Published on Monday 08 February 2021 in Van News
Vauxhall vans sell well & are a common sight in the UK thanks to their reliability, looks & toughness. Being a strong British brand also helps their appeal, so much so that Vauxhall invented a new country - Britvan - to play on that heritage. That's why we asked Vanarama Van Expert Tom Roberts whether he thinks today's Vauxhall vans live up to the "Best of Britvan" tagline.
As one of the oldest vehicle manufacturers in the UK, that Vauxhall still exists is something we should celebrate. I'm the kind of van lover who drives a Vauxhall van & can't help but think about the history & heritage of the brand - but that says a lot about me.
To give you a whistle stop history tour, the company has been around since the 1850s, but it really began to take on its familiar shape in 1925 when it was bought by General Motors (GM). It was actually GM who founded the Bedford subsidiary company name which later became famous for its line of commercial vehicles. Vauxhall also played a major part in the UK's war effort during the second world war, manufacturing nearly 8000 Churchill tanks at their various manufacturing facilities, before transitioning back to making cars & lorries alongside the ever-evolving range of vans.
Then, in 2017 GM sold Vauxhall & its European sister brand Opel to the PSA Group & began platform sharing across its small & medium vans with Citroen & Peugeot. Today, Vauxhall has 3 vans - the Movano large van, Vivaro medium van & Combo small van - which we're going to have a look at in turn to find out why they really are the "Best of Britvan" vans.
Vauxhall Movano Large Van
Since the current generation's launch in 2010 (yes, it's THAT old), the 'modern' Vauxhall Movano hasn't changed much aside from its looks & engines. If it looks familiar, that's because its platform is shared with the Renault Master & Nissan NV400 large panel vans - not with its fellow PSA Group large panel vans.
On the outside, the Movano has experienced a complete front-end redesign (probably aimed at making a statement about how this is definitely not a Renault Master) & a much-improved new cabin interior. There's plenty of storage, durable plastics & simple touches that let you know this vehicle is a no-frills commercial toolbox.
Under the bonnet are new versions of the reliable 2.3-litre diesel engines it's always had - some featuring Bi-Turbo technology - which offer improved fuel economy & a smoother, quieter drive. These reliable engines also help this big van carry staggering payloads of up to 1600kg.
As I wrote in my recent review of the Movano, Vauxhall has also added some of the latest safety & driver assistance tech to the Movano, which is available in panel van, double cab, minibus, chassis, crew & platform cab derivatives.
Vauxhall Vivaro Medium Van
Having recently written an article where I compared the Vauxhall Vivaro & Ford Transit Custom, the Vivaro is fresh in my mind & it's still one of my favourite-looking vans on the market. Users get the choice of having the Vivaro as either a panel van, double cab & specialist variants in 4 trim levels – Edition, Dynamic, Sportive & Elite - each one adding just a few more options & improving the vehicle in meaningful ways.
Made right here in the UK at Vauxhall's Luton-based manufacturing plant, 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 old 1.6-litre engines are long gone! The 1.5-litre engines come in either 100PS or 120PS power outputs & the 2.0-litre units offer 120PS, 150PS & 180PS. Best of all, each engine is Euro 6D TEMP (6.2) emission standard - the cleanest available at time of writing. Users looking for an easier drive can choose an automatic version & there's now a fully-electric Vivaro on the market.
The loading bay is where the Vivaro wins a lot of fans with its two side doors, excellent number of lashing points, simple load through, steel bulkhead & generous payload. At nearly 1400kg, the payload of this medium van is superb - heavier even than some vans twice its size.
Vauxhall Combo Small Van
The Vauxhall Combo platform shares with the other PSA Group small vans & Toyota - specifically, the Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner & Toyota Proace City - so it clearly comes from good stock. On launch, all of these vans scooped awards from the major publishing houses because they simply are that good.
Small vans shouldn't be able to carry huge payloads of nearly 1000kg in such a compact & practical loading bay, but this one can. Even its trim levels - Edition, Sportive & LE Nav - add meaningful comforts & tech additions. For me, it's the Sportive trim level that offers the best blend of comfort, tech & durable interior. Couple that with the excellent 1.5-litre diesel engines that offer real savings in terms of fuel efficiency & you'll see why I rate the Combo so highly.
Last year, I named the Vauxhall Combo Cargo one of my top Autumn lease choices & I stand by it. The Peugeot Partner might be selling more units right now, but the Combo - like the other 2 vans in this article - wears that Vauxhall badge as a hallmark of British van quality that UK trades should find hard to ignore.
Vauxhall is a British institution with so much rich heritage that there are very few people who won't know the name in the UK. That the company is still building vans right here in the UK is something that makes me feel proud. Sounds soppy, I know, but I don't care.
I sometimes see comments on social media dismissing PSA Group vans for various reasons, but how many of those people have ever actually seen them being made? I've watched these vehicles go from sheet metal to fully-assembled PSA Group medium vans rolling off the production line & I can tell you that they are built to last by passionate people. Vauxhall doesn't even need to humble brag about their vans, in my opinion, they are some of the best your money could lease.
Vauxhall's "Best of Britvan" tagline always makes me raise an eyebrow, but then I remember what it's trying to say. Vauxhall wants to remind you that it's still here, it's still making vans & it's proud. Give a Vauxhall van a try & I think you'll see why. Happy hunting!