Best van to buy in 2014

Ford transit centre
16 Jan, 2014 3:19pm Matt Rigby

What is the best van available in 2014? Here are our top 10 vans and pick-ups to help you decide

Finding the best van for your needs can be a daunting task. There’s simply so much choice, with a wide and often confusing range of body styles from a wide variety of commercial vehicle makers that it can be hard to sift through all the options. 

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But there’s sure to be a van out there that will suit your needs. And whether it’s a rugged go-anywhere pick-up truck you need, a compact delivery van or a long-distance load-lugger, chances are you’ll find something that fits the bill below in our list of the top 10 best vans.

Click on the links below to read our full in-depth review of each van.

Ford Transit Custom

Ford Transit Custom front tracking

The latest Ford Transit Custom combines all the load space and practicality you’d expect of a mid-sized van, with the impressive driving and performance we’ve become used to from Ford’s passenger cars. 

So as well as practical touches like a full-width steel bulkhead with a load-through facility, and long or short wheelbases, the 2.2-litre TDCi engine range offers up to 155bhp, up to 46.3mpg on Econetic models. The cabin is also impressively car-like, with options such as Bluetooth or DAB radio. The only downside is that the range doesn’t yet offer an automatic transmission. The Custom is so good, we named it as our 2013 Van of the Year.

Mercedes Sprinter

Mercedes Sprinter right side with window

No other large van comes close to matching the Mercedes Sprinter’s impressive breadth of talents - or its versatility. It’s available in nine different bodystyles on three wheelbases, four different body lengths and three roof heights. 

Power ranges from 95bhp to 190bhp, with up to 35mpg economy available from the smallest diesel versions, delivering a good mix of economy and motorway hauling ability. An impressive ride makes Sprinters popular with those who coover high mileages, while the famous badge and premium feel can add a sheen of professionalism for small businesses.

Isuzu D-Max

Isuzu D-Max front

The impressive Isuzu D-Max is our favourite pick-up truck, offering low running costs, a five-year warranty and a 3.5-tonne towing capacity. It’s also available in single cab or double cab configurations and offers a load capacity of just over 1,000kg, making it exempt from VAT if you’re registered.

The D-Max also feels marginally smaller than the Volkswagen Amarok or Ford Ranger - making it easier to manoeuvre in town - without losing out on load space and practicality compared with its rivals.

Ford Ranger

Ford Ranger front view with enclosed bed

Like the Isuzu D-Max, the Ford Ranger is a rugged pick-up truck with an impressive 3.5-tonne towing capacity. It’s available in single cab, super and double-cab guises, with either rear or four-wheel drive. 

The Ford Ranger also caters for both the working user and the lifestyle-oriented leisure buyer, with basic models offering few creature comforts, but top-spec version all the luxuries you’d expect of a luxury family car.

Only relatively poor fuel consumption compared with the D-Max and a short three-year warranty count against it.

Nissan Navara

Nissan Navara right side

The chunkily attractive Nissan Navara remains one of the best double-cab 4x4 pick-ups available on the market, even if it isn’t the cheapest. It’s also fantastically capable off-road - especially thanks to a low-ratio gearbox - and offers plenty of space both in the cab and the load bed.

Perhaps most impressive is the effortlessly powerful 231bhp 3.0-litre V6 diesel in the Outlaw model, especially combined with the smooth seven-speed automatic gearbox. It is expensive, though, at just over £30,000, and fuel economy from the big V6 isn’t the best.

Ford Transit

The Ford Transit is soon to be replaced - and perhaps about time, since this model can trace its roots back almost 15 years - but it’s still a deeply impressive and versatile van, offering a huge range of body styles and a choice of front, rear and even four-wheel drive. 

It also offers a fantastically versatile cabin, with all the storage space you could possibly need, and an enviable reputation for reliability, often beating rivals from Mercedes or Volkswagen in reliability surveys.

Vauxhall Movano

Vauxhall Movano left door open

The flexible Vauxhall Movano is one of the most versatile heavy vans on the market, with a gross vehicle weight ranging from 2,800kg right up to 4,500kg. It’s also available in four body lengths, three different heights and with 100bhp, 125bhp or 150bhp 2.3-litre diesel power. There’s even a full 17-seat minibus option available from the factory.

Just 150bhp is perhaps not enough power for a 4.5-tonne van, and its fuel economy isn’t the best in the class, but the six-way adjustable driver’s seat certainly makes it very comfortable for long journeys.

Volkswagen Crafter

Volkswagen Crafter left side door open

The big VW Crafter comes with a gross vehicle weight rating of 3,000kg, 3,500kg or a chunky 5,000kg, and shares its chassis and body shape with the Mercedes Sprinter. But VW uses its own 2.0-litre turbodiesel engines, with 109-163bhp. The most efficient of these offers up to 39.8mpg, with CO2 emissions of just 187g/km.

Inside, the Crafter is typically no-nonsense, with a durable hard-wearing feel to the materials in both. the cabin and the load space. There’s a lot of dark grey and black plastic, though, which can make the interior feel rather sombre.

Fiat Doblo Cargo

Fiat Doblo Cargo

The Fiat Doblo Cargo offers a wide range of interior sizes and body styles, with even the Work-Up pick-up available as an option - an unusual model in the mid-weight van market.  It’s also great to drive, offers up to 58mpg fuel economy, and offers secure, smooth handling thanks to independent rear suspension.

The only real downsides are the fact that stability control isn’t standard (it is on rivals from Ford, VW and Mercedes) and that the interior doesn’t feel as high quality as a Mercedes Citan’s.

Fiat Ducato

Fiat Ducato front

The big, boxy Fiat Ducato offers the best MPG and lowest running costs of any large van. Although its design is shared with the Peugeot Boxer and Citroen Relay, the Fiat uses its own range of engines - based on the 2.3 and 3.0-litre turbodiesels found in the Iveco Daily range. 

These offer between 110bhp and 148bhp in 2.3-litre guise and up to 177bhp in the 3.0-litre model. The van’s trump card is 40.9mpg economy, but long service intervals of 30,000 miles or every two years are also appealing.

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How can you call a FIat Doblo/Cargo one of the best vans to buy when they have been voted the most unreliable vehicles (along with Renault & Citroen) for the past 20 years?
They are absolute rubbish

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