The 19 vans you never knew you wanted | Top Gear
BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Subscribe to Top Gear magazine
Sign up to our Top Gear Magazine
Thursday 28th September
Top Gear Advice

The 19 vans you never knew you wanted

And we got through the whole thing without mentioning van life once. Oh

MiEV van
  1. Mazda Scrum Wagon

    Mazda Scrum Wagon

    What it is: Obviously a land-going leviathan that’d make an F350 Super Duty look feeble. Or, y’know, a tiny kei van

    What it has: Seating for four, a turbocharged 660cc engine up front, an absurd amount of storage for its size. Oh, and the seats all fold flat, in case you really need a quick kip

    Why you want it: Parking is a chore, petrol costs are crazy and public transport is presumably full of COVID

    Advertisement - Page continues below
  2. Holden Sandman

    Holden Sandman

    What it is: Objectively, a 1970s panel van from the dearly departed Australian brand, Holden, with some extra goodies. Subjectively, a slice of Australian history and an extraordinary blend of function and fun

    What it has: A gigantic engine out front, split-folding tailgate out back, and space for everything you can dream up in the middle

    Why you want it: You mean aside from how it looks, the promise of big Australian engines and space for all your stuff? Oh, right... that reason. Well, they were called Shaggin’ Wagons for a reason

  3. Mitsubishi Minicab MiEV

    Mitsubishi Minicab MiEV

    What it is: A Mitsubishi MiEV that you’d actually want. Possibly

    What it has: Kei-car dimensions, commercial van construction... and a full-electric powertrain, fed by a little 16kWh battery  

    Why you want it: Aside from the fact that it’ll cost less than a Tesco sandwich to run this thing? Well, it’s electric power distilled to its essence – there’s no lane-keeping, radar-guided, GPS-led tech overload here, just a simple little van that just happens to run on electricity

    Advertisement - Page continues below
  4. Renault Fourgonnette

    Renault Fourgonnette

    What it is: The van version of the broadly invincible Renault 4. Even among vans, this is a get-things-done kind of machine

    What is has: Independent suspension (which some vans still don’t have), mystifyingly large cargo area  – front-wheel-drive can’t account for all of it, surely – and all the breakneck speed of a Sergio Leone film

    Why you want it: Because all the Citroen H vans have been snapped up for use in Shoreditch cafes

  5. Quigley 4x4 conversion van

    Quigley 4x4 conversion van

    What it is: Freedom, son. That’s what it is

    What it has: A superfluity of space, as you can only achieve by buying something an American calls ‘full size’. Also a custom 4x4 system by Quigley, an outfit so good they actually get the nod from Ford in its Special Vehicle Engineering program

    Why you want it: If space is the ultimate luxury, then space to bring along a queen-size bed, full kitchen, wood-burning stove and possibly even spa bath – to whichever part of the world you feel like heading – must be rolling proof of that axiom

  6. Mazda Bongo Friendee

    Mazda Bongo Friendee

    What it is: A large Japanese van with every conceivable luxury that 1995 could offer – including something people in the Nineties had called ‘optimism for the future’. Nifty

    What it has: Top billing in every ‘silly car names’ list on the internet, but also four-wheel-drive and a sneakily mid-mounted engine. Also, electrically operated doors and window blinds... and a gigantic lift-up roof that also contains its own sleeping area. Y’know, essential stuff

    Why you want it: Because you’re desperate to make ‘banging on the bongo’ jokes

  7. Honda N-Van

    Honda N-Van

    What it is: Honda’s way to explore the absolute limits of the Kei class. Also a handy little van, as it turns out

    What it has: perhaps the most useful folding seats in the business, which means you can load an entire motorbike if you so choose. And yes, we so choose

    Why you want it: Did we not just mention the whole motorbike bit? It’s hard to dream up a better one-person weekender

    Advertisement - Page continues below
  8. DKW Schnellaster

    DKW Schnellaster

    What it is: Germany’s other van from the mid-20th century. Didn’t sell quite as well, it seems

    What it has: The kind of packaging that’d embarrass brand-new vans. Seriously, the engine and drivetrain fit under your feet, leaving the rest of the space free to do as you choose

    Why you want it: Because Vee Dub Kombis are just so passé, no?

    Image: RM Sotheby’s

  9. Austin Mini van

    Austin Mini van

    What it is: The van version of Britain’s best-ever car. Yeah, you heard us

    What it has: Another four inches in the wheelbase, more room for your things, a pair of barn doors, and the nagging suspicion that Mini vans would have made better gold-pinching cars in The Italian Job

    Why you want it: No, seriously. Gold is heavy. Surely a van rated to carry a quarter-ton is a better choice

    Image: South Western Vehicle Auctions

    Advertisement - Page continues below
  10. MSRT Transit

    MSRT Transit

    What it is: Well, a Transit, clearly. Just one that’s absolutely gone after it on the vodka and Red Bulls

    What it has: Transit-spec practicality, and ASBO-spec everything else. We’re fans, but then of course we would be

    Why you want it: You can get loads of power, a manual gearbox, a full(y sick) bodykit and Oz Racing wheels... and the interior space to be a tradie on weekdays and a roadie on weekends. Maybe not for the Grateful Dead in its wall-of-sound era, but who listens to them anyway?

  11. Dodge A100

    Dodge A100

    What it is: What the Americans would call a ‘forward control’ van, i.e. one that puts you on the front axle, with your legs out in front. Should be nice and safe in a crash

    What it has: More old-school vibes than you can shake a Byron Bay hipster at. Aside from that, an engine in the cabin, with a chair either side of it. Then again, when that engine can be a 5.2-litre V8, that rather changes the landscape

    Why you want it: Ever heard of the Little Red Wagon? Same basic vehicle. Just an idea...

  12. Morris Commercial JE

    Morris Commercial JE

    What it is: A very new van, made to look very much like an old van

    What it has: Full-electric drivetrain, modular chassis, carbon-fibre bodywork... and the looks (and badge) of a vehicle that should have none of the above

    Why you want it: You’re after Doctor Who tech, but a Grantchester aesthetic

  13. Citroen Ami Cargo

    Citroen Ami Cargo

    What it is: Proof that all things tiny and space efficient don’t have to be Kei cars

    What it has: Perhaps the most accessibility of anything on this list... at least in terms of price. It’s €6,490 brand-new, and if you’re in France, you don’t need a driving licence to drive it. Even if you’re 14 years old, you’re still free and clear to get behind the wheel and head out on French roads. Not to be all British-cliche about things, but we do rather like France

    Why you want it: You have the same weird sickness we do and just want all of the tiny, utilitarian things

  14. Chevrolet Corvair Greenbrier

    Chevrolet Corvair Greenbrier

    What it is: The van version of a car once called unsafe at any speed. And it’s probably not super safe, given that it’s from the 1960s... but life isn’t safe – and if it is safe, it isn’t life

    What it has: A factory-fitted, rear-mounted, air-cooled flat six, rear drive... and as many as eight doors, if you find the right one. But there’ll be at least six if you don’t. Take that, Porsche 911

    Why you want it: Just go back and read that whole ‘factory-fitted, rear-mounted, air-cooled flat six’ bit. We’ll wait

    Image: Mecum

  15. LEVC VN5

    LEVC VN5

    What it is: The van version of the new London Taxi, with a similarly tiny turning circle and the ability to carry two full-sized pallets of stuff. Surely worth considering for the Heathrow run, you’d imagine

    What it has: A fairly unimaginative name, to be fair. We’d have called it the STUFF TAXI or something, to drive the point home

    Why you want it: It has a fully electric powertrain, but a range-extending engine... and still manages to have enough space for two pallets’ worth of stuff. Is it a TARDIS or something?

  16. Toyota Welcab

    Toyota Welcab

    What it is: Technically, it’s not a van, but an option for Toyota vans that offers various assisted mobility setups from the factory. Now doesn’t that sound better than having to spend huge sums on modifying a regular van?

    What it has: An extendable ramp, fittings for one or two wheelchairs and even a special seat that extends out of the car, so all you have to do is sit down and strap in, and let motors do the rest

    Why you want it: Well, the obvious reason, of course. But even besides that, if the idea of a factory-fresh van with a low-mounted loading ramp doesn’t appeal to you, you clearly do not have enough motorcycles


  17. Renault Estafette

    Renault Estafette

    What it is: Basically a Kombi van, just if it were French and had serious misgivings about the whole ‘rear-engined’ thing

    What it has: A sub-1000kg kerb weight, an engine – and drivetrain – up front, and the commensurate improvements in loading space that you’d expect from such a layout

    Why you want it: You’ve tried to use a VW Kombi for actual van-type things and realised how incredibly impractical having an engine in your cargo bay really is

  18. Honda Stepwgn

    Honda Stepwgn

    What it is: Imagine a Honda Odyssey’s bigger brother; the one that never tried to be svelte or car-like. And yes, it’s called the Stepwgn, like Flickr or Tumblr or Grindr or any other modern thing that has a vendetta against vowels

    What it has: The kind of space you can only get by building what’s essentially a gigantic box with chairs in it. Also that whole ‘Honda reliability’ thing, for all you people who don’t have Alfa Romeos or Husqvarnas and actually expect your machinery to work

    Why you want it: Well, it’s a broadly unkillable van with all sorts of creature comforts and enough space to take a medium-sized band on tour... with their stuff. Also, if you get the previous generation to this one, you also get a rear door that can open barn-door style or as a one-piece tailgate. Heavy, but ingenious

  19. Dodge Conversion Van

    Dodge Conversion Van

    What it is: The passenger-carrying version of the Dodge Van. And as such, it’ll be far less trashed than the workaday vans

    What it has: Gigantic... pretty much everything – wheelbase, engine, interior space, fuel bill

    Why you want it: Ever heard of Dajiban? Well, when you’re done doing van stuff... just an idea

More from Top Gear

See more on Top Gear Advice

Promoted Content

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine

Get your first 5 issues for £5