Car Mechanics (UK)


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Citroën Ber­lingo/peu­geot Part­ner

In­tro­duced in 1996 and on sale for 12 years, the orig­i­nal Ber­lingo and Part­ner were the best small-ish vans of their gen­er­a­tion to drive, which is hardly sur­pris­ing con­sid­er­ing they’re based on the chas­sis of the Peu­geot 306 and Citroën ZX. The load bay isn’t the most prac­ti­cal in terms of ac­cess, but they were de­signed to carry a pal­let with ease and of­fer de­cent per­for­mance and econ­omy, es­pe­cially in HDI form.

Citroën Dis­patch/peu­geot Ex­pert/ Fiat Scudo

The PSA-FIAT tri­umvi­rate of Dis­patch, Ex­pert and Scudo were launched con­cur­rently in 1997 and went on to en­joy a 13-year pro­duc­tion run. The vans were po­si­tioned to fit into the mar­ket below larger panel vans, while main­tain­ing the same level of prac­ti­cal­ity, in­clud­ing triple front seats and slid­ing side doors. In many ways, the trio led a rev­o­lu­tion in the van mar­ket, fill­ing a gap be­tween car-de­rived mod­els and ‘big’ vans, while also be­ing pop­u­lar as pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles.

Fiat Doblo

It’s a bit of an odd­ball, but the Doblo is a de­cent van and has more load space than you’d ex­pect given that it’s based on Bravo and Brava hatch­back plat­form. With a choice of barn doors or a tailgate, as well as 70mpg fuel econ­omy from the 1.3 CDTI en­gine, it’s a use­ful little van that will carry a lot more for a lot less than you might think.

Ford Tran­sit Con­nect

Patches to weld onto the rear of the sills are prac­ti­cally ser­vice items, but oth­er­wise the 2003-on­ward Tran­sit Con­nect com­bines ex­cel­lent dy­nam­ics with a load­car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity that al­most matches the short­wheel­base ‘proper’ Tran­sit. There are loads about, but some have been heav­ily abused so buy care­fully. Later mod­els with diesel par­tic­u­late fil­ters can be a headache.

Mercedes-benz Vito

The Vito was the first Mercedes van aimed at a smaller mar­ket, build­ing on the rep­u­ta­tion the com­pany had al­ready earned from its larger Sprinter and chas­sis cab mod­els. It’s great to drive, but watch for cor­ro­sion – they were built at a new fac­tory in Spain that didn’t of­fer the same build qual­ity as Mercedes-benz afi­ciona­dos were used to, so rot in the sills and floors is common. A good one, though, is a prac­ti­cal and en­joy­able van to own.

Nis­san Vanette/ LDV Cub

Pow­ered by the same en­gine as a Lon­don taxi, the Nis­san Vanette is never go­ing to be first away from the lights. On the other hand, thou­sands of low-stress miles are eas­ily swal­lowed up if you don’t mind tak­ing your time over them. It has an un­usual mi­dengined, rear-drive lay­out with twin side doors and a vast load bay, es­pe­cially in high-roof Cargo for­mat. Also sold as the LDV Cub, which was merely a badge change, if you can find one that’s still go­ing.

Toy­ota Hi­ace

The Hi­ace is a terrific van that en­joyed a long pro­duc­tion run from 1995 un­til 2012, with only one real facelift that made it ar­guably less at­trac­tive than the stream­lined orig­i­nal. Hi­aces are me­chan­i­cally in­de­struc­tible and pretty good at re­sist­ing cor­ro­sion, which is quite un­usual for a Toy­ota of the era. They tend to get snapped up quickly, though, and are very pop­u­lar with ex­porters, so if you see one avail­able within your price range then act quickly.

Vaux­hall Combo

Bri­tish Gas, Royal Mail and BT were just some of the or­gan­i­sa­tions that had huge lease deals with Vaux­hall when the Corsa C-based Combo was on sale from 2002 to 2011. With a load bay big enough for a Euro pal­let and as­ton­ish­ingly rust-re­silient body­work, the Combo is a real sur­vivor. It’s not bad to drive, ei­ther.

Vaux­hall Vi­varo/re­nault Trafic/ Nis­san Pri­mas­tar

The 2001 Re­nault Trafic and Vaux­hall Vi­varo came from a col­lab­o­ra­tion that saw Re­nault take care of the styling and GM the en­gi­neer­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing. In many ways, it was the best of both worlds, with a prac­ti­cal load bay, great looks and a six-speed trans­mis­sion as stan­dard across the range. Check for ex­ces­sive smoke, though, as that gen­er­ally means in­jec­tor wear. The Nis­san Pri­mas­tar was a badgeengi­neered vari­ant of the same van and de­buted in 2006.

Volk­swa­gen Caddy

The 2004 Caddy was the first small van to be de­signed and de­vel­oped by VW since the 1978 Caddy pick-up, with the model’s pre­de­ces­sors be­ing based on the SEAT Inca and Skoda Feli­cia. The new Caddy was much more mod­ern, using styling and in­te­rior de­tails from the Polo and Golf. The Caddy could swallow a pal­let, had op­tional side doors and came with VW’S ex­cel­lent PD diesel en­gines. It re­mained on sale for 11 years and the cur­rent model is still closely re­lated.

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