Four light vans to look out for in 2017

Date: Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Citroen Berlingo

Facelifted in 2015, the Berlingo is not the most sophisticated light van but it is a competent and frugal load lugger, with the load bay accessed via twin rear doors and a nearside sliding door.

It is available in two panel van lengths, three trim levels, and with XTR+ enhanced traction, and as an electric van, a crew van and a platform cab. It is also up for grabs with stop/start, manual five- and six-speed gearboxes and Citroen’s ETG6 semi-auto transmission. All vans get Teletrac Smartnav satnav and Trackstar stolen vehicle tracking as standard.

Unfortunately, the handling is light years away from the slickness of the Ford Transit Connect, while the steering is a little slack compared with the precision available elsewhere. Likewise, the five-speed gearbox isn’t a match for the best-in-class.

The dash is no-frills but functional, with the controls well laid out and easy to use. However, the driving position leaves a lot to be desired, and there’s not enough space to sit on the middle seat. Finally, storage provision is good and there’s a handy box under that central seat, but none of the glove box compartments are big enough for the handbook

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Ford Transit Connect

The Ford comes with a 1.6-litre diesel engine and three power outputs: 75hp, 95hp or 115hp. It is also marketed as a 100hp 1.0-litre Ecoboost petrol, and Econetic, Double Cab-in-Van and Kombi models are available too.

In 95hp LWB in Trend spec there’s no lack of head or shoulder room behind the wheel, although there is a touch too much engine and tyre noise in the cab, and the middle seat is microscopic. That seat can turn into a desk, however.

Access to the cargo box is via a single, sliding, nearside door plus opaque twin rear doors. The Connect comes with an unglazed, full-height, steel bulkhead that bulges into the cargo area, creating more room for the seats but stealing cargo space. 8ft×4ft sheets can still fit, though. The cargo box’s best feature is the load-through facility in the bulkhead, which extends the cargo bed for long items.

With plenty of torque on offer low down the rev range, the Connect digs in nicely up inclines when heavily laden. Top-end performance isn’t an issue either, although we missed a sixth gear on motorways. But the gear change is slick, and the handling acceptable.

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Nissan E-NV200

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

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Renault Kangoo

What Van? tested the Kangoo in 2016, sampling a 90hp 1.5-litre diesel ML19 Energy dCi 90 model in Business+ spec. Its five-speed gearbox offered a slick, quick, change, although there were times on the motorway when a sixth gear would have been nice, nor did we have any complaints about the performance.

It was a lively, eager van even with weight in the back and offered a surprisingly good ride combined with 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. Access to our van’s 3.0m3 cargo bay was via a sliding door on each side plus twin, glazed, asymmetric back doors.

All Kangoos come with a full-height steel bulkhead, a DAB radio 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 LWB Maxi with a 4.0m3 load area, and both can be ordered in electric Z.E guise.

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