Vans that we'd much rather drive than cars

This iconic one-off van was created for a charity event in the UK back in 2008. The vans below are more of the mass ...

This iconic one-off van was created for a charity event in the UK back in 2008. The vans below are more of the mass produced kind and can be a heap of fun to drive.


Everyone thinks the best part of being a motoring journalist is the fast, expensive cars. Well, I have news for you - while the fast cars are fun, we're really in it for the vans.

Sure, they may be an absolute pain when they're dithering around at 80kmh in front of you in the fast lane on the motorway. Or if you're trying to back out of a parking space next to one. But vans are also massive fun to drive and really very cool.

READ MORE: Trends in SUVs and vans


You get to park in loading zones and nobody expects you to use your indicators, plus their general size and shape makes vans acoustically excellent for cranking the stereo right up (providing they have a decent stereo, that is) and boganing out to Def Leppard.

VW T6 Multivan

Specification of VW Multivan sounds rather exotic: twin-turbo, seven-speed, 4WD. PHOTO: DAMIEN O'CARROLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Okay, so the T6 Multivan is hardly cheap (it starts at $71,490 and tops out at a rather staggering $92,990), but it is one hell of a van! All models pack a thumping 132kW/400Nm twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel engine that turns the ordinary old Transporter the Multivan is based on into something of a performance sleeper.

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Add in the AWD option that is optional on the base model and standard on the Highline and you have a "van" that goes hard, handles impressively and, possibly most importantly, has a brilliant rear centre console that transforms into a table for those times you just need to kick back in the rear and have a coffee.

The car that this van beats: The VW Passat R-Line wagon. Sure, the Passat has more power and torque (176kW/500Nm) and costs a bit less ($69,490). But it doesn't have a table in the back.

Renault Kangoo Z.E.

Electric cars are interesting. Electric vans like the Kangoo Z.E. are awesome. PHOTO: DAMIEN O'CARROLL/FAIRFAX NZ

The regular Kangoo is brilliant because it is A) a van, B) small and C) looks weird. It is also brilliant because it is a blast to throw around, thanks to its nimble chassis and responsive steering. But the all-electric version makes it even better by adding one thing - a lot more torque!

Or 226Nm of it, to be precise, which is around 80Nm more than the standard Kangoo, making it even more fun to belt around town in. Okay, so at $74,990 ($79,990 for the five-seater version) it ain't exactly cheap either, but the level of self-satisfied smugness you can achieve cruising around using no petrol whatsoever is utterly priceless.

The car that this van beats: The Renault Zoe. The Zoe might be ever so slightly more powerful, but can you get four mates and enough beer for a weekend in Dargaville in it? No, you can't.

Renault Trafic

Renault Trafic is a traffic-stopper, no question. Now, if we could just work on that spelling. PHOTO: DAMIEN O'CARROLL

Why is it Renault can make great vans and great hot hatches, but everything else is weirdly bland? Dunno, but it does make very cool vans, and the Trafic is one of the coolest. Quite aside from the fact that it's easy to drive and surprisingly car-like, it's also available in a quite startling range of colours.

You will notice the van pictured here is in a rather surprising shade of green with some aftermarket black alloy wheels on it; this was the Renault NZ press vehicle and it was awesome. Its tiny 1.6-litre diesel engine pumps out 103kW of power and 340Nm of torque and is ridiculously flexible, feeling like a far bigger engine than its meagre capacity. It also has a fantastically flexible interior and a neat folding centre seat that doubles as a mini-office space.

The car that this van beats: Renault Koleos. The Koleos is nice, but the Trafic has a way better engine. And you can get it in green.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Safety first with Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Well, enormous cargo space first. And then safety. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

If you are gonna have a van, you might as well have a big, bad van. And the Sprinter 519 extra long wheelbase is quite probably the biggest and baddest of them all. Okay, so it clocks in at more than $90k, but it is more than seven metres long and it is powered by a smooth and grunty 140kW/440Nm 3.0-litre diesel V6.

But the Sprinter also is available with some advanced safety features, including Crosswind Assist (pretty handy on something the size of a small block of apartments), blind spot assist, high-beam assist, lane keep assist, collision prevention assist and an adaptive stability system that can take the cargo weight into account.

The car that this van beats: Mercedes-Benz GLC 220d. The Sprinter is more powerful than the GLC. Plus you can probably park the GLC in the back of the Sprinter.

Ford Transit Supervan 3

Ford SuperVan had to have an engine downgrade so non-racing-drivers could control it. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Ford has made a couple of Transit Supervans over the years, simply because it could. The coolest is Supervan 3, which was a rebuild of Supervan 2, but with a Cosworth Formula 1 V8 engine jammed into it. Since then it has had a number of different engines, but currently packs a Cosworth 3.0-litre V6 that pumps out around 220kW.

The Supervan's chassis was a Ford C100 Group C racing car, so handling the power from the F1 engine was no problem, but the decision to downgrade the engine was so more people could actually drive it. Which is kind of awesome.

The car that this van beats: almost any car.

 - Stuff


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