Mercedes does a decent line in posh vans but the real daddy is the VW Transporter, variants of which crowd shorelines and trailheads across the UK. They'll range from battered, rusty ones bought after a hard life with the local builder to fully tricked out new ones costing just as much as blingy suburban SUVs.
VW has some heritage here, of course, riding the wave of the original Transporter's adoption by Californian surfers. Credit due, over six generations it's mastered the art of combining the functionality demanded by commercial users with the creature comforts to win over 'civilian' buyers too. So you can buy a Transporter with leather seats, the same DSG gearbox, and nav system as a Golf or a Passat and all the trimmings but still feel happy chucking bikes in the back after a day on the hills and hosing it out after. They drive well, feeling fast, refined and easy to operate and the on-road (or parking) footprint is actually about the same as a Discovery 4. A perfect family car then.
I think I've made the case, right? And here's the one I'd buy. The fact it's up for £31,000 (plus VAT) with nearly 15,000 miles racked up in less than a year goes to show how much these things cost. And get used. But it looks smart in Sportline trim and has the right combination of the punchy 180hp twin-turbo diesel, smooth shifting DSG gearbox, five seats (so two proper chairs up front), a tailgate to shelter under while getting changed and no bulkhead so as to permit maximum flexibility. Job definitely jobbed.
Photography courtesy of PistonHeads.