Best large vans 2020
Big loadspaces and decent road manners are order of the day for large van buyers. So, which one should you choose?...
Large vans make up around a third of the light commercial vehicles on the road and epitomise the phenomenon known as White Van Man.
Their large loadspaces mean they're used for a huge range of jobs, from parcel delivery through to construction. Most are sold as 3.5-tonne vans, the maximum weight of vehicle you can drive on a standard car license, but large vans can go as high as 7 tonnes.
Large vans tend to use fairly powerful engines with high torque outputs to help with towing and make easier work of driving off with a heavy load.
Here’s our list of the top-six large vans to consider - and one that should be avoided for now.
6. Citroën Relay and Peugeot Boxer
These French siblings are known for their exceptionally high payload volumes, making them great vans for bodybuilders looking to convert them into application-specific vehicles such as tippers, Luton vans and dropside vans, as well as motorhomes.
It was powered until mid-2019 by a 2.0-litre engine; new versions use a 2.2-litre unit. This change was made in order to meet new emissions regulations and has made the Relay and Boxer two of the most efficient large vans.
They also have plenty of in-cab storage, so they’re an ideal choice if you like to keep a lot of stuff close to hand. Their loadspaces are similarly practical and, while the longest versions don’t quite match their rivals, there’s plenty of scope for carrying large loads across a broad range of body sizes and roof heights.
5. Fiat Ducato
Although based on the Relay and Boxer, the Fiat Ducato stands out by having its own range of engines. Fiat has often done this with its shared-platform light commercial vehicles, and it really helps differentiate the brand's vans.
The front grille is different as well, but the interior is dominated by the same dashboard from the 2016 model, albeit modified at the time to meet Fiat’s tastes, with smart-looking piano black finishes.
As with the Relay and Boxer, payloads are the biggest in the class, and the Ducato has the enviable title of being Europe’s most sought after chassis for motorhomes.
4. Renault Master, Nissan NV400 and Vauxhall Movano
Big vans need to have high payloads and plenty of storage space, and this trio of vans from Renault, Nissan and Vauxhall certainly delivers on that front.
The 2.3-litre engine is another highlight, improving greatly on the efficiency of the old unit. As well as a small power bump, it's much less polluting; we’d recommend the 147bhp version, because it strikes the best balance between performance and economy.
Even if you go through the finer details, you won’t find much difference between the three vans; all have recently undergone a makeover to make the interior neater and plusher-feeling. The central dashboard area is dominated by a screen for the infotainment system, but we'd recommend upgrading to get a rear-view camera as well.
When you think of vans, you think of the Ford Transit. It’s what Hoover was to vacuum cleaners - and with good reason.
The Transit offers the most variety of any van on sale, covering weight categories from 2.9 tonnes to 4.7 tonnes, with reports of a 5.5-tonne model on the way. You can get single or twin rear wheels, front, rear or four-wheel drive, and there so many body lengths and roof heights that it makes your head spin.
It's not only versatile but also capable. Payloads range from well in excess of one tonne up to 2.2 tonnes. Other vans have larger load volumes, but the Transit makes up for it with faultless driving manners and an interior that wouldn’t feel too out of place in a car.
There’s loads of in-cab storage too, while smart safety systems such as adaptive cruise control and pedestrian detection make it one of the safest on the market.
2. Mercedes Sprinter
There’s no doubting the Mercedes Sprinter has long been the van that everyone aspires to own. Premium badge aside, it's great to drive, has a first-class interior and features build quality of the highest order.
The range of engines mean you can find a model to suit all of your needs, while it also has more power than its closest rivals: the Transit and Volkswagen Crafter.
Over the years, the Sprinter has become known for its safety features, too, having pioneered Crosswind Assist (to stop you getting blown across the road), adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance.
The latest Sprinter is also lighter than its predecessors, and the front-wheel-drive versions (introduced in 2018) enable you to move up to 80kg more weight.
You’ll pay a pretty penny or two for a Sprinter, but you’ll get excellent quality for that, while its residual values should make the extra initial outlay worthwhile.
1. Volkswagen Crafter and MAN TGE
Volkswagen went to some pretty extreme lengths to make its own van after a deal to borrow the underpinnings of the Sprinter expired. The result, £1.5 billion of research and development later, was the latest Crafter, which is also sold by MAN as the TGE.
All that money was certainly well spent, because the Crafter immediately won the International Van of the Year title in 2017 and catapulted itself to the top of most wish lists.
It has a refined 2.0-litre engine and is available with front, rear or four-wheel drive. The interior has been ergonomically designed to make it as comfortable and relaxing as possible, plus it's practical, with plenty of storage and space for passengers.
The Crafter also has one of the biggest load carriers in the segment, with an enormous 18.4m3 possible from the very largest models. Then there’s the safety equipment, which is second to none, with effective yet unobtrusive lane-keeping assistance, rear traffic assistance (to get you safely out of parking bays) and side assistance (to prevent you turning too sharply and damaging the van's sides).
Overall, it's the most complete van on the market.
One to avoid...
The first model from LDV since it came under Chinese ownership isn’t a great endorsement of what the historic British brand could become. Cheap and relatively cheerful it might be, but the engine and driveline are the only redeeming features of what is a very basic large van.
Its price means it competes with second-hand vans more than it does new ones, making it an interesting proposition for the price-sensitive, but there are few creature comforts, a rough ride, vague steering and styling from a bygone era.
Promisingly, however, new LDV products, including the V80’s replacement and the smaller EV30 electric city van, look to be a vast improvement.
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