In this feature, we take a look at the options available to those who might just benefit from a van with multiple identities...
So you’ve a new contract starting which means getting your team to a location that’s well away from any public transport routes. You can pick them up on the way, but there are four people in addition to yourself. The car is out of the question as you also need to carry tools and materials to site.
Or, you’re a camping enthusiast and want to take the family on short breaks to the coast or to national parks. Three seats in the front of the van are not adequate when you’ve four children and a partner, and the family hatchback won’t take all the gear you need.
Enter, stage left, the dual purpose ‘Combi’ van. You’ll see these being marketed by different manufacturers under various designations, such as Kombi, Crew Van, Crewcab, Double Cab, Double Cab in Van (DCIV) and others.
The one thing they have in common is an additional row of seats behind the driver. Side windows are fitted and the rear passenger area is accessed through one or two side loading doors. In most cases, a bulkhead is fitted behind this second row to protect the passengers from shifting loads.
The double cab (let’s just call them this) option is offered on most panel vans on the market and many customers will opt for the longer wheelbase versions to maximise the loadspace area.
The Vauxhall Vivaro is a typical medium van available in this dual-purpose guise. Referred to as the Vivaro Doublecab, the six seat option is offered on both the L1 and L2 wheelbases. It’s probably worth comparing the loadspace dimensions of both vans, in both standard form and Doublecab.
The Vivaro L1 panel van offers 2,185mm of load length at mid height level while the Doublecab can accept lengths of 1,352mm, so you’re losing 833mm. L2 panel van has 2,535mm of capacity at the same height, reduced to 1,700mm in Doublecab.
There are going to be times when you don’t need those rear seats, but you really could do with that potential load area to carry a bulkier load to your customer. Some manufacturers have found ingenious ways to temporarily release this space and Vauxhall is no exception.
The rear seat in some models of Vivaro Doublecab can fold vertically, to the rear of the driver’s cab area, increasing the total load volume by 1.5 cubic metres. Taking just a few seconds to reconfigure, this allows maximum flexibility for the operator who needs their van to be able to quickly adapt to ever-changing requirements.
Although all medium vans with a double cab layout essentially do the same thing, there’s one in particular that is the favourite of the active family – the Volkswagen Transporter Kombi.
Quite possibly due to the Sixties campervan heritage, the camping and surfing fraternity have adopted the Transporter as their go-to vehicle, often buying one to use as their everyday transport in addition to holidays and long weekends by the coast.
These are typically private individuals who won’t use the vehicle for commercial purposes.
While medium-sized vans are possibly the most popular, bigger vans such as the Ford Transit are also available in the dual-purpose configuration.
Transit DCIV is offered in L2, L3 and L4 wheelbases. 3,211mm of load length is available on the L4 version, allowing all but the longest loads to be carried along with the additional passengers.
You’ll often see dropside and tipper vehicles with a rear passenger compartment. Typically used by construction and civil engineering companies, they’ll ferry teams of workers from location to location while carrying materials and equipment in the rear.
Some can be specified with storage areas in lieu of rear seats, allowing items of higher value such as tools to be secured rather than being left in the exposed load area.
If you’ve five passengers each weighing 90kg, you’ve almost halved the 1,000kg payload you thought you had. In longer vans in particular it can be quite easy to unintentionally exceed your maximum GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass).
When is a van a van, and when does it become a car? This can be crucial for taxation purposes and the status of double cab vans has been the subject of much discussion over the years.
A van with just front seats and no side windows to the rear of the driver is obviously intended for the carriage of goods. Where things get less clear to the taxman is when the van is clearly designed to carry additional people at the expense of loadspace, so there are a couple of criteria that manufacturers make every attempt to fulfil to satisfy the authorities that the prime function of the vehicle is for commercial use.
Crucially, the van must have a payload capacity of 1,000kg or over when unladen. If it’s below that, there’s a very strong possibility that the van won’t be considered to be a commercial vehicle. Secondly, the size of the loadspace area in relation to the passenger compartment will influence any decision. If there’s more space for people than loads, there could be a problem.
I started my career selling vans in the mid-eighties, progressing through dealer groups to management level. In 2010 I joined vehicle valuation company CAP, being made responsible for forecasting future used values for all makes and models of vans and trucks, this data being used by leasing companies and manufacturers to assess future risk. This role entailed very early exposure to new models including extensive testing across Europe.
In 2016 I started up my own consultancy business dedicated to the LCV industry. In addition, my freelance written work has been used by a number of clients and I am a regular contributor to WhatVan? magazine. I’m also a judge for their annual ‘Van of the Year’ awards.
To relax, I enjoy travel and walking near my Yorkshire home.