By Tom Roberts
You may have some serious volume and weight to carry but a big panel van like a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter or a Vauxhall Movano just seems like overkill. That’s where medium vans - the mainstay of businesses across Britain - really shine: they are smaller, easier to park, can often carry hefty loads of similar weights to large vans, and are (mostly) all now available in electric versions. So here’s Vanarama Van Expert Tom Roberts to take a look at the top 3 medium vans for payload and load volume available in EV and diesel fuel types.
Which Diesel-Powered Medium Vans Have The Highest Payloads?
Just before I kick this list off, in all these comparisons load length measurements will be taken at floor level and I’m not including any additional length that might be available using a load through bulkhead. With that said and done, let’s get going.
1) Ford Transit Custom L2H2
Unsurprisingly, Britain’s top-selling van (in some months it’s even been the biggest selling vehicle) makes the list. What I really like about this van is that unlike some previous high-roof vans (Volkswagen, what were you thinking?) the van was designed to look like that from scratch. It doesn't look like the roof has just been plonked on it.
With a load length of 2921mm and an internal height of 1778mm, you’ve got a total load volume of up to 8.3 cubic metres (cu/m) and, as Ford offers the Custom L2H2 right up to a GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass) of 3400kg, it packs a huge payload of up to 1406kgs.
2) Renault Trafic LH30
Renault’s van model names give a hint as to what might be on offer here. LH means Long and High, and 30 gives us a clue about the GVM of this stalwart of the medium van market. Renault is continuing to use the van originally launched in partnership with Vauxhall (and latterly Fiat and Nissan), whereas the British-built Vivaro is now of a later design shared with Stellantis vehicles (and Toyota).
The Trafic boasts 2937mm of length and 1898mm of height combining to give a load volume of 8.9 cu/m. The main weakness of the Trafic, however, is that its GVM of just 3,010kgs means that the payload is significantly lower than the Custom, but it’s still a very healthy 1032kgs.
3) Citroen Dispatch / Peugeot Expert / Toyota Proace / Fiat Scudo / Vauxhall Vivaro
OK, 2 things to mention here. Firstly, although these vans (with the exception of the Toyota) are produced by the Stellantis group and are fundamentally the same, there are some differences in model availability within the ranges. Secondly, there are no high-roof options but despite that these are serious load carriers.
Take the 3100kg GVM L2 model of the Vauxhall Vivaro - that load length of 2862mm is right up there with our other 2 contenders and, although the 1397mm of height is where it falls slightly short (haha), the Vivaro and its siblings still offer 6.1 cu/m of volume. Payload-wise, that works out to a maximum of up to 1,415kgs - more than many ‘big’ vans.
Which Diesel-Powered Medium Van Wins?
If you need volume over payload then the Renault Trafic is your van – it’s got the longest and highest loadspace which, unsurprisingly, gives it the edge in the cubic metres stakes. It’s not the biggest hitter when it comes down to payload - which is only a small knock to the ‘all-rounder’ badge it wears proudly.
If payload is what you’re after, then the Vivaro and its cousins have the edge but the lack of a high roof means that it won’t take as many parcels, cartons or whatever your load might be compared to the other 2 vans.
So, with a load volume just 0.6 cu/m less than the Renault, and a payload only 9kg lower than the Stellantis clan, the Ford Transit Custom has to be our overall winner. But don’t forget that many other factors come into play when you’re looking at leasing a new van, we’re only comparing load-carrying capabilities here.
Which Electric Medium Vans Have The Highest Payloads?
This list of electric vans was a little trickier to compile as there’s not that many medium-sized electric vans offering a ‘decent’ payload on the market. Which is why I’ve snuck a hybrid van onto the list - I think it’s a viable solution to those seeking a greener, quieter, more economical load carrier, but you be the judge.
1) Vauxhall Vivaro-e / Peugeot e-Expert / Citroen e Dispatch / Fiat e-Scudo L2
There’s a misconception that electric vans don’t have the same load-carrying capabilities as their diesel-engined counterparts. Myth 1: the batteries intrude into the load space (almost universally not true). Myth 2: the battery weight means that the payload is much less (I mean, it is, but not always hugely… as you’ll see).
Take the Vauxhall Vivaro-e as a prime example - the 6.1 cu/m of loadspace remains the same as the diesel engined van in our top 3, and the payload is only reduced to 1198kg (providing you opt for the 50kWh battery pack). But even if you do opt for the heavier 75kWh cells, you’ll still be able to carry 1002kgs.
2) Maxus eDeliver 3
Perhaps not the first brand to jump onto your shopping list, but don’t overlook the Chinese-manufactured Maxus eDeliver 3 - this van has a lot to offer. The long wheelbase version of this van is the one that earns it a spot on this list.
2770mm is an excellent load length and the internal height comes in at 1330mm. This combines to give a maximum load volume of 6.3 cu/m, almost identical to the Vauxhall Vivaro. The GVM of 2630kgs is on the low side, which is reflected in the maximum payload of 1020kgs with the lighter battery option. There’s no doubt that a higher GVM could put this at the top of our list for payload and, if you combine this with a high-roof conversion, the eDeliver 3 is a potential winner.
3) Ford Transit Custom PHEV Hybrid
Okay, I’ve cheated a bit here. The only other medium electric vans on offer just don’t have the payload or volume to tempt those who need a competent load carrier in the medium-sized van marketplace. However, the Custom Hybrid and its ‘range-extending’ technology is an interesting proposition.
The van is always driven on electric power and uses the engine as a generator to keep the batteries topped up with charge, and to provide electricity straight to the motor when required - the petrol engine never powers the van directly. If you want more proof of the concept, I drove 244 miles from Hemel Hemsptead to Bath and back again - see how I got on here.
The Custom PHEV is available in the long wheelbase high roof L2H2 guise, and Ford has also had the sense to offer it at the maximum 3400kgs GVM to optimise both payload and volume. You’ll get the same 8.3 cu/m of loadspace volume and up to 1343kgs of payload. Oh, and watch out for the all electric new Ford Transit Custom, due in late 2023. It could be a game changer.
Which Electric Medium Van Wins?
Can we include the Custom here even though it’s not fully-electric? I’ll let you decide, but if I’m allowed to, the Ford stands head and shoulders over the other 2 contenders in both volume and the ability to carry serious weight. If we’re only looking at 100% battery-powered vans, there’s not much between the Stellantis contenders and the Maxus, although the eDeliver 3 can’t quite compete in the payload stakes. They’re both very capable vans with individual strengths and definitely worth considering when choosing your new medium electric van.
Head on over to our medium van leasing page for the best deals on a new diesel-powered or electric medium vans with the ultimate load volume and payload.