May 2023 new van sales revealed: who were the winners and the losers?

The UK's new van market grew again in May, but which models were most popular among drivers?...

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Alasdair Rodden
Updated08 June 2023

Mercedes Sprinter 2021 in front of building

The number of new vans sold in the UK increased for the fifth consecutive month in May, according to official figures. The data shows that new van sales in May increased by 15.3% compared with the same month in 2022 – a sign that the semiconductor chip shortage, which had slowed production of new vans since 2020, is easing.

In total, 22,665 new vans left showrooms during May. Large vans were by far the most popular choice, with 17,173 being sold over the course of the month – an uplift of 8.3% compared with May last year. 

Second-most popular were medium vans, with sales increasing by 57.2% over the same period. By contrast, small van sales fell from 813 last May to 469 this year.

Pick-up trucks and commercial SUVs were both more popular this May than last, with 2959 of the former joining the roads (an increase of 13.3%) and 615 of the latter.

While diesel remains by far the most popular way to power a van, sales of electric vans increased by a greater proportion than those of diesel vans during May 2023. Over that time, 23,593 diesel vans and 1041 electric vans were sold, representing increases of 15.4% and 19.8% respectively compared with last May’s figures.

So, which models were the most popular with new van buyers in May? Below, we count down the UK’s top 10 best-sellers.


Peugeot Expert

The Peugeot Expert is one of the most economical and practical medium vans around, along with its sister vans, the Citroën DispatchToyota Proace. and Vauxhall Vivaro. As with those offerings, it’s available in a variety of lengths and with multiple engine options.

The BlueHDi 150 diesel engine is our favourite, because it offers punchy performance as well as good fuel economy, returning 41.3mpg in official tests.

If you prefer, a fully electric Peugeot e-Expert is also available in either standard or long wheelbase forms, with an official range of up to 143 miles from the standard 50kWh battery. This can be upgraded to a 75kWh battery, which offers a 205-mile range.

May sales 702


  • Comfort and handling
  • Wide choice of engines and sizes
  • Classy interior


  • Poor visibility
  • Needs bigger door mirrors
  • Added safety comes at a price

Volkswagen Transporter

The Transporter is a favourite among private buyers and small businesses alike because of its high resale values (and the resultant low leasing prices) and modest running costs.

Beyond that, it offers composed handling and brisk enough performance, even if you’re hauling the maximum payload. There’s even a sporty version (inspired by the VW Golf GTI hot hatch) that has more aggressive styling, a 201bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine and lowered suspension.

Inside, the Transporter features a few luxury touches, including a leather-wrapped steering wheel and pleasingly textured plastics, resulting in an interior that feels a cut above rivals'. The standard 6.5in infotainment screen is easy to get along with too.

May sales 760


  • Huge choice of variants
  • Modern safety aids and infotainment tech
  • Punchy and frugal 2.0 TDI 150 diesel


  • Basic entry-level model
  • Firm ride compared with some rivals
  • Top-end versions start to become very pricey

Renault Trafic

If you're looking to own your van rather than lease one, the Renault Trafic is a good option because of its low price, generous equipment and variety of engine options.

It comes with lots of safety kit, too, including automatic emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assistance. Renault also lets you add adaptive cruise control as an option, helping you to keep pace with the ebb and flow of traffic and easing driver workload on longer journeys.

You'll find less space to store your odds and ends in the Trafic than you would in some rivals, however, and its infotainment system can be frustratingly slow to respond.

May sales 846


  • Choice of engines to suit most needs
  • Greatly improved safety systems
  • Quiet interior


  • More interior storage needed
  • Slow-witted infotainment system

Peugeot Partner

The Peugeot Partner is a very versatile small van; the standard version has an excellent maximum volume and payload for its size, and Peugeot offers long wheelbase and high payload versions for those who want to carry even more stuff.

Its sister vans – the Citroën Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo – are just as practical, but the Partner sets itself apart with a more modern feeling interior.

For those who plan to use their Partner around town, we’d recommend the 99bhp BlueHDi 100 diesel engine for its balance of power and fuel economy. However, drivers doing more motorway journeys will be better off with the more powerful 128bhp BlueHDi 130 engine, with its six-speed manual gearbox (or optional eight-speed automatic).

May sales 1024


  • Economical engines
  • Fun to drive
  • Interesting and comfortable interior


  • Limited interior storage
  • Only a five-speed gearbox on lower-powered vans

Mercedes Sprinter

Fittingly, given its name, one of the key attractions of the Sprinter is its range of punchy engines, and there’s a version to suit almost everyone. 

The 143bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine is our preferred choice in the Sprinter, but if you'd rather go electric, there's also the Mercedes eSprinter, although that has a rather short official range (up to 95 miles).

The Sprinter shines when it comes to its interior; the materials used inside are nicer than most rivals offer. The plastics, for example, are soft and textured, and the 10.3in infotainment touchscreen you get on high-end versions looks suitably premium and is, for the most part, easy to get along with.

May sales 1215


  • Huge range of body styles
  • High-tech but user friendly infotainment
  • Improved fuel economy with front-wheel drive vans


  • Not the cheapest van to buy or run
  • Aggressive safety systems

Ford Ranger

The new Ford Ranger is the best all-round pick-up truck we've ever tested, outdoing all of its rivals including the closely related Volkswagen Amarok.

It’s very practical, even by pick-up truck standards; its cargo bay is large, its maximum payload high and its interior roomy. Thanks to the shared underpinnings, these qualities are also found in the Amarok, but unlike that pick-up the Ranger is available in a variety of body styles, allowing you to prioritise interior or load space to suit your needs.

On top of that, the new Ranger is also great to drive, with a range of gutsy engines and a settled ride.

May sales 1286


  • Big cargo bay with a high payload capacity
  • Space for four six-footers in Double Cab versions
  • Good to drive for a pick-up


  • Not the cheapest pick-up
  • Warranty could be better

Citroën Berlingo

The Citroën Berlingo is very closely related to the Peugeot Partner and Vauxhall Combo, but it’s hard to see where it fits into the family tree; it’s more expensive than the Vauxhall but misses out on the more eye-catching interior of the Peugeot.

Nevertheless, the Berlingo is still a very versatile small van; there are two wheelbase options to choose from, as well as a trio of diesel engines.

As is the case with its Peugeot sibling, the Berlingo’s BlueHDi 100 diesel engine is the best choice for urban driving, while the BlueHDi 130 engine is better suited to those doing lots of motorway miles.

May sales 1559


  • Great safety features
  • Fun to drive


  • Limited interior storage
  • Only a five-speed gearbox on lower-powered vans
  • Limited equipment on entry level versions

Vauxhall Vivaro

One of the few vans to be built in the UK as well as sold here, the Vivaro is based on the same underpinnings as the Citroën Dispatch and Peugeot Expert.

Don't think that sharing parts with other models makes the Vivaro any less practical, though. In fact, its maximum payload of 1458kg is impressive in the medium vans market. 

There are the usual petrol and diesel engines to choose from in the Vivaro, but there's also a fully electric Vauxhall Vivaro-e with an official range of up to 205 miles, which could be more than enough if your business is based mainly in town.

May sales 1694


  • Wide choice of engines
  • Comfortable ride
  • Huge payload capabilities


  • Cramped interior
  • Changes to loadspace dimensions

Ford Transit

The Transit became an icon of British roads because of its car-like handling and high load capacity, and the current model retains those qualities. It’s manoeuvrable enough for tight spaces, and the entry-level 103bhp engine has enough power unless you’re using the full 2200kg load capacity.

There's a version of the Transit to meet most needs, with seven body weights, optional four-wheel drive and a Ford E-Transit electric version. The E-Transit has a long electric range and all the practicality you'd expect – it's so good that we named it as our 2023 What Car? Van of the Year.

May sales 2221


  • Economical with lower CO2 emissions than before
  • New connectivity features
  • Higher payloads


  • No covered storage
  • Base trim quite sparse

Ford Transit Custom

No matter your medium van needs, the chances are that Ford makes a version of the Transit Custom to suit you. Whether you're looking for petrol, diesel, plug-in hybrid (PHEV) or – coming soon – electric power, this is a truly versatile van.

That versatility extends to the load space, too. The Transit Custom's maximum payload weight of up to 1459kg is higher than that of many other vans in its class, and the option to add a second side-loading door on most models means the space is easy to access.

The mid-range 128bhp diesel engine will officially return up to 40.9mpg, helped by mild hybrid technology that helps the engine out with gentle electrical assistance.

May sales 3323

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  • Improved fuel economy
  • Class-leading productivity
  • Great ride and handling


  • Needs a better automatic gearbox
  • Loadspace protection could be of a better quality
  • Plug-in hybrid is expensive to buy