2020 has been a complicated year, but at Vanarama we're always trying to make the complicated easy - especially when it comes to helping you find out which vans are the best on the market. That's why Vanarama Van Expert Tom Roberts has compiled a list of the top 5 vans of 2020 based on sales… so far.
Let me get this out the way first: how is it nearly 2021?! Going into 2020, it felt like the year was going to be complicated with new WLTP ratings coming into effect, FCA rulings on leasing finance & a volatile used van market. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a continuing & far-reaching effect on every corner of life, but for the LCV marketplace it feels like things are beginning to unlock.
Tradespeople need to keep working & the vast majority of them need a van to do their job. Registrations are a good indication of market confidence & while the 2020 figures may be lower than 2019, they're not as low as I predicted they might be back in March. In fact, they're quite a lot higher, as you'll see in the following round-up of the top 5 vans in the UK according to the SMMT's registration figures.
5) VW Transporter - 7,675 Registered (2020 YTD)
The VW Transporter blends a comfy interior with top safety standards, user-friendly controls & excellent running costs. This is the UK's third best-selling medium van with only the Vauxhall Vivaro & Ford Transit Custom perched above it! The brand-new T6.1 version is already proving a popular upgrade to this classic vehicle.
In terms of options, the Transporter is available with 2 roof heights & 2 wheelbase lengths. Payloads range from 700-1300kg depending on which version you choose. The trim levels feature the expected steps up in style & comfort that you'd expect - VW has learned a lot from its car ranges & the echoes can be felt in the Transporter. The diesel engines - 2.0-litre TDIs - are reliable & efficient. Petrol engines are no longer available (it was odd in the commercial vehicle world anyway), but the diesel engines are a far better option for the commercial user.
Considering it's multiple configurations, including camper vans & MPVs, I never expected the Transporter to drop out of the top 5. It's the 5th best-selling van in the UK & the nation's 3rd best-selling medium van even in troubled times - that's an incredibly positive position to be in.
4) Vauxhall Vivaro - 7,921 Registered (2020 YTD)
Pipping the VW Transporter to 4th place by just a few hundred registrations is the Vauxhall Vivaro. This medium van shares the same platform as its PSA Group brothers - the Peugeot Expert & Citroen Dispatch - & the Toyota Proace medium van.
The Vivaro's maximum payload of 1.4 tonnes is very nearly a class-leading weight - giving some far larger vans a run for their money. The Vivaro is available in 2 wheelbase lengths with a choice of 2 power outputs from its 1.5-litre diesel engine, or one of 3 power outputs on the 2.0-litre diesel engine (which is amazing fun to drive) - the electric version is now out but hard to find!
Finally, I've been to the manufacturing plant in Luton so I know they're built to last. The Vivaro is a tough hombre & I'd advise any van driver to check them out if they're looking to upgrade. The naysayers said the new Vauxhall Vivaro wouldn't sell well once it stopped being built on the Renault Trafic platform & transitioned over to the PSA Group's EMP2 medium van platform… what have they to say now?
3) Ford Transit - 11,460 Registered (2020 YTD)
The Ford Transit is so iconic they named a whole segment after it & people still use the term "transit van" to describe a large van. The latest version of the Transit is undoubtedly the best yet retaining everything a large van should have with Ford's unbelievably comfortable cabins.
Users can choose from 3 body lengths, 2 wheelbases & 2 roof heights to find a configuration that works. Payloads start at under 1000kg & max out at just under 1500kg. Ford's excellent 2.0-litre EcoBlue turbo diesels power this big beast of a van, meaning it drives like a slightly heavy car. Creature comforts are ever-present in the shape of storage, tasteful trim, infotainment technology & the best cup holders in the business.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter might be the big van on everyone's list right now, but the Transit has a reputation it more than lives up to. It's big, powerful & reliable… sounds to me like exactly the kind of van you'd want to drive in uncertain times.
2) Mercedes-Benz Sprinter - 14,184 Registered (2020 YTD)
In 2019, the Ford Transit & Mercedes-Benz Sprinter tussled for the number 2 spot in what seemed like a Batman-Joker-style fight that would never end… but the Sprinter is now over 2,500 registrations ahead. I won't split hairs - the Sprinter is an incredible van, a feat of modern LCV manufacturing & design. Gushy enough?
The standard 2.1-litre turbo diesel engines are available in several power outputs (which is great) but sitting proud at the top of the rear-wheel-drive versions is the incredible 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel engine. Payloads vary from 879kg to 2600kg, but in the 3.5-tonne sector, the max payload is just 1516kg - hardly class leading.
But it's the cabin that sets this vehicle apart… with keyless entry & start, an excellent infotainment system with 7.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, a 4G comms function & sim card that lets you use Mercedes Pro Connect, a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, automatic headlights & I could go on. I've barely scratched the surface, to be honest.
1) Ford Transit Custom - 21,955 Registered (2020 YTD)
Just look at that registrations to-date figure! Nearly 22,000 Ford Transit Customs have been registered to-date in the UK. I've made no secret of how highly I rate the Custom. This van is the best-seller because it's the best all-round package available for the most competitive prices. Simple economics.
Like its big brother, the Custom packs Ford's 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engines under the bonnet in a variety of power outputs. Its payloads are very nearly class-leading with the smallest version capable of carrying payloads of over 1459kg - that's only 10kg less than the Citroen Dispatch & Peugeot Partner. Several height & length options add to this van's multi-purpose all-rounder credibility. The Custom features my personal favourite cabin on the market - with the generous storage & cup holders being notable highlights.
I've no doubt in my mind that this van continues to sell so strongly because there's no other van on the market that does so much, so well, for such great prices. It really is as simple as that.
This might be the simplest conclusion that I've ever written for an article, so here goes. If you're looking for a new van, the top 5 is where you should start your search. Manufacturers & dealers don't register new vehicles if they don't think they'll sell. If they're confident, it's a good sign that you can be confident too.
If you want to know more about these vans check out our latest leasing offers.