The new third generation of the Mercedes Sprinter has been hailed by the van maker as a ‘game changer’, and, for once, this might not be marketing talk! That’s because the new van has been completely re-engineered and improved. The engineers have had to sit down and think about what users are actually looking for and the end result is an impressive van that is designed to deliver. It’s nice to drive and it’s a good performer around town with a comfortable cabin. It’s also the first production vehicle to have a nine speed automatic gearbox which should help boost efficiencies. An all-electric Mercedes e-Sprinter is set to go into production in 2019 and until the new diesel engine van has improved fuel economy of around 45 mpg.
There’s also a new naming convention to appreciate so the Sprinter vans are no longer called the ‘Short’ to ‘Extra-Long’ and instead will be referred to as L1 to L4. The vehicle height will follow and these are H1 to H3. There’s also an impressive option list that features more than 600 items including suspension and fleet solutions so it can be adapted to personal requirements.

It might be the smallest member of the impressive Ford Transit line-up but the new Transit Courier offers more than a fresh look. There are improved engines on offer, a new transmission plus new engines with excellent low running costs. The cabin is also a great place to spend time after being revamped and the overall impression is of a small van that’s easy to drive and is responsive around town with a great carrying ability.
The new Transit Courier also marks the design that Ford will be introducing for all of its future Transit re-incarnations. Along with the Courier, the Connect has also been freshened-up for buyers as part of this redesign revolution. Since Ford is Europe’s number one bestseller for commercial vehicles, the firm is keen to keep ahead of its rivals and the Courier offers not just a stylish new design, but improved engines and driver assistance technology. The Courier, for those who need a small van, is highly recommended.

The Ford Transit Connect has proven itself in a competitive segment and the new model offers a bold design but it’s for the new engines that will really draw attention from potential buyers for the van. There’s a new 1.5 litre EcoBlue diesel unit plus a 1.0 litre EcoBoost petrol engine which has cylinder deactivation; both are sound engines with low running costs. The build quality for the new Connect is also impressive and it’s a great van to drive around town and on the open road.

The 2018 model year for the VW Caddy sees equipment levels boosted across every trim and the van is also the safest in its class. In a bid to boost sales, the petrol engine Caddys have had their prices reduced but overall Volkswagen has played it safe with its small van offering. However, for those potential van owners who are attracted by its safety features, the new caddy has autonomous emergency braking now fitted as standard and there’s also driver alert across the range as well.

As a way to transport people in comfortable surroundings, the nine seat Renault Trafic SpaceClass offers a high end shuttle vehicle to impress. While it’s based on the Trafic, the SpaceClass is an all-new creation aimed at those customers wanting a best in class driving experience. The vehicle definitely offers a limo like experience for passengers and it shares its underpinnings with the Vauxhall Vivaro Combi so that’s worth considering too. For businesses that need a nine seat people mover, there’s a lot to recommend this vehicle.

The new Renault Kangoo Z.E. is a decent offering for those who are looking for an all-electric van with the latest model having its range boosted by 50%; it should, according to Renault, provide 170 miles on a single charge. There’s also a good range of body styles to help maintain the van’s popularity which is the bestselling electric van in Europe.

It’s something of a late entrant into the pickup market, but the Renault Alaskan offers an all-round and impressive offering. Mind you, it is based on the excellent Nissan Navara and this is the first 1 tonne pickup made by the French firm. It’s on sale from 2018 and the Alaskan has lots of equipment and offers a sound alternative for those wanting comfort and off-road abilities. Renault also says this is a ‘completely fresh approach’ to the pickup segment but that’s stretching things somewhat since it’s near identical to the Navarra’s cabin. It is however a good-looking vehicle and comfortable to drive.

There’s a lot to like about the Peugeot Partner Electric which is the plug-in battery version of the firm’s popular van. While potential owners may be looking forward to zero tailpipe emissions, there are some caveats to owning what should be a great van. The first issue is that the weight capacity has been reduced to cater for the heavy batteries, which are hidden under the load bed. It’s also lacking in equipment and the Partner Electric is essentially based on a van that was launched in 2008 which means having a dated interior and the sometimes sluggish handling reflect this.

It could be said that Mercedes is another carmaker late to the pickup party and with sales rocketing around the world, now is as good a time as any to create an impressive offering. The Mercedes X Class is that vehicle and the carmaker has created an interior to match their premium offering. There’s also a long list of options to help tailor the pickup to the buyer’s needs. However, it’s not really a pickup made by Mercedes – scratch the surface and this is the impressive Nissan Navara though Mercedes has made many changes to the exterior styling and obviously in the cabin. So, while the market for lifestyle pickups is growing and buyers opt for these rather than an SUV (mainly down to the tax advantages) there is no doubt that lots of businesses will go down this particular route just to have the Mercedes three pointed star on the front of their vehicle.

The new generation of the Isuzu D-Max offers an update on a popular vehicle; everything that’s great about the pickup it replaces, gets a polish here. There’s also a new 1.9 litre turbocharged diesel engine and a choice of automatic or manual gearboxes, both six speed. It helps that the starting price of £15,749 for the utility single cab will attract attention – but not every buyer in this segment is swayed by a low price tag. The D-Max comes with a choice of single, extended and double cab variants. Essentially, the 2017 model of the Isuzu D-Max delivers a more rounded vehicle than the pickup it replaces and while the list of standard equipment has been improved and the refinement levels have risen, there’s a lot to like about this vehicle but it’s fighting in a competitive segment with pickups offering plusher cabins, more equipment and better handling. Perhaps it’s for this reason that the Isuzu D-Max is aimed squarely at utilitarian users such as farmers rather than those ‘lifestyle’ buyers who like the chunky good looks.