The best vans on the market right now

When the top three brands have more than half of all LCV sales in the country, it doesn’t make it easy for the rest, but in the current rising market there is still significant business to be done for those seriously in the van business, writes Brian Byrne

‘Van’ being the operative word here. There’s also a wide scatter of lesser sales in car-derived vans and SUV-derived commercial vehicles, plus the not insignificant pickup market.

Those top three in the first four months of 2016 are Ford, with a whopping 26.7% market share of the nearly 16,000 LCVs registered; followed by Volkswagen (17%); and Renault (12.2%). Filling out the top ten are Toyota, Peugeot, Citroen, Opel, Land Rover, Nissan and Mercedes-Benz, between them registering 28.6% of the total sales to date.

There are a number of reasons why any manufacturer will score high in the extremely competitive light commercials business. Price competition is one, probably the one that keeps them all honest.

But there’s also the matter of models and segments variety, a key underpinning of why Ford and Volkswagen rank so high. Ford in particular has a van for everyone in the buyer audience, so to speak, and it shows. Then there’s brand loyalty, maybe not as important as it used to be, but it does help to make those top three spin at the higher revs.

The dealer network is critical. Again why Ford through to Toyota have all managed sales in four figures to date, and the rest have done a steep falloff from the magic 1,000 units benchmark (Peugeot might well have breached it too, except that they’ve been waiting for a couple of new generation versions).

In models terms, Ford’s long lead is exemplified by the fact that it has no less than three vehicles in the top ten registrations to date. The venerable Transit nameplate (50 years old last year) still on top with 12% of all sales, followed by the Transit Connect with 8.5%, then Volkswagen’s iconic Caddy with 6.8% of registrations.

After them in fairly close clumping are Renault’s Trafic, Toyota’s Land Cruiser Commercial, Renault’s Master, the Peugeot Partner, the Citroen Berlingo, Land Rover’s Discovery Commercial, and Ford’s Kuga Van.

That there are two large and one compact SUV commercials in that top ten tells its own story of how important that particular segment is in the Irish market context.

Vans companies have loads of good news

LARGE VAN

  • Ford Transit: Top seller in its segment in Ireland for longer than competitors can bear to think about, Transit has a strong design and the widest range of sizes, powertrains, and variants. Payloads 917-2,281kg, power from 2.2 diesels. Prices begin at €23,600.
  • Renault Master: Renault’s big van has a range of lengths, wheelbases, and heights that make it a worthy consideration for many different potential buyers. This generation has an RWD version also, extending the range of applications. Payloads 1030-2,134kg, a 2.3 diesel in several powers, and priced from €21,400.
  • LDV V80: Back on the Irish market after several years’ absence, the LDV brand is represented by the V80, developed by the Chinese, SAIC owner of the original British company’s designs and technologies. The suppliers of key elements are world leaders, such as MV Motori, for the diesel engine, Hyundai, for the gearbox, and Bosch, for the fuel injection. Wheelbases and heights will fit a range of needs, and there’s a chassis cab. Payloads up to 1,419kg, a 2.5-diesel engine. POA, depending on version.
  • Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: Completely renewed in 2014, this big van, from the three-pointed star, follows the longstanding theme of quality, comfort, and rugged ability. There’s a vast range of technology options, too, including a side-wind control that really does work in gusty conditions. A truly strong range of payloads of 994-2,254kg. Power is from various outputs of a 2.3 diesel. Prices start at €29,579.
  • Volkswagen Crafter: In its current form, Crafter has reached its best position in terms of economy, style, and flexibility of sizes.

Long-distance work is its forte, and there’s full comfort for three, up front. Payloads between 838-1,438kg, 2.0 diesel power, and prices from €27,840.

MEDIUM VAN

  • Renault Trafic: The latest Trafic is offered in two lengths and two heights, as well as crew van, platform cab, and passenger versions. A proven, popular choice for individual or fleet operators. The payload ranges 1,079-1,269kg. Four engines are now available; variations on a super 1.6 diesel. Prices start from €21,995.
  • Volkswagen Transporter: An icon that is nevertheless modern, the latest generation of Transporter has rugged and frugal powertrains, and plenty of variety in length and height means the widest range of applications. Payloads between 1,171-1,331kg, and a 2.0 diesel for power. Prices from €24,575.
  • Opel Vivaro: The latest version of this solid-medium workhorse brought cabin and powertrain improvements. With two wheelbases and a brace of engines, there’s a version for most needs. Payloads 1,079-1,281kg. A refined and thrifty 1.6 diesel, along with the 2.0, and prices from €21,995.
  • Mercedes-Benz Vito: A well-respected workhorse, with excellent reliability and variant options, a new generation of the van was selected by the Irish Motoring Writers’ Association as the Continental Irish VOTY 2016, and includes a FWD version for the first time. Vito is designed to keep operators at their most efficient, and there are comfort and space upgrades. Payloads 870-1,345kg, and there are 1.6 and 2.2 diesel engines. Prices from €23,485.
  • Citroen Relay: New two years ago, Citroen’s big van comes with several wheelbase options, as well as three available lengths and a trio of heights. It is a very useful option for a variety of business and trade needs. A second sliding door is available, and room up in the operator’s place is as comfortable as in a large truck. The payloads range from 1,155-1,885kg, pulled by a 2.3 diesel, and prices start at €25,833.

SMALL VAN

  • Ford Transit Connect: This generation of the Transit Connect brought upgrades to utility, looks, and driver comfort. Exceptionally quiet. It comes with SWB and LWB versions, and a good driving position and high visibility are key features. It’s a sturdy machine, and a pleasant drive, too. Payloads from 1,004kg, power options 1.0, 1.6 petrol or 1.6 diesels, and priced from €15,800. Volkswagen Caddy: The reputation for reliability and cost-efficient running underpins this one’s enviable position. The sole-trading contractor looks first to Caddy, knowing that when it comes to changing, it will have held its value well. A new one came in September, with a payload capacity of 735-813kg, options of 1.6 or 2.0 diesels, the latter in Euro 6, and prices from €16,690.
  • Peugeot Partner Van:
  • Peugeot’s Partner van has upgraded looks, more efficient engines, as well as generous load capacities. Changes to the bumpers make it easier for repairs to be made after minor bumps. Available in two lengths. Payloads up to 750kg, with 1.6 diesels. Prices from €15,755.
  • Citroen Berlingo: One of the most respected compact vans in the business, known for its efficiency and reliability, has been reimagined. Folding passenger seat, choice of one or two sliding doors, and an automatic option. Powertrains are very well-regarded, and deservedly so. A 560-896kg payload range is part of its attraction. A 1.6 diesel is tough and thrifty, and prices start at €16,215.
  • Fiat Doblo Cargo: Distinctive style with a cargo capacity that’s cavernous in its segment. The operator gets an almost funky, but very drivable place. Tough and well-finished. There’s a seriously good payload range of 750-1,000kg. Engine choices are 1.3 and 1.6 diesels, and prices start at €16,990.
  • SUV Toyota Land Cruiser: Specification comes high, and it is an exceptionally comfortable, large SUV, with a global reputation bedded in the experience of people who often have to trust their lives to the toughness and reliability of the vehicle. Best seller in Ireland for a long time and available in SWB and LWB commercials. There are 2.8 and 3.0 diesels, automatics, and prices start at €39,785.
  • Land Rover Discovery: Discovery is one of the most distinctive and capable large SUVs. The commercial version is well-executed and the vehicle comes with all the off-road technology, which has put the brand to the forefront. The 3.0 diesel is smooth, rugged, and reliable. Prices from €59,960.
  • CDV Volkswagen Golf Van: The current version of the Golf Van is based on the Trendline grade, and comes with cabin comforts that include leather steering wheel, and a touch-screen infotainment system. The cargo-area finish is to the standard of all Golf cars. A business package upgrades the systems to Bluetooth, and adds cruise control. The payload is 575kg, while power is a 1.6 diesel. Prices from €20,195.
  • Toyota Auris Van: Toyota Ireland’s van version of its Auris in its five-door format makes it a very smart-looking van, indeed, while the operator’s area has all the comforts and conveniences of the passenger version. A payload of 575kg is generous. Power comes from a 1.4 diesel and prices are from €17,980.
  • Ford Fiesta Van: A substantially revised version of what was already a smart-looking car-derived van is now an even better image for the very small business. From the driver’s perspective, it doesn’t get better in the class, and the load capacity, of 485-508, is ample for most owners of this size van. Engine options are 1.25 petrol, and 1.5 or 1.6 diesels. Prices start at €14,870.
  • Please note that prices are a guide only; check with your supplier for showroom prices.


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