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

Date: Friday, November 02, 2018

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

4 Dispatch

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 that matches its Peugeot Expert and Toyota Proace sisters.

All three were joint winners of the 2018 What Van? Medium Van of the Year award.

Power is provided by 1.6-litre (95hp or 115hp) or 2.0-litre (120hp, 150hp or 180hp) diesels.

We tried the 150hp M Blue HDi in the top Enterprise Plus trim, and with the help of stop/start – standard across the range – it boasts impressive official stats of 53.3mpg and 139g/km of CO2.

The engine delivers excellent acceleration, while a slick gear change from the six-speed manual transmission helps get the best out of the impressively responsive powertrain.

Cruise control is included across the range.

The ride is smooth and refined with little discomfort caused by uneven road surfaces, and wind and engine noise is not intrusive.

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

Sample model: Enterprise 2.0 M Blue HD1

Engine size    2.0-litre
Payload     1,484kg
Load volume    5.8m3
Combined mpg 53.3mpg
CO2    139g/km
Price (ex VAT) £21,769

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4Fiat

Fiat Professional Talento

Like the Nissan NV300 and Vauxhall Vivaro, the Talento is based on the Renault Trafic, but features cosmetic differences, such as a more horizontal design to the nose plus 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 mpg46.3mpg
CO2    160g/km
Price (ex VAT) £22,945

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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, features a completely new cabin.

It continues to come 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, and there’s a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) due in 2019.

A new 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 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.

The Transit Custom was also voted What Van? Used Van of the Year for 2018.

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) £29,590

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4merc -vito -front -3-4_500x 334

Mercedes-Benz Vito

The Vito comes in front- or rear-wheel drive alternatives and a variety of body styles including three lengths, one roof height, and panel van, crew van and passenger Tourer alternatives. There’s only one trim level, though.

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.
Kit levels are reasonable, with all Vitos having cruise control with speed limiter, trip computer, Bluetooth, and inputs for USB, aux and an SD memory card. The three seats have a welcoming feel, too, while the driving position is good, although the middle seat lacks legroom.

Where Mercedes does excel, is safety. The Vito gets crosswind assist, which joins, for example, attention assist, driver and passenger airbags, hill-start assist, adaptive ESP anti-skid control, and a tyre pressure monitoring system.

On the road the Vito is impressive. Refinement is fine, there’s a solid feel to the gearshift, and it’s a tidy-handling machine. Front- or rear-wheel drive are both composed and without criticism too.

Sample model: 116 2.1 CDi Compact

Engine size    2.1-litre
Payload    879kg
Load volume    5.8m3
Combined mpg47.1mpg
CO2    158g/km
Price (ex VAT) £23,315

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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 hatches 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, a decent standard of kit and technologically sophisticated 1.6-litre diesel engines.

Van drivers want a cab with 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.

To conclude, the Trafic is renowned both for the innovative features it has brought to the market and for its influence on the medium van sector, as it is also the basis for the Vauxhall Vivaro, Fiat Professional’s Talento and the NV300 from Nissan.

Sample model: 1.6dCi Business

Engine size    1.6-litre
Payload     1,235kg
Load volume    5.2m3
Combined mpg 43.5mpg
CO2    170g/km
Price (ex VAT) £22,430

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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, but it’s arguably not as pretty.

It also has two trim levels to the Trafic’s three, and with the French brand’s switchgear evident across the interior, the cabin doesn’t have the car-like quality of Ford’s Transit Custom. Kit levels are pretty good, though.

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 range covers two roof heights and two wheelbases, and two people-carrier variants, the Tourer Elite and Combi plus, are available.

Of the low-roof models, the 120hp bi-turbo is most efficient at an official 47.9mpg.

The bi-turbo engines are refined and punchy, and the 120hp version feels more powerful than it says on paper. Given its efficiency it should be the engine of choice.

The ride is comfortable without compromising body control, and only steering that’s a tad light compromises the package, although that turns into a plus in urban spaces.

Finally, Vauxhall is to build a new Vivaro at its Luton plant by 2019.

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) £21,190

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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.

VW has stepped up on safety, including having a post-collision braking system as 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.

In terms of cabin space, 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.

Meanwhile, VW’s decision to offer a petrol engine in the front-wheel drive Transporter makes the model unique in that none of the iconic van’s direct rivals feature petrol power.

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) £21,175



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