While 2020 has been a strange year, vans & pickup trucks are still being bought & leased. The people who use them - tradespeople, delivery drivers, cleaners & more - are keeping the UK's wheels turning, so now is an especially interesting time to find out from Vanarama's Tom Roberts which vans & pickup trucks are the top 10 best selling of 2020 so far.
At the beginning of the year, the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) were feeling confident that the UK's light commercial vehicle (LCV) market would see the registration of 348,000 vans in 2020. Now, with the Covid-19 outbreak locking the trade down, that figure has changed to 263,000.
However, I always feel confident. I believe the LCV market is tougher than others because vans & pickup trucks carry tradespeople to work, deliver shopping, transport cleaning crews & more. These people in their vans & trucks have kept the country going, so, let's dive into the SMMT's top 10 list & see what the backbone of the British economy is driving.
10. Vauxhall Combo
Cards on the table time… I'm a big fan of the PSA Group vans. Some people knock platform sharing, saying it dilutes innovation & makes manufacturers lazy. In fact, I think completely the opposite! I believe it makes manufacturers work harder to make sure each brand remains identifiable even while sharing so much & nowhere is that more obvious than in the Vauxhall Combo (which platform shares with the Peugeot Partner, Citroen Berlingo & the new Toyota Proace City).
It's capable of staggering payloads of nearly 1000kg & is available in 2 lengths with only 1 height option. If you need it, the longest of the wheelbases can even be converted into a crew van for up to 5 people. The trim levels - Edition, Sportive & LE Nav - add various comforts & tech additions including overload warnings, tractions control & more. Engine sizes centre on different power outputs from the same 1.5-litre Turbo D BlueInjection engine (76hp, 102hp & 130hp) with the option of a 1.2-litre PureTech 110hp petrol engine (if you like that sort of thing) - all are available as manual or auto.
The Peugeot Partner may be selling more right now, but the Combo has the Vauxhall badge - a sign of British quality that a lot of UK trades will find hard to ignore.
9. Ford Ranger
We're now 3 generations down the line with the Ford Ranger pickup truck & its appeal is still incredibly strong with personal & commercial users. Since the Ranger first launched in 2011, it's had a couple of new looks & refreshes, with the latest taking place in 2019. The last upgrade also saw the inclusion of the 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engines under the bonnet (the same ones you'll find in the Transit Custom & Transit vans) - good news for those users who like a bit of power with their fuel efficiency.
The new Ford Ranger is available in a Regular Cab, Super Cab & Double Cab bodies at a variety of trim levels - the most obvious starting at basic, to Limited with Wildtrak at the top - each one offering a step up in comfort & tech. The Wildtrak version used to feature an eye-watering 3.2-litre diesel engine, but this is being phased out in favour of simply a more powerful version of the 2.0-litre EcoBlue engine. This decision does nothing to impact the Ranger's excellent payload & 3.5-tonne towing capability. All engines are available in manual or auto - the 10-speed auto gearbox is a particular highlight!
In the top 10 commercial vehicle lists right now, there isn't another pickup truck in sight. That says everything you need to know about the Ford Ranger.
8. Citroen Berlingo
The Citroen Berlingo is a curious thing (it makes one man weep & another man sing (I'll stop that now). It looks like a scaled-down medium van but drives like a van half its weight & size. It's no wonder this little van is selling like hotcakes! It launched in 2019 to almost universal acclaim thanks to its engines, payloads & striking looks.
The Berlingo is available in 4 trim levels, starting with X (basic), then Enterprise, Worker & Driver. There are no height options, but 2 wheelbase lengths to choose from & the vehicle's maximum payload in the XL version (the longest) is 950kg with an unbraked towing weight of 680-750kg (which can extend up to 1200kg braked towing, depending on the version you choose). You have 3 choices of 1.5-litre diesel BlueHDi engines & 1 petrol engine, a 1.2-litre PureTech straight from the PSA Group car stable - all available in manual or auto.
When it launched, it was an island, seemingly the only van of its kind… then the Vauxhall Combo & Peugeot Partner arrived sharing the same platform as the Berlingo… & then the Toyota Proace City followed suit. Just goes to show how good the platform is, eh?
7. Volkswagen Transporter
Yes, there's a new T6.1 VW Transporter on the way, but 2015's T6 Transporter is the one racking up the sales right now & that's thanks to its high safety standards, comfort, user-friendliness & running costs. Take a look at the rest of this list… this is the third best-selling medium van in the UK, second only to the new Vauxhall Vivaro & Ford Transit Custom! Just as an aside, the T6.1 is confirmed to hit the UK this year, with orders being taken from June (although the Covid-19 outbreak may delay that).
The Transporter comes in 2 roof heights & 2 wheelbase lengths with payloads ranging from 700-1300kg depending on which combination you choose. The T6 is available in 4 trim levels - Startline, Trendline, Highline & Edition - with the usual steps up in tech & comfort that you see across the VW car ranges. The standard diesel engines are 2.0-litre TDIs that are the commercial user's choice, however you could previously opt for one of two choices of 2.0-litre petrol engines (very strange in the LCV marketplace) which have since been discontinued.
I always say that you pay a premium for the VW badge, but who cares when you're getting to sit behind the wheel of one of these? I'd choose this medium van every time.
6. Vauxhall Vivaro
It looks like another PSA Group platform sharing van has hit the top 10. This time it's the Vauxhall Vivaro, a medium van that shares the same platform as the Peugeot Expert, Citroen Dispatch & Toyota Proace. The same "platform sharing kills creativity" arguments could be levelled at this van, but it is a product of British manufacturing - the last bastion of true UK vans is made in Luton, just a short hop from Vanarama HQ!
The Vivaro's maximum load is over 1.4 tonnes, it's available in 2 wheelbase lengths with no height options, but the load through solutions are top notch. You get a choice of 2 power outputs of the same 1.5-litre diesel engine, or one of 3 power outputs in a 2.0-litre diesel engine - all but the highest are available in manual & auto - the electric version has been confirmed & hits the market later this year!
Having seen these vans being built first hand, I know what goes into them. They're excellent, tough & practical vans with payloads hovering just over 1450kg - thoroughly deserving of a top 10 spot this early in the year.
5. Ford Transit Connect
By March 2020, the unthinkable had happened… the Ford Transit Connect slipped from the top-selling small van to second behind the Peugeot Partner! But don't let that fool you, they're really very different beasts. The Connect is a car-like small van, while the Partner (up next) is a scaled down medium van.
The Connect's 2 body lengths are complemented by the frankly excellent 1.5-litre EcoBlue turbodiesel engines available in 3 outputs all mated to 6-speed manual or auto gearboxes. Cabin comfort is excellent with a fantastic interior enhanced across the 4 trim levels which top out with Sport (my personal favourite version). Payloads top off at 1000kg, a solid amount when you consider how sleek the Connect manages to look.
I'm a huge fan of Ford's commercial vehicles & the Connect is a big reason why. It's cost-effective, offers a lot of room, a lot of comfort & handles the road like a car. Great stuff!
4. Peugeot Partner
Like the UK's LCV market itself, this list is 40% PSA Group vans (such a topical joke) - but this is the last one you'll find in the top 10 so far in 2020… & isn't it funny that all 3 PSA Group small vans are in this list? A lot of the plus points I mentioned during the sections about the Citroen Berlingo & Vauxhall Combo apply here. But don't let that make you think it's just the same van - the cabin is where the Partner sets out its stall using the i-Cockpit layout you'll find in the manufacturer's car offering.
The engines are a familiar offering of 2 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesels & the PureTech petrol engine is also available - all are manual, apart from the top engine spec which can be mated to an 8-speed auto box. You've also got 2 body lengths to choose from - no height options - & 4 trim levels (I'd go for Professional or Asphalt, the 2 highest).
So, where do we finish this one & why are UK van operators choosing this one over the Vauxhall Combo or Citroen Berlingo? For me & many others, the Partner feels like the complete package because the cabin is the best of the bunch - it pushes the Partner out in front by a nose.
3. Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
The first of the 2 large vans on this list is the one most people are showering with praise - it is the most tech-filled van on the road right now & it's also very good at being a large van. The Sprinter ticks all the boxes & is creeping up on the Transit in sales figures faster than Ford would probably like. The only place you might find it wanting is payload, but we'll get to that.
Let's start with the engines - a choice of standard 2.1-litre turbo diesels in a few power outputs (so far so predictable), but at the top of the rear-wheel-drive version is a whopping great 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel engine which is incredible to drive. Payloads vary across the range from 879kg right up to 2600kg, but maximum payload at the 3.5t gross vehicle weight is 1516kg - competitive, not class leading.
But it's the cabin comfort & tech that sets the Sprinter apart from competition. When you consider that as standard you get keyless entry & start, the latest infotainment system with 7.0-inch touchscreen, DAB radio, Bluetooth, an awesome steering wheel with multifunction controls, a fully-functional communications module with 4G sim card that lets you use Mercedes Pro Connect & mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, electric power steering & automatic headlights, you know you're sitting in the new large van benchmark. The higher the trim you go for, the more you get. Phew… it's hard to sum this van up in 3 paragraphs!
2. Ford Transit
The Ford Transit is an icon, a whole segment of the market used to be named after it & a lot of people still use the generic term "transit van" to describe any large van on the road. Just because the Mercedes-Benz is nipping at its heels doesn't mean the Transit will soon depart - far from it, this van is still the go-to for the majority of operators because it's competitively priced & reliable.
Choose from 3 body lengths, 2 wheelbases & 2 roof heights to find your perfect Transit configuration - depending on which one you choose you'll find payloads start at just under 1000kg & top out at just under 1500kg. Engines come in the typical Ford 2.0-litre EcoBlue turbo diesels - all available as manual or auto mated to an excellent 6-speed auto box. The Transit drives like a heavy car & you'll feel comfortable in the excellent cabin - Ford understands how to make a user-friendly interior with the best cup holders on the market & so much storage you won't know what to do with it.
Right now, the Ford Transit offers the best large van experience for the best prices on the market. While the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter might offer more tech & the Merc trimmings, the Transit is a hard large van to beat.
1. Ford Transit Custom
Now we're at the top of the pile - the Ford Transit Customisn't just the best-selling medium van in the UK, it's the best-selling van in the UK. Personally, I rate the Custom highly for its looks, incredibly well thought out cabin, excellent engines & practical payloads. THIS is the all-round package & it has outsold its big brother - the Transit - by nearly 100% year-to-date in 2020.
Under the bonnet is Ford's excellent 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine that returns excellent running costs & a smooth drive to boot. Payloads are nearly class-topping with the smallest version capable of carrying 1459kg, just 10kg shy of the Citroen Dispatch & Peugeot Partner. Multiple trim levels, height & length options only add to the versatility of this magnificent medium van - even the most picky van operator will find a version that suits them - my advice would be to go for the Limited trim level (you get a range of tech & comfort options, alongside excellent external stylings including alloy wheels). Also, I've mentioned Ford's ability to make a class interior already, but the Custom features my personal favourite cabin in any van on the market right now - the cup holders are my all-time favourites.
This van succeeds in sales where others fail thanks to it being a competitively-priced all-round package deal. In my video review I say that for many people, the search for a medium van usually starts with the Ford Transit Custom… & for most people, once they've seen what the Custom can offer, that's where their search will end.
This list is based on the SMMT registration figures up to March 2020: https://www.smmt.co.uk/2020/04/uk-new-van-market-feels-covid-19-impact-as-registrations-halve-in-march/