Best large vans 2023
Big load spaces and decent road manners are the order of the day for buyers of large vans, but which ones should you choose and which are best avoided?...
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 load spaces 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 licence, but large vans can go as high as seven 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.
In this story, we'll reveal the best large vans to consider – and the one that should be avoided for now. If you'd rather cut straight to our winner, then the fully electric Ford E-Transit is the best large van you can buy.
Your large van questions answered
What is the biggest van in the UK?
In the large van market, nothing can match high-roof, long-wheelbase versions of the Mercedes Sprinter. In its largest form, this behemoth offers up to 17m3 of space inside, along with a payload capacity of 3175kg. In short, that's enough space to move just about anything you like. If you need more space than that, then you'll be looking at a lorry or Heavy Goods Vehicle. While the Sprinter impresses with its carrying capacity, however, it is out-matched in other areas which matter to large van drivers, including costs and safety tech. That's why it doesn't climb higher up our top 10 rankings.
Which is better, the Ford Transit or Fiat Ducato?
While both the Fiat Ducato and the Ford Transit appear on our top 10 list, we ultimately think the Transit is the better option. The Ducato has no shortage of space, and combines that practicality with a pleasant interior and steering which gives this large van surprising agility, which is handy on urban roads. Where the Transit takes the lead, however, is with a punchy range of engines and the fact that it comes with most of the kit you're going to want as standard. By contrast, once you've added a couple of options to the Ducato, it can become rather expensive.
What is the most reliable large van?
We don't measure the reliability of individual vans as part of the What Car? Reliability Survey, but in terms of brands making vans which appear on our top 10 large van rankings, Citroen was in 14th place out of 32 brands featured, while Fiat came in 15th position, and Peugeot ended in 21st place. Volkswagen ranked 22nd, with Renault just behind it in 23rd place. Mercedes and Vauxhall ranked in 24th position and 30th position respectively. Since MAN is purely a commercial vehicle manufacturer, it was not included in our Reliability Survey.
What is the largest van I can drive?
The size of van you can drive depends on your driving licence. Anyone with a full, B category driving licence can drive any van weighing up to 3500kg, while drivers with the older C1 licence can drive vans weighing up to 7500kg. Generally speaking, if you passed your driving test before 1 January 1997, you'll have the C1 licence.
1. Ford E-Transit
What Car? rating 5
For the first time, the best large van is also an electric one, because the Ford E-Transit really does offer the best of both worlds. With much of the same practicality and load space benefits as the regular Transit, plus the additional prospect of low running costs, it's the best all-rounder from both markets. You can officially travel for up to 196 miles between charges, and even enjoy your time behind the wheel, thanks to a classy interior and agile handling. And while you might think of electric vans as being expensive, the E-Transit costs less to buy than the rival Mercedes eSprinter and Renault Master E-Tech.
All things considered, it's no wonder we recently named the E-Transit as our overall Van of the Year for 2023.
For Staggering power | Attractive interior | Huge range of body types
Against May be too fast for fleets | High rear step | Two-stage brake regeneration takes time to get used to
Read our full Ford E-Transit review >>
2. Ford Transit
What Car? rating 5
Ford takes first and second place on this list, with second position going to the combustion-engined Transit. It's one of the best-selling vans in the UK with good reason, offering the most variety of any van on sale, and it's as capable as it is versatile. While other vans have larger load volumes – both the Mercedes Sprinter and Volkswagen Crafter can carry more – 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.
For Economical with lower C02 emissions than before | Connectivity features | High payload
Against No covered storage | Base trim quite sparse
Read our full Ford Transit review >>
3. Volkswagen Crafter
What Car? rating 4
Volkswagen went to extreme lengths to make its own van after a deal to borrow the underpinnings of the Mercedes Sprinter expired. The result, £1.5 billion of research and development later, was the latest Crafter. All that money was certainly well spent, because the Crafter is a very good large van. 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 occupants. The Crafter also has one of the biggest load areas in the segment, with an enormous 18.4m3 carrying capacity from the very largest models.
For Quiet and comfortable | Well thought out interior | Huge payload capacity
Against Fairly dull on the inside | Confusing height and size names
Read our full Volkswagen Crafter review >>
4. MAN TGE
What Car? rating 4
Being based on the Volkswagen Crafter further up this list, it's no surprise that the MAN TGE shares many of the same virtues as that van – namely, being comfortable if not overly inspiring to drive, as well as having enough space to haul just about anything you might wish. It's available in two wheelbase lengths, with three body lengths and three heights. If that weren't enough options to choose from, there are also multiple configurations possible for each of those variants, which can lead to some confusion in finding the best version to suit your needs.
Still, being primarily a truck manufacturer means that MAN is used to dealing with the out-of-hours needs of fleets, so you won't be caught short if something goes wrong.
For Comfortable | Lots of customisation options | After-hours dealer support
Against Fairly drab interior | Entry-level model is very basic | You'll have to make a lot of choices
Read our full MAN TGE review >>
5. Fiat Ducato
What Car? rating 4
Thanks to a mid-life update earlier this year, the Fiat Ducato is now better than ever. While still not quite troubling the class leaders, the latest Ducato is just as practical as the old model, but also sports an elegant interior design and is loaded with assistance kit to make the business of driving easier and safer. It's more comfortable than the Renault Master over long distances, and if you stick with entry-level versions can represent decent value for money. If you venture too far up the range, however, then the Ducato starts to look pricey.
For Large payload capacity | Elegant interior design | Comprehensive safety tech
Against Glitchy infotainment system | Unsettled rear suspension | Range-topping models are pricey
Read our full Fiat Ducato review >>
6. Vauxhall Movano
What Car? rating 3
There's more to love about the Vauxhall Movano than just its impressive ability to move lots of items from A to B; it's also good to drive, with a range of responsive engines and a commanding seating position that gives you a good view of the road ahead. And although it looks a little uninspiring inside, the quality of the materials used is decent enough and there's lots of storage space for your odds and ends. Plus, the Movano's updated 2.3-litre engine is more efficient than before, resulting in reduced running costs, with the best-performing models returning a healthy 32.2mpg according to official tests.
For Wide range of bodies and options | Excellent interior storage | Strong driving experience
Against Disappointing automatic gearbox | Biggest vans must be rear-wheel drive | Uninspiring inside
Read our full Vauxhall Movano review >>
7. Mercedes Sprinter
What Car? rating 3
There’s no doubting the Mercedes Sprinter has long been the van that everyone aspires to own, with a first-class interior and build quality of the highest order. The range of engines mean most drivers will find a version to suit those needs, while it feels more powerful than its large van rivals, including the Citroën Relay and Peugeot Boxer. However, the Sprinter is beginning to feel outclassed in the large van market, while its high price tag means running one is prohibitive for some businesses.
For Huge range of body styles | High-tech interior | Can be efficient
Against Expensive purchase price | Overly-aggressive safety tech
Read our full Mercedes Sprinter review >>
8. Renault Master
What Car? rating 3
The Master name has been around in the large van market for a long time, but while there's lots to like about Renault's largest van, it doesn't quite manage to live up to its badge. You see, while the Master impresses by offering a huge load space as well as a range of strong engines, it doesn't ride as well as some other vans here, and its automatic gearbox option is a bit dim-witted. It does come with a smart-looking interior that's loaded with kit, however, even on entry-level models. Plus, if you opt for the range-topping 178bhp 2.3-litre engine, you'll be surprised at just how nippy this large van can be, even when it's loaded down with people and luggage.
For Huge storage | Good to drive | Strong range of engines
Against Poor automatic gearbox option | Larger models are rear-wheel drive only
Read our full Renault Master review >>
9. Citroën Relay
What Car? rating 3
If you're looking for value in the large van market, then the Citroën Relay is worth considering. It's available in enough different forms to suit most buyers, and offers enough space to shift big loads. That alone might put it onto your shortlist, but we'd advise caution. You see, in crucial areas such as comfort and refinement, the Relay is lacking by modern standards. Most of its engines thrum away in the background, for example, and the gearshift is rather notchy, making long-distance journeys more of a chore than they need to be. Plus, there's no automatic gearbox option. The rival Ford Transit can carry slightly less than the Relay, but will be more comfortable and engaging for drivers.
For High payloads | Powerful and economical engine options
Against Looking dated | No automatic gearbox options
Read our full Citroën Relay review >>
10. Peugeot Boxer
What Car? rating 3
The Boxer and the Citroën Relay above are, essentially, the same van, which means they share many of the same attributes. Namely, that means it offers lots of space to move big loads for not very much money. Sadly, many of the Relay's shortcomings apply too, which means most large van rivals will be more comfortable – and quieter – over long distances, and the interior doesn't have a high level of perceived quality. The Boxer's 2.2-litre diesel engine is available in three forms, with range-topping models getting 163bhp.
For Big payload capacities | Wide range of body options | Punchy engines
Against Uninspiring interior | Below-par refinement
Read our full Peugeot Boxer review >>
And the large van to avoid...
What Car? rating 2
Despite being updated recently, the Iveco Daily falls behind in too many areas to be recommendable. While the latest Daily rides more smoothly than previous models, it also has a raised ride height which makes loading larger items into the rear trick. Plus, while it's spacious in the rear, in-cab storage is limited and the materials used feel rough and ready rather than luxurious.
For Good automatic gearbox | Wide range of body sizes and options | Long service intervals
Against Smaller payload than some rivals | Confusing range of options | Expensive compared with rivals
Read our full Iveco Daily review >>
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