Which small work van should I buy?

I install tile and want to be able to keep my tools in the vehicle. It could be a minivan with the backseat removed, but I want the best gas mileage I can get. Also, do any small vans run on diesel?

Jessica, Chapel Hill, N.C.

If you intend to use the van just for work, then the Chevrolet HHR panel van might do the trick. Fuel economy ratings for the base 2.2-liter engine are 22/32 mpg city/highway with manual transmission and 22/30 mpg with automatic.

Hhrpanelnamehere_1

The HHR panel van doesn’t have any backseats because it’s intended for use as a work or delivery van. It has a permanent flat cargo area; integrated into the cargo floor are storage areas for equipment or material. The rear windows are blocked off with steel inserts that prevent passers-by from seeing tools, and it also acts as canvas to include a large “Jessica’s Tiling” sign, if you’re so inclined. If you’ve driven work vehicles without rear windows then it should be easy to acclimate to the HHR’s driving experience. If not, then driving the windowless HHR could be difficult because rear visibility is almost non-existent, some Cars.com editors have noted. There’s also no door handles for the rear doors, but the doors do open with a button on the dashboard or with the keyless entry that pop the rear doors open.

Hhrpanelcargo2

Other vehicles to consider include the Ford Transit Connect small commercial van, which won’t be available until mid-2009. European versions of the Transit use diesel power, but the U.S. version will use a gasoline engine with fuel economy estimates of 19/24 mpg city/highway, according to Ford.

But if you need an all-around small minivan that will serve a dual purpose as a light-work and passenger vehicle, something like the Mazda5 would make a better daily driver, although a less-capable work van.

The Mazda5 has fuel economy ratings of 22/28 mpg with manual and 21/27 mpg with automatic. It’s a good small minivan, but it would be less practical for work use. It does have storage compartments under the second-row seats, however. The cargo area is carpeted, unlike the hard plastic cargo area of the HHR, and when the backseats are folded, the cargo area doesn’t have a flat loading floor.

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Answered by Joe Bruzek on August 19, 2008 | Permalink

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