Why buy a bigger van than you really need? If all you ever do is haul around a tool box, a step ladder and a folder full of documents, then there's not much point in investing in a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter or a Volkswagen Crafter. You might just as well buy yourself a light commercial based on a small hatchback car instead.
Pursue that route and you start to enjoy all sorts of advantages. Little vans are fuel-frugal, easy to park and can be locked in your garage overnight for a bit of extra security.
Most garages can maintain them — after all, the technology they employ is virtually identical to the technology employed by the car they're derived from — and service and repair costs are relatively modest. Look after them and they fetch a good price on the second-hand market too.
Nor do small vans suffer from cramped cabs. You'll typically find that the cab is surprisingly roomy and has at least some of the creature comforts demanded by today's drivers.
One of the latest little vans to break cover is Vauxhall's new and stylish-looking Corsavan.
Based on the three-door Corsa car, it's powered either by an 80 bhp 1.2-litre Twinport petrol engine or a 1.3-litre 75 bhp CDTi diesel. They're identical to the units found in the newcomer's passenger car stablemate.
We elected to sample the 16-valve four-cylinder common rail diesel on the grounds that it's likely to be by far and away the most popular choice among customers.
Fitted with a variable geometry turbocharger and an intercooler, it produces its maximum output at 4,000rpm. Peak torque of 126 lb/ft makes its presence felt across a wide 1,750rpm-to-2,500rpm plateau and the engine is married to a five-speed manual gearbox.
Independent suspension using MacPherson struts is fitted at the front along with an anti-roll bar, while the rear features progressive-rate mini-block coil springs. Corsavan sits on steel 14in wheels — in our case shod with Goodyear GT3 185/70 R14 tyres — graced by attractive plastic covers.
Ventilated discs provide the stopping power at the sharp end, while drums handle the task at the back. ABS comes as standard — the brake lights flash when it's activated — along with EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) and EBA (Emergency Brake Assist).
The package also includes Cornering Brake Control and Straight Line Stability Control. The former makes the vehicle easier to control if you have to brake sharply half-way into a bend, says Vauxhall, while the latter helps keep you pointing in the right direction under heavy braking.
Add to all that Drag Torque Control. It helps maintain stability if you suddenly take your foot off the accelerator. That lot ought to help keep even the most foolhardy of drivers out of trouble.
Rack and pinion steering is employed with variable rate electric power assistance. It offers a 10.1m turning circle between kerbs.
Top payload is 550kg — more than Corsavan's predecessor offered — and our compact load-lugger could tow a braked trailer grossing at 985kg. The towing capacity would have been 20kg higher if it wasn't for the fact that our Corsavan was fitted with air conditioning, which adds a bit more to the vehicle's weight. Doesn't affect the payload, however, which seems strange.
Access to Corsavan's 0.9m3 cargo bay — slightly less space than was available in the previous Corsavan — is by means of a top-hinged rear door complete with a heated window fitted with a wash/wipe system. It opens to reveal a load area that's 1,257mm long, an improvement on the old model, and 924mm high, again more than the previous model could muster.
Maximum width is 1,264mm, narrowing to 969mm between the wheel boxes; less than provided by old Corsavan in both cases. At 691mm, maximum loading height is down although there's still a lip over which cargo has to be manoeuvred.
The tailgate aperture is 980mm wide (narrower than before) and 650mm high (higher than before).
Good to see that the interior is so well defended against minor scratches and scrapes. Plastic panels protect the sides to half their height and neatly encase the wheel boxes while an extra £75 buys you a tailored rubber mat that covers the purpose-built load bed. All prices quoted here exclude VAT.
Four floor-mounted load tie-down points are provided and our demonstrator boasted a half-height steel bulkhead to stop unsecured items sliding forwards into the cab. It was additionally equipped with a £75 four-piece removable cargo cover to frustrate prying eyes.
The full size spare wheel sits in a well beneath the floor. While that's good news from the security viewpoint, it also means that you'll have to unload your vehicle to get at it if you have a flat tyre; and you can guarantee it will be raining.
There's only a limited amount of oddment storage space in Corsavan's roomier-than-you-might-expect cab.
Each of the doors boasts a two-tier bin, with the bottom lid playing host to a moulding that will accommodate a cup or a can. You'll find two more cup-holders in front of the gearstick — one of which plays host to the removable and soon-to-be-made-redundant ash tray — another one to the rear of the handbrake lever and yet another on the inner face of the glovebox lid. Maybe Vauxhall thinks that Corsavan drivers are tea addicts.
The glovebox, incidentally, is so miniscule that it's barely worth bothering with, but at least the inside of the lid also features trays for your pens.
Don't forget that there's a storage tray under the passenger seat and a document pocket in the driver's sun visor.
You pay extra to be able to adjust the height of the seat and the steering column, which seems a bit mean. Both facilities are included in a £85 Plus Pack and help you achieve one of the most comfortable driving positions you're ever going to enjoy in a vehicle of this size.
Electrically adjustable exterior mirrors come as standard — with ours heated for an extra £75 — but it seems odd in this day and age to be charged £85 extra for electric windows.
It's not so surprising to be charged extra for air conditioning on a van, although we suspect it will become a standard feature at some point during the next few years. It's an extra £555 and money well spent with the weather getting delightfully warmer.
The van's base price includes a radio/CD player and a driver's airbag; the passenger airbag is a £285 extra. It also includes a fancy gold-coloured surround for the controls on the centre of the dashboard that produces an irritating reflection in the windscreen.
In a neat touch, the driver can set a speed above which an audible warning sounds. Every van on the market should have this praiseworthy device.
There's no lack of performance from Vauxhall's diesel and the gearchange is glitch-free. The little van hums along fairly quietly and rides well too for a vehicle of its size.
We can't learn to love the electric power steering, however. So far as we're concerned it does the handling no favours at all, leaving the driver feeling disconnected from the road.
The net result is either too much steering input when you're heading into a bend, or too little.
What we can learn to love is the vehicle's amazing fuel economy. We averaged an impressively frugal 56.0mpg.
Remote central locking with deadlocks comes as standard and Corsavan is protected from minor exterior damage by side-rubbing strips. Reversing sensors (£225) stopped us backing into anything and damaging the metallic paint (£285) along with the bodywork.
A three year/60,000 mile warranty is included in the price, with no mileage limit in the first year. You get a roadside rescue and recovery package for the first 12 months too.
The body is covered by a six year anti-perforation warranty and service intervals are set at 20,000 miles.
Well put-together and astonishingly frugal, Vauxhall's Corsavan is a useful little package. It doesn't lack performance, offers a decent ride and gearchange, and the roomy cab isn't a bad place to spend the working day. While it's not designed to shift large quantities of cargo, it's surprising just how much you can cram into the load area. On the downside electric power assistance — something we're all going to have to learn to live with, alas — rather spoils the handling and the cab suffers from one or two limitations. Being asked to pay extra just so you can adjust the height of the seat is ridiculous in today's market. Corsavan's fuel economy more than outweighs such drawbacks, however, and that makes Vauxhall's new baby a winner.