The Ford Transit Custom & Vauxhall Vivaro medium vans are 2 of the most popular light commercial vehicles available to lease & our customers often ask us which one we think is best. That's why we asked Vanarama Van Expert Tom Roberts to put them head to head in his latest van comparison blog.
I know what a lot of you might be thinking: how can you compare the Ford Transit Custom - the UK's best-selling medium van - with the Vauxhall Vivaro & call it a fair fight? Well, it's a good question, but my answer is equally good (although I would say that). While the Ford Transit Custom is the best-selling medium van in the UK, the Vauxhall Vivaro is MADE in the UK & the latest version of it is the best version by far.
Medium vans occupy a special place in the UK's van market - they're the most plentiful type of van on the roads used by fleets & sole operators alike - so comparing 2 of the best is a task I don't take lightly. A medium van must feel light on its wheels - even while carrying well over 1000kg in the back - & be as comfortable to drive as a car. It must look good too, while being tough & durable enough to cope with the many demands commercial vehicle drivers throw at their vehicles.
With all that in mind, especially when it comes to comparing the Vauxhall Vivaro & Ford Transit Custom, I promise that this will be a fair fight.
External Looks & Trim
Let's kick off with the new-look Vauxhall Vivaro, which is one of my favourite-looking vans on the market right now. It is available as either a standard panel van, double cab & other platform cab variants. Users get a choice of 4 trim levels – Edition, Dynamic, Sportive & Elite - each one offering progressively more options. The Dynamic trim level gets front fog lights, front cornering lights & wheel trims added to the basic external look of the vehicle. The Sportive trim level kicks things up a notch with body-coloured bumpers, a sweeping chrome grille, LED daytime running lights (DRLs) & metallic paint options. At the top of the trim pile is Elite, which enhances any Vivaro's already outstanding good looks with imposing 17-inch alloy wheels.
The Ford Transit Custom is instantly recognisable - largely thanks to its unrivalled position as the best-selling van in the UK. It's available in standard panel van & double cab variants with 4 main trim levels to choose from - Leader, Trend, Limited & Sport - & 2 new configuration trims called Active & Trail. The Trend trim level improves on the basic level by adding LED DRLs, body-coloured front bumpers, front fog lights & wheel trims. The Limited trim level adds more body-coloured side mouldings, a body-coloured rear bumper, a stylish chrome grille surround & 16-inch alloy wheels. Predictably, the Sport trim level is completely made over with the 'Sport Styling Kit', which includes wheel arch extensions & skirts, racing stripes & your choice of 17-inch or 18-inch alloy wheels.
Tom's Winner: Dead heat. They're both really good looking vehicles (even at the lowest trim levels) & just get better looking as you move up through the trim levels. The new Vivaro is now a better-looking vehicle than its previous generations & the Ford Transit Custom continues to look incredibly modern despite being nearly a decade old. Choosing between them is too close to call.
Here's where things start to get interesting. The Vauxhall Vivaro is currently available with a choice of either 1.5-litre or 2.0-litre diesel engines in various power outputs. The 1.5-litre engines are available in either 100PS or 120PS versions, & the 2.0-litre engines are available in 120PS, 150PS & 180PS versions - all engines are Euro 6D TEMP (6.2) emission standard meaning they're the cleanest available to-date. If you want it, you can choose an automatic version of the top engines mated to an excellent 8-Speed automatic gearbox & you could even opt for a fully-electric eVivaro. There's quite a lot of choice here.
Meanwhile, the Ford Transit Custom continues to rock its excellent 2.0-litre EcoBlue diesel engine - available in 105PS, 130PS, 170PS & 185PS outputs - which has a deserved reputation as one of the most efficient & cost-effective engines in the medium van sector. All engine outputs sit in the Euro 6C emission class, with Ford's well-known 6-Speed 'SelectShift' automatic transmission option available as an option. Petrol Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) & Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle (MHEV) versions are also available, if that's more your flavour.
Tom's Winner: Ford Transit Custom. While the Vivaro is packing Euro 6.2 engines, the Transit Custom's EcoBlue engines are incredibly cost-effective powerhouses. If the engines were an island on their own, the Vivaro's might have won, but I have to rate them as part of the overall package, so this win goes to the Transit Custom.
In The Cabin
The cabin is often where a modern commercial vehicle gets chosen - so let's start with what the Vauxhall Vivaro offers drivers. Starting from the Dynamic trim level, Vivaro interiors benefit from a 7-inch colour screen infotainment system with DAB radio, Bluetooth, USB connectivity & Apple Carplay/Android Auto. While cruise control is standard across the entire range, the Dynamic trim level & above features air conditioning, auto wipers & lights, & useful parking sensors. At the Sportive trim levels, drivers gain a fold-flat centre seat backrest with a writing surface - one of my favourite features in a modern van, but on the Vivaro you have to opt for a high trim level to get it. The Elite trim level adds the driver assistance pack, which includes lane keeping assist, speed sign recognition & a driver drowsiness system that monitors road use to detect whether a driver needs to stop for a rest. The Elite trim level also adds sat-nav & semi-adaptive cruise control. What a range of choice!
Meanwhile, the Ford Transit Custom features a 4.2-inch infotainment screen on Leader trim levels & above featuring DAB radio & Bluetooth connectivity. The higher trim levels upgrade the infotainment package to Ford's excellent SYNC3 system & its 8-inch touch screen with FordPass Connect telematics that increases the driver's control of the vehicle. The Trend trim level adds cruise control, front & rear parking sensors, & a heated windscreen to the vehicle. Limited trim level & above also feature air conditioning & heated seats - perfect for all-round climate control. At the top of the pile, the Sport trim level adds part-leather seats, lane keeping alert & the all-important rear-view camera. What I love the most, however, is that all models benefit from numerous areas for cabin storage, including under-seat storage beneath the passenger seat, while Trend trim level & above get a fold-out table on the central passenger seat. Again, there's a lot to think about here.
Tom's Winner: Ford Transit Custom. There's a lot to like in each vehicle, but the Ford Transit Custom's cabin is probably the best on the market. When you list it all out, the Vivaro looks like it's got more to offer, but when you sit in the front of a Ford Transit Custom you realise that it's the one that understands where to put everything. That's not to say the Vivaro isn't comfortable, however, it's just that I feel Ford has used its knowledge of creating excellent car interiors (& translating that into a van cabin) better than Vauxhall.
The Loading Bays
In the standard van models, the Vauxhall Vivaro is available in 2 body lengths (L1 & L2), 3 gross vehicle masses & 1 height option. The dimensions for each are as follows:
L1: 2.51m internal length, 1.39m maximum interior height, 5.3 cubic metres of cargo volume, payloads ranging from 975kg to 1458kg depending on the chosen engine size & 6 lashing points.
L2: 2.86m internal length, 1.39m maximum interior height, 6.1 cubic metres of cargo volume, payloads ranging from 1060kg to 1450kg depending on the chosen engine size & 8 lashing points.
With the Vivaro, you're also looking at a 3 Euro Pallet maximum capacity, twin side loading doors & a twin rear door with an optional tailgate. The handy load-through option (basically a fold-down gap in the bulkhead) allows drivers to carry certain longer materials by increasing a small sentient of the loading bay's length to up to 4.02m.
The Ford Transit Custom van models are also available in 2 body lengths (L1 & L2), 2 heights (H1 & H2), & 5 gross vehicle masses. The dimensions for the 2 lengths & 2 height options are as follows:
L1: 2.55m internal length, H1 internal height of 1.4m or H2 internal height of 1.77m, 6.0 cubic metres of cargo volume in the H1 model or 7.2 cubic metres in the H2 model, & payloads ranging from 695kg to 1469kg depending on height option & engine chosen.
L2: 2.92m internal length, H1 internal height of 1.4m or H2 internal height of 1.77m, 6.8 cubic metres of cargo volume in the H1 model or 8.3 cubic metres in the H2 model, & payloads ranging from 861kg to 1417kg depending on height option & engine chosen.
Like the Vivaro, the Transit Custom also has a 3 Euro Pallet maximum capacity, just the one side load door & standard twin rear door arrangement, with an optional tailgate available. The Transit Custom also has a load-through feature in the bulkhead, but it only extends the loading length to up to 3.4m. However, unlike the Vivaro, it does feature side-mounted cargo lashing points & if you opt for the Trend trim level & up you also get an easy-clean floor covering… which is nice.
Tom's Winner: Vauxhall Vivaro. 2 sliding doors & the huge length extension offered by the bulkhead load-through put the Vivaro in first place. Both vans excel in the loading bay, but the Vivaro scrapes this win by being an all-round more easily accessible space. The Transit Custom won't shed any tears over this loss, however, because its height options & higher maximum payload are big ticks in its box.
For me, these 2 vans epitomise the UK medium van sector - the Vivaro is an all-new version of a much-loved van built right here in the UK, while the Transit Custom is the latest iteration of the UK's best-selling van overall. They are both excellent in their own rights & have found equally devoted audiences.
That I have rated them in 4 major areas should not sway your choice between them - when you experience what each one has to offer you'll instinctively know which one is your perfect match. Will you choose the UK's best-selling van or the young upstart nipping at its heels? I'm excited to find out.
If you enjoyed this article, check out the lease deals on Ford Transit Customs & Vauxhall Vivaros, OR why not take a look at another medium van comparison article featuring the Toyota Proace & Mercedes-Benz Vito?