Payload is often a deciding factor for someone who chooses to drive a particular small van & these days small vans can carry more weight than ever before. But don't go digging through spec lists to find out which ones carry the most weight, because Vanarama Van Expert Tom Roberts has ranked the UK's small vans by payload for you.
Small vans used to be so easy to recognise back when they were actually small. Nowadays, small vans can carry weights in excess of 1000kg (the same payload as a pickup truck) & have taken on the look of slightly scaled-down medium vans (I'm looking at you, Peugeot, Citroen & Vauxhall).
Payload is important to van users... but some van users want to drive a van with a small profile that is capable of carrying a hefty payload. If that's you, then start your search here & take a look at the top 5 payloads in the small van sector. Now, let's get cracking.
1. Fiat Doblo Cargo Maxi L2H1- 1005kg
The small van sector is filled with vehicles that are updated every 3 or 4 years, but the Fiat Doblo hasn't changed much since 2010! They say that if it ain't broke you shouldn't fix it & Fiat have never had a reason to fix anything about this version of the Doblo.
It's a well-designed van that boasts the highest payload in the sector (1005kg), loads of body style options & a physically larger-than-average loading bay at this payload (over 2m long & a 5 cubic metre load volume). It's also highly accessible with twin rear doors & a side door as standard on Maxi body style. There are even 3 choices of engine - the 1.3-litre diesel engine at 95PS, or a more powerful 1.6-litre diesel engine at 105PS & 120PS - which boast excellent MPGs across the board.
The only place the Doblo really shows its age is the cabin, which is looking very old fashioned these days. It's very functional with little concern for comfort (it even boasts a CD player…), but that's because it's a true relic of the times. In my opinion, the Doblo proves that functionality & practicality can keep a van selling, but eventually those attributes will be outpaced by better interiors & cabin technology.
2. Citroen Berlingo M1000, Peugeot Partner 1000 Standard, Vauxhall Combo L1 2300, Toyota Proace City Long - 1000kg
Yes, that's right - this is all 4 of the vans that use the PSA Group's small van platform. Essentially the same vehicle, but with brand-specific tweaks, these small vans have found big fans in fleet & trade users alike. While there are no height options on any of the PSA Group van platforms, these vehicles all boast large loading bays & high payloads.
All of these vans have a maximum load carrying volume of 3.3 cubic metres at this payload with a maximum internal loading bay length of over 1.8m (which is big for a small van). All PSA Group platform sharers come with twin rear doors & a single side load door as standard (with the reasonably-priced option of double side doors a must-have). Accessibility is just as important as a maximum payload & these vans understand that need.
Driving comfort & aesthetics are decided by trim levels - of which there are plenty to choose from on 4 vans. On the Combo Cargo you have 3 trim levels to tempt you, 4 on the Partner, 4 on the Berlingo & 3 trim levels on the Proace City - your head will swim with the amount of options each one adds. Finally, engine choices come down to 1 petrol engine outputting 100PS, three 1.5-litre diesel engines outputting 75PS, 100PS & 130PS (although the Proace City only gets the 75PS & 100PS engines). Basically, you'll find the perfect small van in there somewhere!
3. Ford Transit Connect 220L1 - 876kg
There was a moment in 2020 that I thought might be the beginning of the end for the Ford Transit Connect. In March, it slipped from being the best-selling small van to second place, beaten by the Peugeot Partner. But then I remembered that the Connect is a superb car-like, corner-hugging small van, while the Partner drives like a small medium van.
At the business end, the load volume for this payload maxes out at 2.9 cubic metres thanks to a maximum internal load length of over 1.7m. The Connect features twin rear doors & a single side door as standard, with 4 trim levels to choose from (this max payload example is based on the Leader trim level model - the more you know). Engine options come in the shape of 1 petrol engine outputting 100PS (if you really need a petrol engine) & 3 diesel engines outputting 75PS, 100PS and 120PS.
In my view, the Connect will never quit. It's just too good an all-rounder - practical, fun to drive, comfortable, good running costs - & available at excellent price points.
4. Renault Kangoo L3H1 & Nissan NV250 L2 - 800kg
Let's be frank, 1 of these vans (Kangoo) is getting old, while the other (NV250) is an updated version of a van that's getting old - but payloads of 800kg are excellent for these two golden oldies. These vehicles are another pair of platform sharers - meaning there's some differences, but not many.
At this payload, the maximum load volume of these vehicles is a whopping 4 cubic metres (the second largest on this list after the Fiat Doblo). Load length reaches a maximum of over 2.1m with twin rear doors & a single side door available as standard. There are 2 (pretty basic) trim levels available on the Kangoo & 3 on the NV250.
There's not a lot else to say about these two vans - they're what you could describe as 'solid performers'. Truth be told, they're just getting on a bit & are slowly being eclipsed by better vans available for the same or less money.
5. Volkswagen Caddy C20+ - 738kg
I think the VW Caddy is a great-looking van - it's true, I could stare at one for hours. Its engine grille looks ace with that big VW badge flanked by sleek headlights! Is it getting hot in here? Seriously though, the Caddy is an excellent small van that many regard as the premium choice in the sector - not the Mercedes-Benz Citan.
At this payload, the maximum load volume of 3.2 cubic metres is a welcome compromise against its lower payload & max internal length of over 1.7m. There are 2 wheelbase lengths to choose from in the range & 3 trim levels to choose from. Overall, the Caddy is still one of the most desirable vans out there - it's just you do have to pay a premium & make some compromises if you want to drive one!
Small vans have changed so much over the past decade that today's offering has barely anything in common with those from years past - except older vans like the Nissan NV250 & Renault Kangoo, obviously. Personally, I think we're spoiled for choice these days.
Payload is a deciding factor when you choose a new van, but make sure you take load volume into account too. Some of these small vans may be able to carry a lot of weight, but they can't fit physically big loads in their loading bays. My advice is to check the specs, check the weights & you won't go wrong.
Take a look at our top leasing offers on small vans or check out our expert roundup of the best small vans.