From VW's classic campers to trusty Transits... vans are in demand

2 months ago 140

You’re a busy family needing a practical and spacious runaround that won’t break the bank. 

Or maybe you’re a young sporty couple requiring something cheap and practical to carry all that outdoor kit. What’s to be done?

Well, a surprising number of people are turning to multipurpose vehicles that are based on commercial vans — but cleverly designed for family and lifestyle use.

Future retro: VW’s long-awaited and much trailed fully-electric ID Buzz, which launches in 2022, promises lots of room, extra luggage space and ‘revolutionary’ flexible seating

That’s because car-makers have realised the strengths which make commercial vehicles a boon for business are also perfect for holiday trips, shopping and the rest. And these cars, which are designed for those who spend their working lives behind the wheel, are also comfortable.

Campervans are enjoying a boom in the wake of pandemic staycations, too.

Next Tuesday to Thursday marks the annual Commercial Vehicle Show (cvshow.com) near Birmingham — hosted by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) — where more than 200 exhibitors will be showing their wares. So now is the perfect time to have a look at some of the best vans around for work and leisure.

The Trailblazer

Volkswagen has a long tradition of converting its vans to family use, which sparked generations of the popular campervan.

Its new Multivan launching next year will replace the existing Caravelle model costing £51,074.

VW's new Multivan will replace the existing Caravelle model costing £51,074  when it launches next year  

VW offers three sizes of campervan, with the Caddy California (from £29,965 and £30,527 for the Caddy Life Max), California (£59,195), and Grand California (pictured) (£77,693)

VW’s long-awaited and much trailed fully-electric ID Buzz, which also launches in 2022, promises lots of room, extra luggage space and ‘revolutionary’ flexible seating.

That’s on top of three sizes of campervan, with the Caddy California (from £29,965 and £30,527 for the Caddy Life Max), California (£59,195), and Grand California (£77,693).

Vauxhall's double act

Vauxhall’s Combo Life with twin sliding doors is a versatile family multi-purpose vehicle in electric, petrol and diesel, priced from £23,015 on the road and available with either five or seven seats in standard and ‘XL’ length.

The all-electric Combo-e Life, priced from £31,610 after the plug-in car grant, has a zero emissions range of up to 174 miles with an 80 per cent rapid charge taking just 30 minutes.

Vauxhall’s Combo Life with twin sliding doors is a versatile family multi-purpose vehicle in electric, petrol and diesel

Options: The Combo Life is available with either five or seven seats in standard and ‘XL’ length and priced from £23,015 on the road

The larger Vauxhall Vivaro Life, priced from £32,135, seats up to nine and is available in two lengths. 

It is built at Luton (except for the electric Vivaro-e Life with a 143-mile range). 

It promises ‘lounge comfort’ including movable leather seats, a panoramic roof and sliding doors that open electrically when sensors detect foot-movement.

The all-electric Combo-e Life, priced from £31,610 after the plug-in car grant, has a zero emissions range of up to 174 miles with an 80 per cent rapid charge taking just 30 minutes

Electric Runaround 

Peugeot has recently launched an all-electric 136 horse-power e-Rifter variant of its popular runaround, with a top speed limited to 83mph and a range of up to 172 miles. 

It has a towing capacity of up to 750kg and up to 4,000 litres of boot space. First deliveries begin in November.

Peugeot's all-electric 136 horse-power e-Rifter variant of its popular runaround has a top speed limited to 83mph and a range of up to 172 miles

All are priced below the £35,000 government plug-in grant threshold and so qualify for the £2,500 taxpayer subsidy.

Prices start from £30,375 for the standard five-seater e-Rifter Allure Premium, with the five-seater GT costing from £32,455.

Customers also have the option of a long wheelbase seven-seater Allure Premium from £32,375.  

The eight-seater family Traveller is available in diesel or full electric and standard and long and with twin hands-free electric sliding rear doors on most models

The Traveller's removable seats in rows two and three mean it can accommodate up to eight with 1,500 litres of boot volume, up to five with 3,000 litres or a maximum of 4,900 litres

Priced from £38,065 to £54,240, Peugeot also produces the eight-seater family Traveller in diesel or full electric and standard and long and with twin hands-free electric sliding rear doors on most models.

Removable seats in rows two and three mean it can accommodate up to eight with 1,500 litres of boot volume, up to five with 3,000 litres or a maximum of 4,900 litres. 

Car of the people

Most people will have been behind the wheel of a Ford Transit which they’ve either hired or borrowed to move furniture or house. 

I certainly have, and what always surprises me is just how brilliant they are to drive.

Ford has converted its trusty Transit into a campervan version which is called the Transit Custom Nugget, priced from £63,576 to £71,832

The classic Transit has been the best-selling commercial van with around 9 million sold across Europe since launch in 1965. 

The all-new electric version is to make its debut at next week’s CV Show, priced from under £50,000.

 Ford has converted its trusty Transit into a campervan version, too, which is called the Transit Custom Nugget, priced from £63,576 to £71,832.

Ford also has the Torneo Connect, priced from £22,000 for five seats to £29,000 for seven, and the larger Torneo Custom with eight or nine seats costs between £37,900 and £53,000.

Here's five 'Vantastic' family cars

Citroen Berlingo: Citroen’s award-winning Berlingo is priced from £22,135 to £28,140 on the road, with a new electric e-Berlingo available from between £29,575 and £32,280 after deduction of the £2,500 plug-in car grant.

Land Rover Hard Top: Land Rover’s new Defender Hard Top has reversed the trend, creating a practical commercial van from its award-winning new Defender 4x4. It became an unexpected hit when launched and appears to be targeted at small business owners, for whom VAT is reclaimable. Priced from £36,895

Maxus seven-seater: Van-maker Maxus — formerly Britain’s LDV but now Chinese owned — is launching a seven-seater all-electric family car in the UK next year. Billed as a luxury multi-purpose vehicle, it will have two-wheel and four-wheel drive options

Peugeot Rifter: Peugeot’s versatile Rifter range is priced from £23,620, has sliding rear doors and is available in petrol, diesel and electric versions as a five or seven-seater. The generous flexible boot has up to 4,000 litres.

SsangYong Musso: SsangYong, from Korea, has a revamped Musso range priced from £23,000, (before VAT) but many private buyers speccing them up for family use will pay about £30,000 plus VAT

Taxi to anonymity

Celebrities seeking a low profile have sometimes driven London black cabs — the late Duke of Edinburgh being one. 

LEVC, which builds the 21st century electric black London cabs, has an e-Camper electric campervan in the pipeline based on its TX5 electric taxi and VN5 electric van

Actor Laurence Olivier is also among the most famous examples, along with Stephen Fry, film director Stanley Kubrick and supermodel Kate Moss.

Arnold Schwarzenegger even had one shipped to the U.S. in 2003.

Now LEVC, which builds the 21st century electric black London cabs, has an e-Camper electric campervan in the pipeline based on its TX5 electric taxi and VN5 electric van.

Sleeping four and with a pop-out roof, the car goes on sale from December. It has a range of 304 miles but will cost a huge £74,700 including VAT.

A good year

It is amazing to think that the Ford Transit Custom van was Britain’s third best-selling vehicle overall in 2020 (with 43,551 sold). 

It was pipped only by the Ford Fiesta (49,174) and Vauxhall Corsa (46,439). By the end of 2020, there were 4.6 million vans on the road (up 1.7 per cent) which, when combined with buses and HGVs account for 13.1 per cent — or more than one in eight — of all road vehicles.

Last year, the UK built 66,116 vans, taxis, buses and coaches of which nearly one in six were exported.

Some 292,657 light commercial vehicles were registered in 2020.

So vans may be the workhorse of the automotive world and the backbone of the British economy, but they’re proving as popular as ever with families, too.

n The free-to-attend Commercial Vehicle Show 2021 takes place at the NEC Birmingham from Tuesday, August 31 to Thursday September 2. See cvshow.com.

Festivals of classic motors and supercars

As August’s dubious summer gives way to autumnal September, the new month kicks off with two competing classic and modern car events.

Salon Privé runs from September 1-5 at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, with the final day given over to classics and supercars. McLaren alone will be showcasing three of its new cars.

For tickets, see salonpriveconcours.com or call 0808 100 2205. 

Aston Martin has taken the top off its Valkyrie supercar to launch its fastest ever open-topped vehicle at a cost: £3.5 million, compared to £2.5 million for the hard-top

The rival Concours of Elegance 2021 runs for three days from September 3-5 at Hampton Court Palace and will be home to more than 300 of the finest and rarest motor cars and supercars from 1896 to the present day. 

For tickets and more information, see concoursofelegance.co.uk/tickets.

The two car shows come as Aston Martin has just taken the top off its Valkyrie supercar to launch its fastest ever open-topped vehicle. 

The brand hopes to give owners an experience that is as close as possible to driving a Formula 1 motor — but on the road.

The Valkyrie Spider hypercar is powered by the same 1155 horse-power petrol electric hybrid 6.5-litre V12 combination as the hard-top version.

It accelerates from rest to 62mph in under three seconds up to a top speed of 217mph with the roof on, and 205mph with the roof off.

Buyers face a £1 million premium of up to £3.5 million, compared to £2.5 million for the hard-top. Deliveries of 85 cars are scheduled for next year. But they have already been sold following ‘unprecedented demand’.

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