transit Connect

Ford revised the Transit Connect in 2018 with changes that included a new-look face, reduced aerodynamic drag, and a reworked cabin.

There’s also a new 1.5-litre Ecoblue diesel engine at 75hp, 100hp or 120hp, plus a new version of the 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol engine offering 100hp. Spec options start at Base, move on through Trend and Limited and end with Sport. Customers can also choose from either short- or long-wheelbase models. A performance-focused version is being developed by tuning company MS-RT. It will be available from autumn 2019.

Out on the road the Connect is a very smooth performer, both in terms of the ride and the gear change using the six-speed standard gearbox (an eight-speed auto is also available). The handling is remarkably sharp and the steering responsive. The van accelerates strongly through the gears and in-cab noise levels are commendably low.

Access to the loadbay is via twin rear doors and a sliding nearside door. A full-height steel bulkhead is fitted. Build quality is solid, and the comfortable cab is well laid-out for the driver.

Sample model: Trend 1.5TDCI Ecoblue 210 LWB

Engine size    1.5-litre
Payload     695kg
Load volume    3.6m3
Combined mpg 60.1mpg
CO2    123g/km
Price (ex VAT) £17,965


Mercedes-Benz Citan


Three different load cubes – 2.4m3, 3.1m3 or 3.8m3 – are available for the Renault Kangoo-based Citan, and it comes with a pleasant, if not exactly exciting, working environment featuring cruise control, speed-limiter functions, and a height-adjustable steering and driver’s seat, the latter being comfortable and supportive.

Build quality is solid.

The Citan corners precisely, with no wallowing or wobbling, and the steering has a reassuringly meaty feel to it, offering ample feedback. The ride is firm, but not unpleasantly so, and the crisp gear change is a pleasure. In-cab noise levels are well-controlled too.

We can attest that the 114hp 1.2-litre petrol-engined model delivers a relaxing and smooth driving experience, particularly on short city routes where its slick, six-speed manual gearbox comes into its own. This model is more than happy to function in third gear at speeds barely touching 20mph, whereas out on a dual-carriageway the top gear is a welcome feature.

Mercedes has promised an electric version of its next Citan, but this will not arrive until late 2020.

Sample model: 109 1.5 CDI Compact

Engine size    1.5-litre
Payload     435kg
Load volume    2.4m3
Combined mpg 60.1mpg
CO2    123g/km
Price (ex VAT)  £15,750


Nissan NV200

Nissan Nv 2004

Nissan’s NV200 is up for grabs in Visia, Acenta and Tekna grades, and with five- and six-speed manual transmission.

The 1.5-litre dCi engine is available with power outputs of 85hp and 110hp. The combination of the 110hp engine and six-speed transmission surpasses the respectable rather than exceptional performance provided by the 85hp engine and somewhat notchy five-speed transmission, which are not best suited to motorway journeys in particular.

That six-speed gearbox is slick and crisp, and although we did not drive our test van fully loaded there was no sense it would lack muscle and power if called for.

The steering wheel is rake-adjustable and the cab is protected by a full-steel bulkhead, while the cargo area is conveniently reached via twin rear loading doors and sliding doors on both sides.

A kerb-to-kerb turning circle of 10.6m aids manoeuvrability when ducking and diving about town, while standard equipment onboard includes Bluetooth connectivity.

Finally, a fridge van and the electric e-NV200 vehicle also form a part of this Nissan range.

Sample model: Acenta 1.5dCi

Engine size    1.5-litre
Payload     728kg
Load volume    4.2m3
Combined mpg 56.5mpg
CO2    131g/km
Price (ex VAT) £15,735


Nissan E-NV200

E -nv 200

In designing the E-NV200 Nissan has blended elements of its electric Leaf car with the carrying capabilities of the NV200 LCV.

The model has a payload of 770kg, more than the conventional model’s 740kg, and the load box can be reached through sliding doors on both sides of the body or through a choice of asymmetrical rear doors or a tailgate.

Nissan says maintenance costs are 40% cheaper than those of a diesel model due to not having an engine, gearbox or clutch, which are susceptible to wear and tear. And with a range of 106 miles on a full lithium-ion battery, which powers the 80kW electric motor, fuel costs are significantly lower.

The van can be fully charged within eight hours using a domestic supply, while a 50kW quick charger can recharge the battery to 80% in 30 minutes.

The ride in Drive mode is quiet and smooth, and acceleration is brisk, but the cabin lacks storage facilities, and the driving position and steering wheel aren’t fully adjustable.

Finally, all E-NV200 versions get ESP, iPod and MP3 compatibility, a reversing camera and a full bulkhead

Sample model: E Acenta Rapid

Engine size    80kW
Payload     770kg
Load volume    4.2m3
Battery range 106 miles
CO2    0g/km
Price (ex VAT) £22,860


Peugeot Partner

Pug Partner

The Partner raises the bar in its sector for driveability and practicality, which is why it took What Van?’s 2019 LCV of the Year Award, alongside PSA siblings the Citroen Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo.

The spec walk starts at S, moves through Professional and ends at Asphalt. Also available is the Grip model. Aimed at operations that go off-road, it boasts 30mm more ground clearance plus Grip Control traction control.

We sampled an L1 Partner in Professional trim, powered by the 130hp 1.5-litre engine with a six-speed ’box. Our SWB van was not short of performance even with 0.5t of bagged gravel. A slick, quick gear-change enables full use of the power on offer, and the handling will keep you out of trouble on tight rural bends.

The van is also very manoeuvrable at low speeds. While the ride was fine with the weight onboard, the suspension can struggle on uneven surfaces without it. Empty or full, more effort should be made to tune out wind noise, plus there clearly isn’t enough room  for three seats in the cab. Kit levels are generous throughout the range, though.

Sample model: Professional L1 1000 BlueHDi 130

Engine size    1.5-litre
Payload     1,001kg
Load volume    3.3m3
Combined mpg 64.2mpg
CO2    117g/km
Price (ex VAT) £19,905


Renault Kangoo

Kangoo Pic

We tested a 90hp 1.5-litre diesel ML19 Energy dCi 90 Renault Kangoo in Business+ spec.

Its five-speed gearbox offered a slick change – although there were times on the motorway when a sixth gear would’ve been nice – nor did we have any complaints about performance.
The van was lively and eager even with weight onboard and offered a good ride plus sharp, responsive handling. The steering provides sufficient feedback and feels neither dead nor sloppy.

Entering Eco mode improves economy by up to 10%, says Renault, and doing so has little impact on performance when lightly laden.

All Renault Kangoos come with a full-height steel bulkhead, DAB with Bluetooth, USB and aux-in ports, a driver’s airbag, electric windows, folding electric exterior mirrors, and reversing sensors. The Kangoo is also sold as the long-wheelbase Maxi with a 4.0m3 load area, and both can be ordered in electric Z.E guise.

The next-generation Kangoo is due to arrive in 2020.

Sample model: 1.5dCi Energy 90 Business

Engine size    1.5-litre
Payload     800kg
Load volume    3.0m3
Combined mpg 62.8mpg
CO2    119g/km
Price (ex VAT) £16,826


Renault Kangoo Van ZE

Renault --New -Kangoo -Van -Z.E.33--

Renault’s revised electric Kangoo Van ZE has been dubbed the ZE.33 due to its new 33kW battery that the manufacturer says has increased range by 50% to 124 miles under real-world conditions in summer and up to 99 miles in winter.

There are four versions – the Kangoo Van ZE.33 (two seats and a load volume of 3.6m3), Maxi Van ZE.33 (two seats, 4.6m3), Maxi Crew Van ZE.33 (five seats, 1.3m3) and Maxi Crew Van Cab ZE.33 (which has a multi-positional, adjustable bulkhead that can accommodate either five people or a 3.6m3 load). At the end of 2017 Renault says it will also launch a Maxi version with a load volume of 6.0m3.

We drove the Kangoo ZE and found that much of the previous harshness in acceleration and braking has been eradicated. The test van had a 250kg load in the back, which improved the ride by tempering its more extreme EV tendencies without diminishing the load-lugging ability of the 60hp and 225rpm maximum torque available.

Full battery charging time has been reduced from eight to six hours, and a one-hour charge can top-up the range with an extra 22 miles.

Sample model:  ZE.33

Engine size    33kW
Payload         650kg
Load volume    3.6m3
Battery range    170 miles
CO2    0g/km
Price (ex VAT & PiVG) £14,195


Vauxhall Combo

Vaux _Combo 4

The current Combo launched in the UK in 2012.

Based on Fiat’s Doblo Cargo, it impresses with a wide range of derivatives to choose from, solid build quality and reliability, low running costs, and more than respectable driveability.

It has inherited the lightweight, compact, bi-link rear suspension system from the Doblo Cargo, which improves ride quality while lowering load height and increasing storage space between the wheel arches.

The vehicle comes with 90hp 1.3, 105hp 1.6 and 135hp 2.0 common-rail diesel engines and a 1.4-litre 95hp petrol unit. The most frugal is the 90hp.

Two wheelbases, two overall lengths and two roof heights are on offer, meaning load capacities of 3.4m3 to 4.2m3 with payloads ranging from 750kg to 1,000kg.

Vauxhall also offers a long-wheelbase high-roof (L2H2) version of the Combo with a 1.0t payload.

The cabins are comfortable with high-quality materials and plenty of storage space too.
Vauxhall’s new Combo Life – the passenger-carrying version – will arrive in showrooms before the end of 2018.

Sample model: 2300 Sportive 1.3CDTi

Engine size    1.3-litre
Payload     955kg
Load volume    3.4m3
Combined mpg 56.5mpg
CO2    133g/km
Price (ex VAT) £18,173


Volkswagen Caddy

VW Caddy4

The Caddy has long held a reputation for being not only one of the most well-built and highest-quality light vans but also one of the most understated when it comes to looks, a feeling that persisted when the fourth generation arrived in the UK in September 2015, for it did not appear radically different to its predecessor despite the restyled headlights and a sharper, more angular look to the front wings and bonnet.

It is available in three trim levels – Startline, Trendline and Highline – and with short or Maxi wheelbases. All come with an infotainment system with DAB radio, Bluetooth, and safety features such as the brand’s post-collision braking system.

A lockable glove box and the rake- and reach-adjustable steering column are also included. VW boosted safety and kit levels further for the 2018 model-year line-up.

Upgrades included the standard addition of autonomous emergency braking and driver alert. All vans also get a leather multi-function steering wheel and multi-function display. The range also got a boost with the addition of a business pack for the entry-level Startline model.

Sample model: Business Edition

Engine size    2.0-litre
Payload     668kg
Load volume    3.2m3
Combined mpg 60.1mpg
CO2    124g/km
Price (ex VAT) £16,105


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