Should I buy a petrol van?

With current concerns about diesel rumbling on, is now the time to buy a petrol-powered van?

Volkswagen Caddy - side

Recent sales figures in the new car market indicate that diesel engines are falling out of favour with buyers. But if you need a van, then surely you're stuck with diesel power? That's not necessarily so, as manufacturers are putting petrol-powered vans on sale in the UK.

It used to be the case that if you wanted a petrol-powered van, your only option would be to choose a base-spec, car-based van, and even then these were few and far between. Today, that's still largely the case, because you can't buy petrol versions of big-sellers like the Ford Transit, Renault Trafic or Vauxhall Vivaro. And if you're looking at larger models like the Mercedes Sprinter and Citroen Relay, diesel is the only option on offer. However there are signs that petrol power is starting to creep into the van market.

Leading the petrol van movement is Volkswagen. With the fallout from the Dieselgate emissions scandal still hanging over it, the company is pursuing alternative fuels for all of its models. And one path it has gone down is the addition of petrol engines to its Caddy and T6 Transporter vans.

The Caddy now uses 1.2, 1.0 and 1.4 TSI petrol engines. The two larger capacity units are ones that have been used in the Caddy and Caddy Maxi for a while, but the 1.0 TSI three-cylinder turbo is new, after already appearing in the up! and Golf earlier in 2016/17. The 1.0 TSI comes in 102PS form, and is matched by a 2.0 TDI diesel with the same output. In comparison, the petrol model is £1,000 less than the diesel, but claimed economy is 51.4mpg, compared to 60.1mpg for the TDI.

In the T6 Transporter, it's the firm's ubiquitous 2.0 TSI 150PS engine that's being used. This unit is used in a vast number of VW models in a variety of power outputs, but the 148bhp version is the most commonplace. Again, like the Caddy, there's a 2.0 TDI 150PS diesel that directly matches the petrol, and like the Caddy, the TSI has a £1,000 lower list price. But again, economy of 31mpg for the petrol compares to 47.1mpg for the TDI diesel.

So what do these two examples tell us? Well, if you're a high mileage van driver, then it won't be long before you recoup the extra cost of the diesel variants in fuel saved - although VW has fitted its petrol vans with a slightly larger fuel tank to balance out the difference in driving range. But if you use a van regularly in town on short trips, it could be well worth searching out a petrol model to help reduce local pollution at the very least. You'll also be getting a van that should be smoother to drive and quieter.

Pulling power shouldn't be an issue with one of these newer turbo petrol engines, either. They're quite diesel-like in their power delivery, with torque coming in at low revs for hauling heavier loads. To compare, the 2.0 TSI 150PS has 280Nm of torque compared to 340Nm for the 2.0 TDI 150PS, which in real-world driving won't feel much different.

Tax costs

In terms of business and road tax, there's no difference in the tax costs of petrol and diesel vans. The flat rate of commercial vehicle tax applies to all conventional drive systems, so Benefit In Kind is £3,230 per year, and road tax is £240, and that's the same if you go for a plug-in hybrid CV like the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Commercial.

Other alternatives

If you really don't want a diesel van, your options aren't just limited to petrol. There are a few electric vans (EVs) on sale that would be suitable for companies and businesses that do numerous short trips and have the facility to charge the vehicle up whenever it's parked. And as a stop-gap, Mitsubishi offers its Outlander PHEV SUV in Commercial guise, too.

Here's a list of the vans and light commercial vehicles that are currently on sale in the UK with a power source other than diesel:

Our sister site Buyacar has listed the best petrol vans on sale here... 

Recommended

Cheapest vans on sale 2020
Vans

Cheapest vans on sale 2020

Businesses need vans to do the job without costing an arm or a leg. The UK’s cheapest vans should fulfil both criteria...
25 Sep 2020
Long wheelbase vans: payloads, licences and how to choose one
Vans

Long wheelbase vans: payloads, licences and how to choose one

If you want to carry a lot of cargo in your van, a long wheelbase model could be just the ticket, we explain all...
22 Sep 2020
Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian X: long-term test review
Long-term tests

Mitsubishi L200 Barbarian X: long-term test review

Third report: Does our Mitsubishi L200 pick-up live up to its predecessors?
10 Sep 2020
New Volkswagen Caddy California officially unveiled
Vans

New Volkswagen Caddy California officially unveiled

Volkswagen has launched the dinky Caddy California campervan – and it’s loaded with clever space-saving technology
4 Sep 2020

Most Popular

New 2021 BMW M3 launched with huge grille and 503bhp
BMW 3 Series M3 Coupe

New 2021 BMW M3 launched with huge grille and 503bhp

The new sixth-generation BMW M3 Competition saloon gets a 503bhp straight-six engine and four-wheel-drive
22 Sep 2020
New 2020 Volkswagen ID.4 electric SUV revealed with up to 323 miles of range
Volkswagen ID.4

New 2020 Volkswagen ID.4 electric SUV revealed with up to 323 miles of range

The new Tiguan-sized Volkswagen ID.4 electric SUV becomes VW’s second ID. model, rivalling the Tesla Model Y
23 Sep 2020
New Range Rover Velar PHEV launched with 33-mile electric range
Land Rover Range Rover Velar

New Range Rover Velar PHEV launched with 33-mile electric range

Land Rover has given the Range Rover Velar an update, with a new plug-in hybrid powertrain and an improved infotainment system
23 Sep 2020