The average company car can usually happily double up as family transport without too much trouble. Most have sufficient space to be able to swallow a couple of kids and their associated paraphernalia, as long as there is nothing too complicated to carry.

But when it comes to running a small business, perhaps as a retailer, then things can become a little more complicated.

Often it ends in the need for two vehicles — a van to carry the loads and bulk associated with the company, and then a family car to deal with domestic transport.

It’s not an ideal combination in recessionary times when finding the most efficient practices is key to the bottom line.

The ideal solution would be to combine both vehicles into one, providing something with the space and flexibility to put in a hard shift at work before transforming into family/leisure transport.

Some people manage this with their 4x4s or large estate cars, but these can be expensive and there are surprisingly few options available.

But a good example is the Renault Kangoo originally launched in the UK in 1997 as a passenger-carrying variation of the successful van of the same name.

The latest version benefits from 12 years of thinking about the car’s ‘split personality’ and more than ever tries to answer questions about the need for space and practicality allied to comfort and a decent driving experience.

Does it succeed? Certainly the Kangoo ticks a lot of boxes.

Sadly, the first thing that strikes you about it is that it is incredibly ugly — more so even than previous generations. The pug-like headlights and slab sides mean anyone interested in vehicle aesthetics should steer well clear.

There is still little effort to obscure the Kangoo’s van origins but it’s a better story inside. Once the door shuts, the interior is very airy and gives a big impression of space.

Being French, the seats are typically soft and very comfortable and while the dashboard is hard plastic, it serves its purpose and there are plenty of toys to play with.

Particularly impressive are the range of storage options. Above the driver and passenger sits a shelf which is useful for carring all sorts of odds and ends.

And above the three separate rear seats sit three aircraft-style luggage lockers which are great for carrying kids’ toys or books.

The rear splits split and the front passenger seat reclines providing room for very long loads (up to 2.5 metres long) such as shelving or a surf board, and in all there is a total of 2,866 litres of available space.

I also appreciated the use of a rubber boot mat which meant the carpets don’t need cleaning every time you take the dog out in the car, and the roof rails can be transformed into a mini luggage rack without the use of tools which works well.

On one particular trip, I managed to accommodate two bikes, a Labrador and a teenager as well as a front seat passenger — something I would not be able to attempt in a conventional car or even MPV.

Loading is easy thanks to the huge boot lid and the rear parcel shelf can sit in two positions splitting the space available.

Rear passengers can also get in and out easily, thanks to the sliding van-style rear doors. But they are very heavy and I could not see a child or pensioner being able to close them without assistance from outside, which rather defeats the object.

On the road the Renault is pleasant enough to drive. The test car was fitted with the 105 bhp diesel engine, the most powerful in the range, and the chassis is based on the Scenic rather than a van, which improves handling on previous generations.

It is no racing car but jogs along quite happily and very economically when you make full use of the standard six-speed gearbox.

In fact the handling is car-like. All the controls are light and this Expression model came fitted with automatic lights and wipers as well as a decent stereo.

Climate control is standard and the build quality seems good — certainly more like a car than a van.

Overall, I liked the Kangoo because it genuinely does things many other cars can’t do and that is why it is a different proposition at a reasonable price.

If only it looked a little easier on the eye, then I am sure it would win a few more friends.

Model: Renault Kangoo Expression 106 dCi Peformance: 0-62mph in 13 seconds, top speed 106mph Economy: 51.4mpg (combined) CO2 emissions: 146g/km Price: £14,050 Web: