Van drivers spend hours behind the wheel, so anything that makes driving easier and more relaxed has to be a good idea.
As our roads become ever more congested and driving seems to be a series of stops and starts, having an automatic van makes sense.
There's no need to change gear manually and the clutch pedal is consigned to history if you drive an automatic, meaning your journeys are that much smoother.
Even though automatic vans often cost slightly more initially, the gap is narrowing. Besides, today's automatic gearboxes tend to be more fuel efficient, so it may well be worth it in the long run.
We've chosen 10 examples of vans (in alphabetical order) with automatic transmissions that have been praised, but there are many more great vans out there.
Most recently named Best Small Trades Van (Berlingo Blue HDi 100) at the 2019 Business Van of the Year Awards, Citroen's comfortable, compact commercial has been racking up the trophies since its launch in 2018.
Available in two lengths and with payloads up to 1,000kg, it's closely related to the Peugeot Partner and Vauxhall Combo and is fitted with a new EAT8 (Efficient Automatic Transmission) which offers quick and smooth gear changes as well as improving fuel consumption and efficiency.
What Van? reckons it's a "gem" of a system, while Auto Trader Vans says it’s "fantastically smooth".
Named Medium Van of the Year at the Commercial Fleet Awards 2018, the Citroen Dispatch is smartly styled, drives well and benefits from low running costs and a big dealer network.
Available in three sizes with sliding side doors, the six-speed automatic transmission is smooth and controlled via a dinky little gear selector dial low down on the centre console.
Named Best Delivery Van in the Business Van Awards 2019, the Fiat Ducato was praised for its looks, flexibility, reliability, technology and value for money. Available as a Van, Crew Van, Dropside/Tipper and Dropside/Tipper Double Cab, there's something for everybody.
Loadspace is an impressive 17,000 litres, with a payload up to 2,200 kg and a good choice of petrol and diesel engines. The Ducato is also offered with a Comfort-Matic auto gearbox which has three modes: automatic, semi-automatic and manual. Auto Express said "the Comfort-Matic auto works well and suits the relaxed high-torque character of the Ducato’s engines".
Now in its fourth generation, the Ford Transit is a van legend. Available in three body lengths and two heights, plus van and double cab body options, it boasts a great ride and good handling.
Available with Ford’s six-speed SelectShift automatic transmission, it also allows you to change gear manually if you prefer. Commercial Fleet magazine was impressed: "It’s responsive and performs well-judged shifts, keeping the vehicle in the necessary power band for as long as possible. Performance is strong and the seamless shifts deliver a relaxing and comfortable driving environment."
Winner of the 2018 Auto Express Van of the Year and What Van? Awards 2019: Large Van of the Year, the third generation Sprinter was launched in 2018 to rave reviews.
Available with three wheelbases, four vehicle lengths, three roof heights, chassis, chassis crewcab, Tourers, and an all-new Tractor Head chassis specifically designed for motorhomes, the new Merc can also be specified with an impressive new nine-speed gearbox which Auto Trader Vans calls "a particular highlight".
As you'd expect from Mercedes-Benz, the popular and versatile Vito is a premium product. As well as panel van versions, it's also offered as a Crew Van and Tourer minibus. When Commercial Fleet magazine reviewed the Vito it was impressed by the "wonderful" seven-speed automatic gearbox.
It added: "Many fleet operators will baulk at the price of the auto box but it could be a price worth paying. It means much less wear and tear on the gears, less strain on a driver who makes multiple drops during the day, and it will also appeal more to second buyers when the van is sold."
Winner of Company Car and Van magazine's ‘Small Van of the Year’, the versatile new Partner is available in two body lengths (4.40m and 4.75m). Boasting a wide range of efficient petrol and diesel engines, a good selection of driver assistance and safety systems, plus Peugeot's innovative digital i-Cockpit, it’s available with the new EAT8 eight-speed automatic transmission seen in its Citroen Berlingo and Vauxhall Combo Cargo sister vans.
Auto Trader Vans reckons it’s “wonderful”, adding: “It is fantastically smooth, and a far better option than has historically been offered on a van. As proof of its modernity, it even boosts the claimed efficiency."
Read more about small vans in our guide: 10 of the best small vans.
Vauxhall Combo Cargo
Closely related to the Citroen Berlingo and Peugeot Partner, the Combo Cargo was launched in 2018 and is available in two lengths and one roof height, plus a crew van. Comfortable and refined, it was crowned Van Fleet World Van of the Year and Small Van of the Year 2019 at the Great British Fleet Awards.
Like its Citroen and Peugeot sister vans, a new eight-speed automatic gearbox can be specified which What Car? says is "the surprise package in the range" with "well-spaced ratios". Vauxhall claims it not only enables smooth shifting, but also helps reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
Voted Best Small Trades Van in the Business Van of the Year Awards 2018, the Volkswagen Caddy brings badge appeal, build quality, comfort, refinement and high residual values to the small vans sector. Choose from a Caddy, longer Caddy Maxi or Caddy Maxi Kombi if you need to carry more than one passenger.
What Car? waxed lyrical about the Caddy's superb six-speed DSG automatic in its review. It said it's "the best gearbox of its type on the market" and concluded: "Gearshifts are lightning quick and smooth, adding another layer of tranquillity to what is already a comfortable and quiet van to drive."
The current sixth-generation T6 came along in 2016 and is currently the third biggest-selling van in the UK. Winner of the Used Van of the Year title at the What Van? Awards 2019, the Transporter is a class act with superb comfort, high build quality, a fine range of efficient engines and top tech. It's available with a smooth seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox, just like VW passenger cars.
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