Volkswagen Transporter Review
Volkswagen's Transporter T6 medium-sized van continues to be a quality and cost-effective offering in the medium range LCV sector thanks to a wide range of common-rail diesel engines and a tangible boost to its safety specification. The interior remains one of the most polished in the panel van class and the wide range of body options should keep most operators happy.
The Transporter engine range consists of four 2.0-litre TDI Euro5 engines with outputs of 84PS, 102PS, 140PS and 180PS. All 84PS and 102PS engines are fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, with 140PS and 180PS units equipped with either a six-speed transmission as standard or a seven-speed DSG automatic. Alternatively, there's the cleaner 2.0-litre TDI Euro6 engine range, which offers 102PS, 150PS and 204PS powertrains featuring a range of improvements designed to increase efficiency and drivability.
So far so good, but what's it actually like to drive? Well 'quietly efficient' probably sums it up. The 'quiet' bit's significant: Volkswagen reckons that drivers used to rival medium-sized vans will find this one to be much quieter, which'll make a lot of difference after a hard day at the wheel. And efficient? Well, let me put forward the braking system as an example. It features ABS of course, with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution and Electronic Braking Control to maximise its effectiveness and as soon as you use it in anger, the brake lights flash rapidly to alert following vehicles. Once you've screeched to a stop, the hazard warning lights come on automatically. Neat.
The Transporter's traditionally precise handling remains, with plenty of feedback through the redesigned steering, a slick gearchange and a Germanically firm but by no means unpleasant ride. It's manoeuvrable too, for such a big vehicle - something that you may consider puts it up there with the best medium-sized vans in the market.
The latest Transporter looks a sharper proposition but not by much. In keeping with tradition, this T6 model offers a range of body options and gross vehicle weights to suit the needs of all operators and drivers. In addition to three roof height options; standard (1,410 mm), medium (1,635mm) and high (1,940mm), this Volkswagen is available with four gross vehicle weights (ranging from 2,600kg to 3,200kg) along with short and long wheelbase options.
At the wheel, there are the expected driver and passenger airbags, plus a height and reach-adjustable steering wheel. Sliding across the three-seater cabin is slightly impeded by the way that the gear lever is mounted on a moulding that curves out from the dashboard, but the location does make it easy to use. A design touch we weren't sure about was the way the more aerodynamic outside mirrors house the radio, 'phone and GPS antennae: bashing them, as van drivers tend to do, would be expensive.
Still, there are plenty of more thoughtful design features dotted around the cab of this medium-sized van. Each door, for example, incorporates both upper and lower storage bins, the lower one able to accommodate both a 1.5-litre bottle and an A4 clipboard. On the passenger side, there's a storage box under the seat and, on the side of the facia, a net to hold documents. Pull out the ashtray and you'll find cup holders for your McDonalds breakfast on both sides and there's a shelf for your sunglasses above the windscreen.
Volkswagen has piled some desirable technology features into its latest Transporter medium-sized van. The advanced safety systems should be well received but it's the common-rail diesel engines that will really get customers going. On performance, refinement and economy, these units are difficult to top. Better still, the rest of the Transporter looks as solid as ever.Click here to find out more about our Volkswagen Transporter Review range
Vauxhall Vivaro Review
The Vauxhall Vivaro is back; bigger and better finished than ever before. There's a choice of two lengths and two roof heights for this medium-sized van. The interiors are a good deal more comfortable and practical and the engines comprise either a 1.6 turbodiesel or a 1.6 twin turbodiesel, both powerplants available with two different power outputs.
The engines that power the Vivaro are both 1.6-litre turbodiesel units, but aside from that, they deliver very different results. Most buyers will probably opt for the 1.6-litre CDTi unit, available in either 89 or 113bhp power outputs. In order to match the sort of power outputs Mercedes can deliver with the Vito, Vauxhall has also introduced the 1.6-litre BiTurbo CDTi engine, available in 119 or 138bhp guises. Powered by two turbochargers working together, this engine combines excellent performance with decent fuel economy. From just 1,500rpm, the 119bhp BiTurbo generates an impressive maximum torque of 320Nm, while the 138bhp variant delivers 340Nm. From just 1,500rpm, the 119bhp BiTurbo generates 320Nm torque, while the 138bhp variant delivers 340Nm, so there's plenty of muscle even if you're fully loaded.
The driving position, though not as lofty as in some medium-sized vans nevertheless affords a decent view up the road. You get big door mirrors to help with manoeuvring and tried and tested transmissions.
The Vivaro looks anything but another anonymous medium-sized van. There's a bluff Vauxhall front end, with plenty of chrome and huge headlight pods set in high-gloss black mouldings. The LED daytime running lights come with signature Vauxhall wing graphic design. Move round to the side and you'll spot the crisp blade feature flowing from under the side mirrors back to the rear wheel-arches in the same style found on the Insignia family and Astra GTC models.
The new Vivaro colour palette comprises eleven standard colours, with five solid and six two-coat metallic finishes. The cabin is much improved as well, with better refinement, a focus on utility, plus darker and more durable materials used throughout. Comfort has been improved as well, with seats that rake back and more adjustability for the steering column. There are also some neat touches like a detachable clipboard and a place to hide your laptop, all very welcome for the driver of one of the best medium-sized vans out there.
It's often the case that a manufacturer with a successful model on its books succumbs to paralysis; afraid in many ways to kill a goose that lays golden eggs. The Vivaro has been just such a model for Vauxhall and while the company has taken a very long time to launch a replacement for their medium-sized van customers, the changes to the second-generation design are well-judged and ought to continue the Vivaro's strong sales.
Is there really that much to choose between medium-sized vans? After all they're merely boxes of fresh air on wheels. Perhaps the answer to that is that when it comes to operating a fleet, even small differences rapidly add up and Vauxhall's claim that the Vivaro delivers the best fuel economy in its class has to be taken seriously as one of the best medium-sized vans on the road. With a broad and versatile range, clean and powerful engines, distinctive styling and a more comfortable interior, it's hard to see how this one can fail to score.Click here to find out more about our Vauxhall Vivaro Review range
Peugeot Expert Review
With style, size and technology now on its side, Peugeot's much improved Euro6-compatible MK3 model Expert has much to offer if you're looking for one of the best medium sized vans in the mid-range Transit-class van segment.
Engine choice in an Expert is pretty straightforward, provided you've a clear idea of the kind of work you want it to do. Sensibly, all the Euro6 units on offer are diesels and if your needs are mainly based around lighter loads and short distance urban work, then the entry-level 95bhp 1.6-litre BlueHDi unit may well be quite sufficient: this engine's also offered with 115bhp. For heavier payloads and longer journeys however, you'll be needing the 2.0-litre BlueHDi model which gives you a lot more pulling power and is available with either 120, 150 or 180bhp, the most powerful unit mated to the brand's efficient EAT6 auto transmission.
A key factor behind the success of the previous generation Expert was the way it remained compact and wieldy in the manner of smaller, more car-like vans from the class below. This medium-sized van's bigger of course, but it retains much of that same usability around town and rides much better thanks to revised suspension and a stiffer EMP2 platform. Special wishbone filtering dampens the impacts of our country's terrible tarmac and the variable stiffness springs and shock absorbers deliver surprising levels of comfort whether this medium-sized van is loaded or unloaded. Peugeot also claims that refinement is much improved this time round. And, as before, there's the option of a Grip Control traction system. We also like the 'Driving time warning system' which flashes up a dash warning after two hours of uninterrupted driving at speeds of 40mph and above.
This new generation Expert certainly has a little more road presence than its predecessor. The restyled grille features a smarter brand logo, while more sleekly designed side panels are structured with sharp lines and sculpted by concave door sills. There are low side protection strips and a solid black front bumper, this integrating air inlets across the entire width of the vehicle and aiming to emphasise what Peugeot hopes is a robust appearance for its favourite medium-sized van. Visually, it's quite hard to pigeon-hole this vehicle into a particular market category. You can see that it's bigger than something like a Berlingo or Kangoo-sized Peugeot Partner but you might question whether it has the volume to take on medium sized vans of Transit or Vito size. As we'll see, it has.
On board, Peugeot's designers have concentrated on improving ergonomics and driving comfort this time round. You get the usual high seating position and three-person bench. And there's certainly more cab storage space - 49-litres of it in the standard van version. Providing you haven't bought in with entry-level trim, the first thing you'll probably notice about the restyled interior is 7-inch colour touchscreen that's now been added. It can work with voice control and offers the usual 'phone and media features, plus an optional 3D Navigation system.
Despite the recent growth in sales of ever-larger medium-sized vans, you can see why so many operators still choose to play it safe and opt for a larger but still relatively light and manoeuvrable LCV like this one. The Expert's designers have clearly looked very closely at what modern businesses need and this smarter new generation Euro6 version makes even more sense on the balance sheet.
The Expert is in the charts as one of the best medium-sized vans with the likes of the Transit, Vivaro and Trafic, but whether you'd want one over its Citroen and Fiat design stablemates will depend as usual much upon the deal that you're offered and the proximity of your local franchise. Still, Peugeot's huge dealer network and tight pricing sets it up nicely here. It's user-friendly - just like this van.Click here to find out more about our Peugeot Expert Review range