Medium vans are a common sight on the UK's roads thanks to their practicality - they're not too big or hard to drive & can carry heavy payloads. But who wants to go scouring through brochures looking for numbers when a simple top 5 list of medium van payloads is easier to read? Vanarama Van Expert Tom Roberts has got you covered.
Medium vans get better with every generation & today's are some of the most refined light commercial vehicles ever created. They have better cabins, sharper looks & more efficient engines than ever before… but all of that would mean nothing if their payloads hadn't improved too.
Here's a fact: the smaller a medium van is, the higher its payload will be. Sounds wrong, doesn't it? It's not. Like most of life's more interesting things, it all comes down to maths ("interesting" might be overstating it slightly). The simplest way to work out a vehicle's payload is as follows:
Take the van's Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW - the maximum permissible weight of a vehicle) & subtract its unladen weight (e.g. how much it weighs with no cargo, no passengers & no fuel).
From that figure, most manufacturers will then subtract the weight of 2 people (driver & passenger at around 85kg per person) & around 100kgs for a full tank of fuel.
What's left is the vehicle's maximum payload.
Therefore, the less an unladen van weighs & the higher its GVW is, the higher its maximum payload will be - I told you it was interesting (this is the same reason why some small vans have such high payloads too). So, with the maths out of the way, let's take a look at the top 5 medium van payloads & the vehicles that can carry them.
1. Ford Transit Custom 340 L1H1 - 1469KG
The familiar face at the top of the pack is the Ford Transit Custom - the UK's best-selling van overall. It sells so well that if you made a list of all the best-selling vehicles (cars, vans, trucks, etc) in the UK, the Ford Transit Custom would sit comfortably in the top 5. This should come as no surprise when you consider how affordable, reliable & efficient the Transit Custom is as a working vehicle.
The particular model above is capable of carrying the most weight in the entire medium van sector - a stonking 1469kg. You'll notice that this version is the L1H1 Ford Transit Custom - the smallest version available with a load volume of 6 cubic metres & a maximum internal length of just over 2.5m. It's loading bay is accessible by the twin doors & single side slider you'll find on all vehicles in the range & features plenty of lashing/bungee points to help you secure awkward items in place. The power houses under the bonnet are the excellent 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engines - the 130PS & 170PS versions of which will net you a vehicle capable of carrying the top-whack payload.
For many people, their search for a new van starts with the Ford Transit Custom & for many of them, that's where it ends.
2. Citroen Dispatch M1400, Peugeot Expert Standard 1400, Toyota Proace Medium, Vauxhall Vivaro L1 3100 - 1458KG
The PSA Group has never hidden its intentions - yes, it wants a healthy market share, but never at the expense of the brands under its belt (Citroen, Peugeot & Vauxhall are the PSA Group companies, Toyota are platform partners). Despite all 4 of the vans above sharing the same medium van platform (& therefore exhibiting several similarities) they all manage to be different & excellent medium vans.
All 4 vehicles above achieve the excellent payload of 1458kg (just 11kg less than the Ford Transit Custom) while still offering an internal loading length of just over 2.5m & the excellent accessibility of twin side doors! Their load volume is just 5.3 cubic metres at this payload - the lowest on this list - but I feel this is made up for by the huge range of options & trim levels available among these vans. Engine options are simple at this payload, pick one or other of the 120PS or 150PS power output versions & you'll be reet (as my friends from Barnsley say).
Other industry observers say that platform sharing blunts innovation & dilutes the offering in the van sector, but I've never agreed with that view. I believe it means manufacturers have to work harder to inject each van with its own identity. Each of these 4 vans is a testament to that hard work.
3. Volkswagen Transporter SWB T32 Startline 110PS - 1304KG
The Volkswagen Transporter has history - after all, it's the van that VW converts into the modern-day versions of the iconic Camper Van. It's also what I refer to as 'the other premium medium van' alongside the Mercedes-Benz Vito, but is by far my personal favourite of the 2. As tough & practical as it is good looking, the Transporter is a firm favourite of a number of professions, including audio-visual technicians, carpenters, plumbers & bands.
However, if you want this van with this payload, there's only one trim level, engine size & overall loading bay length to choose from - which saves you time. Load volume is a solid 5.8 cubic metres with an internal length of over 2.5m in this short wheelbase version. The loading bay is also easily accessible through twin doors at the back & one side door. The excellent 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine comes in one flavour at this payload (110PS), but with 250Nm of torque at your disposal you'll be laughing.
The latest version of the Transporter is by far the best we've seen on UK roads, simply because it's improved on previous versions in meaningful ways: better engines, nicer cabins & better trim options. It's probably the best-looking van on the market too… but that's just me.
4. Renault Trafic LL30 L2H1, Nissan NV300 1200 L2H1, Fiat Talento L2H1 - 1240KG to 1264KG
Well now, what do we have here? 3 more vans that share the same platform & can carry the same payload (or thereabouts). Fun fact - the Vauxhall Vivaro (before the PSA Group bought Vauxhall) used to be built on the same van platform as these vans. Why does that matter? Because I want you to know that these vans come from good stock - the previous version of the Vauxhall Vivaro was an incredibly popular van that sold in huge numbers, largely thanks to its practicality.
Pleasingly, a lot of what made the old Vivaro so popular is still found in the 3 vans that have retained its older platform. Each of these vans feature an excellent internal loading bay length of just under 3m, a load volume of exactly 6 cubic metres & robust 2.0-litre diesel engines under the bonnet.
They are the largest vans on this list & for some trades their physical size will be the major selling point. Their payloads may be a good 200kg lower than the Ford Transit Custom, but the space they offer in the back means that their users won't be phased one bit.
5. Mercedes-Benz Vito 110 / 114 L1 Progressive FWD - 818KG
The final van on this list is what I call 'the premium medium van' & that's simply because it has the famous 3-spoke badge on the front. The Mercedes-Benz Vito is beginning to show its age now, but that doesn't stop it being highly regarded by its operators. Sibling rivalries being what they are, it's the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter large van that makes the Vito look old - here's hoping Mercedes-Benz shares some of the Sprinter's cabin design & technology with the Vito soon!
Most notable is the sharp drop in payload between the vans sitting at number 4 on this list & the Vito - an enormous fall of more than 400kg! To achieve the payload listed above, this van's loading bay length is nearly 2.2m (the shortest on this list) & its loading volume is 5.5 cubic metres (the second smallest on this list). However, the loading bay is easily accessed by 2 side sliding doors & an enormous hatch-like rear door (which is a personal favourite).
Overall, while the Mercedes-Benz Vito could do with an update to bring it into line with the quality available from the larger Sprinter (although the all-electric version is a good start), this is still a good van to drive. If you want a bit of class & don't mind the smaller payload, you'll find the Vito to be a reliable choice.
The medium van sector is, in my opinion, the most varied category in the light commercial vehicle sector. The Ford Transit Custom's launch in 2012 changed everything by finally making vans comfortable to drive for reasonable money. Since then, it's been a race to make better medium vans even more affordable without compromising on the requirements they must fulfil - something Ford & the PSA Group in particular are very good at.
When it comes to choosing a medium van, my advice remains the same: check the specs, make sure the van works for you & your business, & you won't go wrong. Happy hunting.
Take a look at our top offers on medium vans