Published on Friday 31 July 2020 in Van News
Chances are that you're already driving your perfect van & if that's the case, good for you! What's clear is that 'the perfect van' is as much down to personal taste as it is about the vehicle being fit for purpose. That's why we've asked our resident van expert Tom Roberts to wade into the debate & build his perfect van from the vans available to lease from vanarama.com.
DISCLAIMER - The medium panel van Tom creates is not available to lease from Vanarama; it is a fantasy van that exists only in the weirder part of his brain.
There must be something in the water because I've seen tradespeople & van fans arguing on social media about what makes 'the perfect van'. The debates usually rage on until someone says "it's perfect for me, it does the job", then everyone agrees & goes their separate ways.
Well, I wanted in on the debate, so Vanarama set me a challenge: build my perfect medium panel van from bits & pieces of all the vans (whatever their size) available to lease on the vanarama.com website. Challenge accepted - let's get cracking.
On The Outside: Looks
I truly believe we're spoilt for choice in the medium van sector right now because there are very few vans I'd personally describe as being ugly. Some look perfectly functional & others look amazing, but there's one van that always gets my motor going.
Look, I make no secret about my love for the VW Transporter (especially the new T6.1), but when I start pulling it apart, I realise I love it for how it looks more than anything else. While I like the Ford Transit Custom's elegant lines, the sweeping curves of the Citroen Dispatch & even the snub-nosed front end of the Renault Trafic, the VW Transporter's aesthetics just speak to me.
I like that the Transporter looks similar to an SUV at the front & I really appreciate the boxy back end with the access hatch instead of doors. I'm not crazy about its engines or cabin, but its looks win out for me every time.
Tom's winner: The looks of the VW Transporter T6.1.
On The Inside: Cabin
The interior of a van is where a driver will spend most of their time, so it's important that it ticks all the boxes for storage, comfort, practicality & style. Again, right now we're spoilt for choice - cabins just keep getting better & better in vans. This is largely thanks to the major manufacturers learning lessons in cabins from their car lines & transferring the features that work to their vans.
That's why, if anyone has ever sat in the cabin of the latest Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, you'll know why I'm picking it for my perfect van. It's a masterpiece in how ergonomics, style, practicality & driver technology can be combined to make a wonderful environment for a driver. Everything works together in perfect harmony.
While there may be better cupholders in the Ford Transit & a better steering wheel in the Peugeot Boxer, the Sprinter's cabin is perfect because it is the sum of its parts. You can see what Mercedes-Benz has pulled over from its car lines & you can see what's been made specifically for the Sprinter - the company simply decided that a van can have a cabin as high-quality as a car & made it. It's perfect.
Tom's winner: The cabin of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
Under The Bonnet: Engine
Personally, there are clear winners & losers when it comes to engines. While no engine is so awful I wouldn't look at it, there are engines that have proven to be more reliable /cost-effective than others. Truth be told, if I could, I'd steal the 3.0-litre V6 engine from the current VW Amarok to shove in my dream van because it's so fun to drive, but I can't because it's from a pickup truck.
Therefore, I've got my sensible head on for this section. I need an engine that's reliable & cost-effective while being powerful enough to handle a decent payload. That's why my choice is Ford's excellent 2.0-litre EcoBlue turbodiesel engine from the Ford Transit Custom - specifically the 185hp version that offers drivers 415Nm of torque.
It's an astounding engine that offers drivers real cost-savings, reduced emissions & bags of power. It's responsive, relatively quiet & provides a smooth drive that makes you feel in control of the vehicle. Some people might be spitting feathers about the oil & injector problems that sometimes rear their ugly heads, but for my money I'd always choose a Ford engine - change my mind in the comments.
Tom's winner: Ford's 2.0-litre EcoBlue 185hp/415Nm turbodiesel engine.
In The Back: Loading Bay
Okay, this is the section I know I'm going to get comments about so I'm going to rip the plaster off straight away. I believe the PSA Group medium vans built on the EMP2 platform (Citroen Dispatch, Vauxhall Vivaro, Peugeot Expert & Toyota Proace) offer the best all-round loading bays in the market right now. There… I've said it.
I was in 2 minds whether or not to justify my choice, because I know some people will not agree with me, but if you think about what they offer - lots of lashing points, hard-wearing linings, modular load-throughs, 2 side-sliding doors & room for Euro pallets without any interior scraping - I hope you'll see where I'm coming from.
I know they don't come with height options, but they more than make up for that with length options. Okay, done. Hit me with your comments!
Tom's winner: PSA Group EMP2 platform 2-door loading bays.
On The Road: Wheels
"You gotta get good shoes for your van," said one commenter on social media. I agree - a nice set of wheels makes all the difference to a van. I have simple tastes because I'm as big a fan of steel wheels as I am of alloy wheels, but if this is my perfect van then I'm having some good-looking 'shoes'.
That's why my perfect van will be wearing the 17-inch Cyclade alloy wheels from the Renault Trafic Sport. They're not too showy, there's a lot of metal visible, but they add a touch of class that steel wheels cannot. There's not much else to say, really. I'm a big fan, check them out.
Tom's winner: Renault Trafic Sport 17" Cyclade alloy wheels
Let's face it, the van I've built over the course of this article would look weird, but it includes all the best bits (in my opinion) of the vans available to lease from Vanarama right now. While the perfect van may not exist, the perfect van for an individual does - there are so many vans to choose from that you'll definitely find one that's perfect for you.
This is my final piece of advice: choose your next van for the right reasons. Make sure it ticks all your boxes for comfort, style, efficiency & practicality. Today, you'll rarely have to make any compromises thanks to the sheer range of options & trim levels available - in fact, I'd say there's never been a better time to get your perfect van.