Joint ventures are nothing new in the light commercial industry and Renault and General Motors, Vauxhall’s parent company, have collaborated with one another for many years on a variety of projects. So it should be no surprise to see What Van?’s Medium Van of the Year accolade awarded jointly to Vauxhall and Renault for, respectively, the Vivaro and Trafic.

The two vans are virtually identical to one another apart from their badges and some cosmetic styling differences.

Trafic and Vivaro serve only to highlight how far medium van design has progressed over the past 30 years from the days of the thankfully-long-gone Vauxhall Midi and the original cheese-wedge-shaped Trafic. Both the current models are well-thought-out packages with good road manners, a decent standard of equipment and, above all, impressive and technologically-sophisticated 1.6-litre diesel engines.

In single-turbo guise they are up for grabs at either 90hp or 115hp but it’s the twin-turbo versions that really stand out. With either 120hp or 140hp on tap their sequential turbo-charging makes them remarkably responsive yet they don’t break the bank so far as fuel consumption is concerned.

With an eye to minimising diesel bills and CO2 emissions a clever button on the gearbox console is available that allows you to alter the throttle pedal’s response and decrease engine power. By doing so you make little discernible difference to your on-the-road performance if you are un-laden or lightly-laden but can enjoy up to 10% better fuel economy.

Fuel usage can also be minimised courtesy of a Start/Stop system that kills the engine if it is allowed to idle wastefully at the lights or in a traffic jam. All you need to do to fire it up again is dip the clutch.

Vivaro and Trafic are marketed with two different body lengths and two different roof heights. Load cubes range from 5.2cu/m to 8.6cu/m which means the latest offerings delivers more carrying space than their predecessors while payload capacities extend from getting on for 1100kg to approaching 1250kg.

Nor are they sold solely as straightforward vans. Crew vans are also marketed with rear seats plus a load area at the back, so are nine-seater passenger carriers and so are platform cabs.

All van drivers look for a well-thought-out cab interior with plenty of storage space for all the items they need to carry with them, and this is where Vivaro and Trafic score highly. There is no shortage of shelves, bins and cubbyholes not to mention – depending on which model you pick – the ability to flip down the back of the inboard passenger seat and transform it into a desk complete with a compartment for a laptop.

One of the cleverest ideas we have seen in a light commercial for many a long year is a blind spot mirror mounted in the passenger-side sun visor. Cheap, simple and effective, it should help you spot cyclists creeping up on your nearside in city centre traffic and avoid flattening them.

Cargo area design features on offer include a load-through facility created by lifting a hatch at the bottom of the passenger seat. It allows you to slide extra-long ladders, planks and pipes aboard without the need to have them sticking out through the back doors or secure them to a roof rack.

Did you know?

In terms  of value, including the labour needed for assembly, 40% of the Vivaro’s basic components such as seats  are sourced in Britain.

Highly Commended: Ford Transit Custom

Our Highly Commended pick is Ford’s Transit Custom. One of the best Transits Ford has ever produced, it wins plaudits for its build quality, ride, handling and general on-the-road performance, not to mention its internal and external looks and high standard of equipment.

Like Vivaro – now alas the only van to be built in Britain in volume – and Trafic, Transit Custom highlights how far onboard technology has progressed; and safety technology in particular.

It is available with Lane Keeping Alert and Driver Alert. The former warns you if you are wandering out of lane on the motorway while the latter alerts you if you appear to be nodding off at the wheel.

Like the blind spot mirror referred to earlier, they are both potential life-savers.