Low running costs are crucial for van operators and choosing the most economical van possible is a big part of that. With the high mileages that commercial vehicle operators typically cover, getting a few extra mpg out of your van can make a massive difference - a fact that today’s van manufacturers are only too aware of.
That’s why modern light commercial vehicles include much of the advanced fuel saving technology we’re used to seeing in passenger cars. Advanced aerodynamics, the latest common-rail diesel engines, high-tech automatic gearboxes and stop/start systems all help boost the fuel efficiency of the latest car-derived vans, small vans and panel vans.
The van market as a whole has made great strides in terms of improving economy and lowering emissions but which are the most economical vans currently on sale?
We’ve crunched the available combined cycle fuel economy data and pinpointed the most economical vans in each market sector below. You might find the results surprising...
Vauxhall Corsavan 1.3 CDTi 95ps ecoFLEX start/stop – 85.6mpg
Ford Fiesta 1.6 TDCi ECOnetic – 85.6mpg
Ford and Vauxhall have been battling out at the top of the van sales charts for years and the old enemies are at it again, vying for the most economical car-derived van crown. The Vauxhall Corsavan in 1.3 CDTi ecoFLEX guise is neck-and-neck with the Ford Fiesta van in ECOnetic trim, which uses a 1.6-litre TDCi engine.
There might be nothing to choose between the two supermini-based models on fuel economy, with each returning an outstanding 85.6mpg on the combined cycle, but we’d recommend the sharp handling, well appointed Fiesta van over the aging Corsa.
Ford Transit Courier 1.6 TDCi – 70.6mpg
The smallest model in the Ford Transit van range is also the most economical. The Transit Courier is capable of 70.6mpg on the combined cycle and that’s enough to edge out the Peugeot Bipper, Fiat Fiorino Cargo and Citroen Nemo triplets which all return an identical 68.9mpg.
These vans might lack the carrying capacity to meet the needs of most operators but they’re well suited to the task of carrying small loads in an urban setting. The automatic gearbox in the Bipper, Fiorino and Nemo, which are all built on the same platform, is actually more economical than the manual and is perfect for stop-start city traffic.
Mercedes Vito 116 CDI BlueEfficiency - 49.6mpg
The new Mercedes Vito does a remarkable job of mixing power and efficienct with its 116 CDI model offering 161bhp and 49.6mpg. You need to specify the optional BlueEfficiency pack to access those kind of returns but it's still a remarkable showing from the second most powerful van in the range.
Vauxhall's latest Vivaro comes a close second with 47.9mpg combined cycle economy. The van uses Vauxhall's new twin-turbo 1.6-litre engine with Start/Stop technology and ecoFLEX aerodynamic modifications to achieve its impressive figures.
Hot on the heels of the Vivaro is its Renault Trafic sister vehicle with a 46.3mpg showing. Then there's the Ford Transit Custom ECOnetic and the Volkswagen Transporter BlueMotion, which both manage 44.8mpg.
Fiat Ducato 130 Multijet II L1H1 Stop&Start - 45.6mpg
Ford’s domination of our most economical van round-up is halted by the latest Fiat Ducato and its impressive 2.3-litre Multijet II diesel engine. The full-size Ford Transit can return 44.1mpg on the combined cycle in its smallest, most efficient guise but the Ducato chips in with 45.6mpg. That’s some achievement for a large panel van and if you're thinking that means the Ducato's Peugeot Boxer and Citroen Relay sister vehicles manage the same economy feats, think again. The French contingent don't share the Ducato's 2.3-litre engine.