The Ford Transit Courier, which in 2015 was crowned the What Van? Van of the Year as well as the Small Van of the Year has retained the latter of those accolades for 2016.

The Courier slots into Ford’s line-up between the car-derived Fiesta Van and the Connect light van and shares many of the virtues of the rest of the brand’s well-regarded product range.

It features a well laid-out, user-friendly and stylish dashboard that is, in effect, a scaled-down version of the ones in the Transit, Transit Custom and Connect, and it is great to drive. In fact, the Courier is one of the few LCVs that can genuinely claim to offer car-like handling.

Speaking of our experience of the long-term Courier on our What Van? fleet we wrote: “The little van is able to weave its way nimbly through urban traffic, making light of the challenges presented by narrowed lanes, roadworks and temporary roundabouts, and once let off the leash on B-roads and country lanes it is a pleasure to be behind the wheel.”

Ford entered a new market segment with the launch of the Courier in July 2014 and claims the model has now bedded in and is set to notch up 5000 sales in 2015. Going forward, the brand sees the Courier outstripping the Fiesta Van due to being a more practical load- carrying proposition.

A good-looking, stylish and classy little van, it gives the brand a product to compete against the compact cubed vans created in partnership by PSA Peugeot-Citroen and Fiat Professional, namely the Bipper, Nemo and Fiorino.

The engine line-up is one area that helps the Courier stand out against its rivals. While the little Peugeot and Citroen vans only have a 75hp diesel engine option, and the Fiat, as well as Mercedes’ Citan Compact – the only other small van in the segment – have 75hp or 95hp diesels, the Ford can match those two with 1.5- and 1.6-litre diesels, and also offer the 100hp 1.0-litre petrol Ecoboost alternative that’s aimed at the urban operators most likely to be employing this sort of van anyway.

A compact, cubic load-lugger, the Courier offers a load space of 2.4m3 and a payload of 660kg, although the Ecoboost’s weight limit is 10kg shy of this.

A full-height, full- width steel bulkhead comes as standard, either glazed or unglazed, but a handy option is the folding mesh alternative that, for £200, includes a folding passenger seat and cage that folds around the driver to extend load length by nearly a metre to 2591mm. Six tie-down points, including four wall-mounted ones to keep the load floor clear, are included in the load area that will swallow a Europallet.

The 95hp 1.6-litre diesel engine is the most efficient in the line-up, turning in an impressive and class- leading 70.6mpg on the combined cycle, according to Ford. An optional stop-start system boosts economy by an extra 3.7mpg.

There’s a £600 step from Base to Trend specification, with that extra cost adding wheel covers for the 15-inch steel wheels, front fog lights, body- coloured wing mirrors and door handles, single side-load door, auto lights and wipers, electric heated door mirrors, eight-way adjustable driver’s seat with lumber support, an overhead stowage shelf, trip computer, and stowage drawer under the driver’s seat.

The Base model does, however, get Bluetooth, DAB radio, central locking, four-way adjustable driver’s seat and manual windows. Items from the options list include rear parking sensors (£150), a load floor cover (£30), air-conditioning (£400) and 15-inch alloy wheels
for £300. The Courier’s efficiency, interior quality, style and practicality means it justifiably retains the Small Van Award.

Did you know?

At £11,145, the Courier powered by the 1.0 litre Ecoboost petrol engine is £400 cheaper than the entry-level diesel van

Highly Commended: Vauxhall Corsavan

Vauxhall’s third generation Corsavan arrived in showrooms in March to prove that there is still mileage left in the tank for traditional car-derived vans. Far more sophisticated than its predecessor, the new Corsavan is priced from £10,995 to £13,695 compared to the previous line-up that went from £10,920 to £12, 295.

All engines in the Corsavan are Euro6 compliant and for the next three years, under the current 6.1 regulation, the diesel drivetrains, which all come with stop/start, do not require the Adblue exhaust additive to meet the requirement.

The flagship Sportive trim gets air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, sports seats, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and cruise control with a speed limiter function. It will appeal to customers looking for an engaging drive as well as a little load lugger. The Sportive gets a six-speed manual gearbox, while the rest of the range makes do with five.