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

Date: Friday, October 25, 2019

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

Citroen DISPATCH4

Citroen Dispatch

The Dispatch is available with one roof height of 1.90m and three lengths of 4.60m, 4.95m and 5.30m, which help to give the latter two a 1,400kg-plus payload.

It has been updated with Euro6.2 engines. The range now starts with a 100hp 1.5-litre diesel engine. Other engine options are 2.0-litre diesels with 120hp, 150hp and 180hp. All come with a six-speed manual gearbox, except for the 180hp engine, which now comes with an eight-speed auto, replacing the six-speed auto previously on offer.

Four specifications are available: X, Enterprise, Worker and Driver specs.

Prior to the engine upgrades we tried the 150hp 2.0. It delivered excellent acceleration, while a slick gear change from the six-speed manual transmission helped get the best out of the impressively responsive powertrain. The ride was smooth and refined with little discomfort caused by uneven road surfaces, and wind and engine noise wasn’t intrusive.

Interior finishing may not quite match Ford’s Transit Custom or VW’s Transporter, but the cabin is well laid out.

Sample model: 1400 Enterprise Plus

Engine size    2.0-litre
Payload     1,497kg
Load volume    6.6m3
Combined mpg 53.3mpg
CO2    139g/km
Price (ex VAT) £22,408

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4Fiat

Fiat Professional Talento

Like the Nissan NV300 and Vauxhall Vivaro, the Talento is based on Renault’s Trafic, but features cosmetic differences, such as LED headlamps on the bumper.

It comes with a choice of four Euro6 diesel engines – two single-turbo and a pair of twin-turbos – with outputs of 95-145hp. The vans are available in standard and high-roof formats, in short- and long-wheelbase versions, and as crew vans and a LWB chassis cab.

The model has inherited many of the Trafic’s innovations, including the hatch in the bulkhead that allows a load length of up to 3.75m in standard versions.

We drove the 145hp 1.6-litre twin-turbo Ecojet diesel engine. It provides impressive responsiveness across its full range and works smoothly with the slick, standard, six-speed manual gearbox.

It is particularly happy on motorway slogs, so operators more usually engaged in urban work may prefer the 125hp twin-turbo or either the 95hp or 120hp single-turbo. These smaller engines are not, however, the most economical, with the most frugal honour going to the 125hp twin-turbo with figures of 47.9mpg and 155g/km

Sample model: Multijet L1H1 Ecojet 145

Engine size    1.6-litre
Payload     1,224kg
Load volume    5.2m3
Combined mpg  46.3mpg
CO2    160g/km
Price (ex VAT) £22,940

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4new -transit -custom -2018_500x 333

Ford Transit Custom

Responding to customer feedback that the interior needed additional storage space and a more user-friendly dash, Ford’s 2018 facelift of the Transit Custom, the model’s first, featured a completely new cabin.

It comes in two roof heights, two wheelbases – with gross vehicle weights ranging from 2.6t to 3.4t – and with payloads up to 1,450kg.

Bodystyles comprise panel van, kombi and double-cab-in-van. A plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is due in dealerships in September 2019.

An Econetic variant of the Ecoblue 2.0-litre diesel engine has been introduced to the short-wheelbase 105hp drivetrain, and it emits an official 148g/km of CO2 and achieves 49.6mpg – 6% up on the previous most efficient model in the line-up.

On the road, responsive steering means the Ford heads in precisely the direction you want it to go in, while the suspension system ensures you hang on to the highway through some surprisingly tight bends.

The ride could stand to be slightly better damped, however.

Sample model: Sport L1 Automatic

Engine size    2.0-litre
Payload     941kg
Load volume    6.0m3
Combined mpg 40.9mpg
CO2    178g/km
Price (ex VAT) £32,580

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Vito Panel Van

Mercedes-Benz Vito

The Vito comes with front- or rear-wheel drive and a variety of body styles, including three lengths, one roof height, and panel van, crew van and passenger Tourer alternatives.

Trim levels start at standard and run through Pure, Progressive and Premium.

The interior is solidly built, but the vehicle lacks the clever functionality rivals offer. For example, there’s no load-through hatch from the bulkhead to accommodate lengthy cargo.

However, the three seats have a welcoming feel, while the driving position is good, although the middle seat lacks legroom.

The Vito excels on safety, with various systems providing assistance. Meanwhile, new features from the summer of 2019 include digital services from the Mercedes Pro Connect system.

An upgraded highbeam assist is also available, along with the emergency call and breakdown management functions. A new range of diesel engines taken from the car range were announced at the start of 2019 too.

On the road the Vito is impressive, with its tidy handling, decent refinement and a solid feel to the gearshift.

Sample model: 116 2.1 CDi Compact

Engine size    2.1-litre
Payload    879kg
Load volume    5.8m3
Combined mpg 47.1mpg
CO2    158g/km
Price (ex VAT) £25,160

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4nv 300_500x 333

Nissan NV300

A rebadged Renault Trafic, the NV300 is available in two wheelbases, a standard or high roof, and three trim levels.

Gross vehicle weights extend from 2,700kg to 2,900kg, with payloads ranging from 1,073kg to 1,310kg and load volumes going from 5.2m3 up to 8.6m3. A load-through hatch extends the load length.

Power comes from a 1.6-litre dCi diesel with outputs of 95hp, 120hp, 125hp and 145hp. All engines are mated to a six-speed manual transmission.

We drove a 125hp twin-turbo L2H1 and found the engine delivers generous pulling power and was unperturbed by the half-load in the back. It’s quiet too, while road noise does not penetrate the interior to intrusive levels.

While the handling may not quite match the Ford Transit Custom’s, it comes close. The steering tightens up nicely as you punch through bends and offers lots of assistance when wriggling into parking spaces.

On the motorway the gear changes are slick. Acceleration from rest and up through the gears is strong too, and the ride copes well with the varying quality of road surfaces. The cabin, meanwhile, has ample storage.

Sample model: Tekna 125hp Twin-turbo L2H1

Engine size    1.6-litre
Payload     1,243kg
Load volume    6.0m3
Combined mpg 46.3mpg
CO2    159g/km
Price (ex VAT) £25,360

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4peu Expert Front 3-4

Peugeot Expert

The Expert comes with two wheelbases, three body lengths and one roof height.

It’s also produced as a double-cab and platform cab. Pick from either a 1.6- (95hp, 115hp) or 2.0-litre diesel (120hp, 150hp, 180hp) engine, and five- or six-speed manual, automated manual or fully auto transmissions.

The 150hp Euro6 engine delivers ample performance, and with a six-speeder is pretty much an ideal motorway cruiser. It’s no slouch on A- and B-roads either and can dart away quickly from rest in urban traffic. That said, it’s a shame the gear change isn’t a bit slicker.

The electric power steering tightens up sufficiently to tackle sweeping motorway bends with aplomb while offering sufficient assistance to enable easy parking. More feedback would be nice on twisting rural roads, however.

The outboard passenger seat can fold to create extra floor space as part of a package called Moduwork. It includes a bulkhead flap that allows you to push extra-long items beneath the seat. Vans like the Expert, though, can’t comfortably accommodate a three-seater cab…

Sample model:  Professional Plus Standard BlueHDi 150

Engine size    2.0-litre
Payload     1,484kg
Load volume    5.3m3
Combined mpg 53.3mpg
CO2    139g/km
Price (ex VAT) £24,265

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4Trafic -ren -1

Renault Trafic

This is a well thought-out package with good road manners and a decent standard of kit.

There’s plenty of storage and the Trafic excels with a variety of shelves, bins and cubbyholes, plus the ability to flip down the back of the inboard passenger seat and transform it into a desk with a compartment for a laptop.

It’s marketed with two body lengths and two roof heights. Load cubes range from 5.2m3 to 8.6m3, while payloads extend from getting on for 1,100kg to approaching 1,250kg.

Out on the road the gear shift is precise and smooth and the gear lever itself is pleasingly chunky and sturdy. In line with most modern vans the steering wheel is user-friendly and car-like in its dimensions.

It’s worth noting, though, that a facelifted version will start being delivered from September 2019. It comes with a new range of 2.0-litre diesel engines, and a six-speed automatic gearbox has also been added, alongside a six-speed manual. New driver assistance systems and improved infotainment are part of the package too.

Sample model:  Business SH29 Energy dCi 145

Engine size    1.6-litre
Payload     1,237kg
Load volume    7.2m3
Combined mpg 46.3mpg
CO2    160g/km
Price (ex VAT) £23,920

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4Proace

Toyota Proace

The Proace is available with three body sizes and two wheelbase lengths.

A roof height of 1.90m means it can negotiate barriers at toll gates and underground car parks, and in common with its sister vehicles, the Peugeot Expert and Citroen Dispatch, medium and long derivatives with the 2.0-litre engine boast a class-leading max payload of up to 1.4t.

But the engine line-up is more limited than its counterparts. There’s the 95hp 1.6, available in Compact guise, the 95hp and 115hp 1.6 engines, plus the 120hp 2.0-litre unit in the medium body and only the 120hp 2.0-litre in the long format.

The entry-level model is wedded to a five-speed gearbox; all the others are six-speed manual and come with stop/start. We tested the 120hp 2.0 medium-length Proace in Comfort trim. With its 1.4t payload filled to 50%, the ride was comfortable, while wind and road noise was well suppressed. Also, the short-throw change is slick, and from a handling point of view the Proace holds its own with the best-in-class, such as the Ford Transit Custom.

Sample model: Comfort 120hp Medium

Engine size    1.6-litre
Payload     1,243kg
Load volume    6.0m3
Combined mpg 46.3mpg
CO2    159g/km
Price (ex VAT) £25,360

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4vivaro _500x 333

Vauxhall Vivaro

The Vivaro was developed alongside Renault’s Trafic.

It has two trim levels to the Trafic’s three, and with the French brand’s switchgear the cabin doesn’t have the car-like quality of Ford’s Transit Custom. But kit levels are pretty good. The range covers two roof heights and two wheelbases.

All engines offer 1.6 litres, with 90hp and 110hp turbodiesels, as well as 120hp and 140hp bi-turbos. The 90hp also has an Ecoflex version with improved economy. The bi-turbo engines are refined and punchy, the ride is comfortable without compromising body control, and only steering that’s a tad light compromises things, although that turns into a plus in urban spaces.

A third-generation Vivaro is now available to order, however, based on the Citroen Dispatch and Peugeot Expert platform. It has three trims. Payload goes up to 1,400kg, 200kg more than the outgoing model, and cargo capacity is 6.6m3. All engines – 1.5-litre diesels with 100hp or 120hp, and 2.0-litre diesels with 120hp, 150hp and 180hp – meet the Euro6.2 standard. A battery electric version is set to follow in 2020.

Sample model: 2900 1.6CDti Blueinjection
Engine size    1.6-litre
Payload     1,235kg
Load volume    5.2m3
Combined mpg 43.4mpg
CO2    170g/km
Price (ex VAT) £22,780

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4vw Transporter Sportline 7

Volkswagen Transporter

What Van? sampled a 102hp Euro6 2.0-litre model and found that the ride quality in our part-loaded test vehicle was good, although a fair degree of road rumble made its way into the cabin, while the chassis control and steering feel made the LCV a decent place to pass the time.

In terms of safety, post-collision braking is standard on all models, while front assist, adaptive cruise control, high-beam assist, lane change assist and driver alert systems are all optional.

All models come with a USB socket, DAB, and a five-inch touchscreen. But the glovebox appears too small for even the handbook, while there’s just about enough legroom for a passenger in the middle seat. The Transporter also lacks some clever innovations such as load-through hatches, internal ladder racks or folding roof rails that rivals provide.

In February 2019, Volkswagen revealed the latest update to its Transporter people-mover. Bigger news, though, is that the brand revealed a facelifted Transporter in April 2019, although UK launch details and prices are yet to be announced.

Sample model: T28 Trendline SWB

Engine size    2.0-litre
Payload     886kg
Load volume    5.8m3
Combined mpg 47.9mpg
CO2    153g/km
Price (ex VAT) £22,865



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