An automotive number cruncher told me once that in order to recoup the research and development outlay for a new commercial vehicle, a manufacturer would have to sell at least 100,000 units a year before making a profit.
That helps explain why so many vans share their underpinnings – Mercedes-Benz Sprinter/VW Crafter, Vauxhall Vivaro/Renault Trafic/Nissan Primastar and Citroën Nemo/Fiat Fiorino to name but a few.
So when Citroën decided it wanted an off-roader to add to its range, instead of forking out a few million euros to build its own, its PSA French bosses turned their eyes eastwards to look for a partner.
Mitsubishi had just launched a very capable soft-roader called the Outlander, so what better firm to get matey with?
The result of this new liaison is that the Japanese manufacturer provides the vehicles and Citroën bungs in its own engine – et voila, meet the Citroën C-Crosser Enterprise.
Yes, I know the C-Crosser is a car – and indeed the vehicle pictured here looks just like a car. But the point is, it isn’t.
The rear seats have been removed and a load floor added, making a very capable, stylish and comfortable commercial vehicle ideal for anyone who has to drive a van but doesn’t want the world to know about it.
Under the bonnet goes Citroën’s ubiquitous 2.2-litre HDi common rail powerplant that you’ll find in just about every Citroën car and van available nowadays.
This unit blasts out a meaty 156bhp @ 4,000rpm and 280lb-ft of torque @ 1,500rpm, translating to a 0-60mph time of just under 10 seconds and a top speed of 124mph – most un-vanlike.
Fuel economy on the combined cycle is a claimed 39.2mpg, while payload is 743kg and loadspace 1.68 cubic metres.
Being derived from a car, the general level of standard spec is much higher than you’d normally find in a van.
ABS brakes and traction control, for example, come as standard, along with driver, passenger, lateral and front curtain airbags, cruise control and a full height bulkhead.
Behind the wheel
Years ago, we had vehicles that were either on-roaders or off-roaders.
The latter were extremely capable but had all the creature comforts of a barn and were likely to loosen a few fillings in the driver’s head after a mile or two.
It wasn’t that long ago that vehicle designers cottoned on to the fact that some people might actually like a reasonably capable mud-plugger that handled like a car – and the soft-roader was born.
It was also not long ago that manufacturers came up with the idea of taking the seats out of the back of cars and making them into commercial vehicles.
The C-Crosser is a combination of both these concepts and is among the upper echelons of its class.
It is a stunning looker and the metallic silver paintwork is a must-have at £350.
It sets the vehicle off to a tee and residual value experts say that a van with sparkly paint should be worth about £500 more than one without at selling time.
The only downside I can see is that there’s no protection round the outside – and knowing what a tough life some LCVs have, the C-Crosser could suffer with dents and knocks.
Inside, the cab is smart and stylish yet chunky too, with the knobs and switches feeling up to the job. There are plenty of cubby holes and cupholders, including a large pop-up paper sheaf holder on top of the dash.
In the rear end, there’s a flat load floor and the lip underneath the tailgate folds right down so that cargo can be easily slid in and out.
There are also two handy rails at the sides for tying in awkward loads.
Under way, the C-Crosser presents itself in a lively manner, as you’d expect with a vehicle offering 156bhp.
The engine is mated to a six-speed gearbox but with all that torque on offer, so many cogs aren’t really needed.
Meanwhile, the full-height bulkhead precludes any noise coming from the rear end, which translates into a very quiet ride.
Switching from 2wd to 4wd is achieved by twizzling a knob on the centre console.
For fleets that need a mud-plugging vehicle but don’t want a fully-blown off-roader, the C-Crosser is an ideal choice.
It will also suit people who don’t really want to drive a commercial vehicle.