First Drive: Citro├źn Dispatch


Now that the Citroën Berlingo has grown to carry nearly four cubic metres of cargo, it has somewhat overshadowed the van on test here, the slightly larger Dispatch. It’s a shame as this van has a lot going for it in terms of stylish looks, car-like performance and low running costs.

The Dispatch has been giving sterling service to Britain’s van fleet operators since 1998 and was given a wash and brush-up for 2012 in a bid to keep it fresh.

At the front, the Dispatch has a new grille, door handles and mirrors and headlamps, while beneath the body is a fuel-saving aerodynamic panel. At the back there is now the option of a tailgate and there’s also a Grip Control pack which adds electronic stability control, traction control and Hill Start Assist, along with 16-inch Michelin Agilis tyres.

The Dispatch is offered in short and long wheelbases and with two roof heights – and there is a choice of panel van or six and nine-seater combi and crew van, plus a platform-cab for conversions.

Power is supplied by a 1.6-litre common tail turbo-diesel with 90bhp or a 2.0-litre unit with 125bhp.

Our test vehicle is the fleetiest of these models – short wheelbase, with the lower-powered engine in Enterprise format – a spec which has been specifically aimed at fleet buyers with standard items such as twin side-loading doors, air-conditioning, electric windows and electric/heated mirrors, rear parking sensors, steel bulkhead and a Bluetooth system. Sadly, ESC remains on the options list.

On the positive side, the Dispatch comes with a very natty Trafficmaster system as standard which acts as a sat-nav unit, a stolen vehicle tracking system and even a fleet management system if required. It also has a phone device in which drivers can speak directly with an operator at Trafficmaster HQ in case of an emergency or to answer any other query such as the whereabouts of the nearest Indian takeaway.

Fuel economy has been improved and now sits at 42.2mpg on the combined cycle. Price is £17,250 ex-VAT.

Behind the wheel

The great thing about the Citroën Dispatch is that while it’s a true commercial vehicle with a carrying capacity of five cubic metres, it drives just like a big car.

In the cab, while there isn’t a great deal of room for three adults, much has been made of what space there is and there are lots of handy little cubbyholes and even an overhead parcel shelf.

The seats are big and comfortable and, with an adjustable steering column, just about every size of driver should find a comfortable position.

In the rear, the double sliding doors make for easy loading while the rear door hinges unhook so they can be opened through 180º.

For operators who need more than five cubic metres, the long-wheelbase, high-roof version offers an extra 2cu m of cargo space.

Top marks to Citroën for making rear parking sensors a standard fitting but it’s a shame Citroën doesn’t make electronic stability control standard on all its vans.

The diesel powerplant fires up smoothly and quietly and the Dispatch is a joy to drive, with sharp handling and absorbent suspension.

The 90bhp unit proved up to the job – so much so that we can’t see why anyone would need to choose the higher-powered model unless carrying full loads uphill most of the time.

A very stylish-looking vehicle with admirable driving characteristics and low running costs. Only the lack of standard ESC lets it down.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.