Renault Kangoo van long-term test: report 1

The Kangoo has always stood for value in the small van sector, but does the latest version also offer car-like comfort and refinement? Our photographer is living with one to find out...

Renault Kangoo van side

The car Renault Kangoo Advance Panel Van ML19 dCi 115 Run by Max Edleston, photographer

Why it's here The Kangoo is our reigning champion in the Small Van market, but how will it fare as a photographer’s apprentice?

Needs to Have space for all our snapper’s photography gear, be comfortable on big journeys, and function as a mobile office when needed

Mileage 540 List price £26,785 Target Price £26,785 Price as tested £29,735 Test economy 51.2 mpg Official fuel economy 50.4mpg Options Advanced Lane Keep assist £660, Active Emergency Brake £540, rear parking Camera £450, Blind Spot Intervention £420, 360-degree parking sensors £300, plastic side panels in load area £250, Wooden load area flooring £210, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System £120

20 March 2023 – The internship begins

As I write this, Britain’s best small van is sitting on my driveway – and I can say that with conviction, because the vehicle in question is a Renault Kangoo.

You see, the latest Kangoo, which is wider and longer than the previous-generation model, won the small van class at What Car?'s 2023 Van and Commercial Vehicle Awards. It was praised for having lots of storage space, as well as being comfortable, good to drive and, thanks to a range of efficient engines, inexpensive to run.

For me, though, the proof will be in the running – and that's why, for the next few months, the Kangoo will be my apprentice. I'll be a very demanding master as I find out whether it makes the grade as a high-mileage photographer's workhorse.

Renault Kangoo Van LT dashboard

So far, it's been a bit of a swot. It's one of the most spacious small vans available, and can swallow all my cameras, lenses, lights, ladders, laptops and other tools of the trade with ease. The side-opening door means I can access it all without having to lean in through the rear, and the wood and plastic-panelled load bay means I won’t have to worry about small scuffs and scratches caused by my flight cases of gear.

My engine options were either a 99bhp 1.3-litre petrol, or three variants of a 1.5-litre diesel, producing 74bhp, 94bhp and 113bhp respectively. Given the mega miles I tend to cover each month, I chose the most powerful diesel option, badged Blue DCi 115. Why? Well, there are two main reasons...

Firstly, I wanted as much pulling power as possible, because experience tells me it makes a big difference when I'm travelling fully loaded. Secondly, the engine I picked comes with a seven-speed automatic gearbox as standard – meaning no clutch-pedal strain on my left knee.

I've already covered several hundred miles in my new van, and so far I’ve had all the power I need. It's also proving efficient. I’m easily managing 50mpg or so on most journeys, which means less stopping for fuel and, mercifully, gives my credit card a breather.

Renault Kangoo van with doors open

There are niggles, though. The engine can be rather vocal when it’s working hard, letting more noise and vibrations into the interior of the Kangoo than in the Citroën Berlingo I ran previously. And while the automatic gearbox works well most of the time, there’s a noticeable delay when I ask for a blast of power out of busy junctions.

I’ll be spending lots of time in the Kangoo, so I'm really glad the driver’s seat is easy to adjust. There’s precious little lower lumbar support though, and time will tell whether I start complaining of back pain after longer trips.

I’m certainly enjoying the amount of space there is for my odds and ends around the cab. Whether it’s under the bench or inside one of the many cubby spaces, my wallet, keys, memory cards, chargers and plethora of snacks have all found homes.

What about keeping me connected with my colleagues when I’m out and about? Well, my Kangoo comes with an 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring, so I can use WhatsApp and other apps on the move.

Renault Kangoo front storage tray

My Advance Kangoo comes fully loaded with kit as standard, but the options list for a new van was too tempting to pass over. I’ve added a rear-view camera and sensors to help me park, plus lane-keeping assistance and a blind-spot monitoring system to help take some of the stress out of motorway journeys.

We’re off to a fine start, then, but the Kangoo’s challenges have only just begun. In my company it will face long journeys, some off road, and some in the biting conditions of a British winter. It must keep me and my kit warm and dry, and keep its driver alert and engaged enough to emerge at the end of a long trip relaxed and ready to work.

It’s a tall order, but if there’s one van that could manage the task, surely it’s our small van champion. After all, our awards only go to the best of the best.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

Read our full Renault Kangoo review >>

Read about more long-term test cars >>

Buy a new car with What Car?

Like the sound of the Renault Kangoo, or any other new car?

If so, make sure you visit our New Car Buying section, because we could potentially save you thousands, thanks to our network of What Car? approved dealers.

They use our Target Price discounts as the basis for their savings. Target Price is the price we think you should pay based on research by our team of mystery shoppers.

Also consider