Whatever the qualities of this new trio of vans, one thing is definite – they’ll certainly gain a reputation for their bizarre names.
The Citroën Nemo, Fiat Fiorino and Peugeot Bipper (no laughing at the back there!) hail from the Tofas plant in Turkey and are due to hit Britain’s shores in May.
The products are basically the same, but as we will see later, there are some important differences between the three manufacturers’ offerings.
Over the years the LCV segments have been fragmenting into ever smaller slices and these vans herald the arrival of yet another sector – compact, chic and very capable dudes that fit in between the likes of the Citroën Berlingo/Peugeot Partner/Fiat Doblo Cargo and the smaller C2 Enterprise/207/Grande Punto.
And while Fiat has been comparatively conservative with its name, resurrecting a model moniker that has already sold 1.2 million worldwide, Citroën and Peugeot have opted for maximum wackiness.
As an old groaner, I assumed the Nemo was named after Captain Nemo from Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea but apparently there is a Disney fish bearing the same name.
A call to the press office revealed that no-one was sure which can claim to have influenced the decision-makers.
As for the Bipper, the guys in the Peugeot press office informed me that the marketing men were simply charged with coming up with a name that was ‘fun and different’ and that was their best shot.
So what do the three manufacturers offer for buyers in this new sector?
According to the press blurb, the vans are specifically designed for round-town use and can winkle into little back streets and spaces with a turning circle of just 9.95 metres.
But their smallish looking exteriors hide the fact that they can carry 610kg of cargo in 2.5 cubic metres of space, which expands to 2.8 cubic metres with the clever folding passenger seat stowed away.
A low step at the back means drivers will only have to lift cargo 527mm to get it in.
Meanwhile, maximum load length is 1,523mm, extended to 2,491mm with that seat stashed.
That’s nigh on two and a half metres, or 8ft 2in to us old ’uns. Blimey!
Prices and standard spec have yet to be decided among the three, but on offer will be an auto ’box for the diesel versions, ABS brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, driver, passenger and side airbags and rear parking sensors, deadlocks, an alarm and selective front and rear opening on the plip key. ESP traction control is on the cards for later on in the year.
This has given the new van a five-star Thatcham rating for theft and four stars for break-in resistance.
Combi versions with seating for five will also be produced in Europe but so far only Fiat has said definitely that it will import these.
Citroën and Peugeot have yet to decide but it looks unlikely.
That’s the first difference – others follow under the bonnet.
Fiat will use its tried-and-tested 1.3 MultiJet engine which can be found in vehicles as diverse as the Doblo Cargo and Vauxhall Combo, offering 75bhp and 140lb-ft of torque at 1,759rpm. It won’t be bringing in any petrol variants.
Citroën and Peugeot, on the other hand, will be offering either 1.4-litre petrol or 1.4 HDi diesels, thus allowing for LPG conversions to be made afterwards. These offer 75bhp at 5,200rpm/87lb-ft of torque at 2,600rpm and 70bhp at 4,000rpm/118lb-ft of torque at 1,750rpm respectively.
Both diesel engines emit just 119g/km of CO2, which puts them in the free category under Ken Livingstone’s proposed changes to the London congestion charging scheme.
Fuel economy figures suggest 62.7mpg on the combined cycle.
Behind the wheel
It’s always a headache for us journos when Citroën, Peugeot and Fiat launch a combined van.
I wasn’t able to make it on the Nemo launch in France, but tagged along with Fiat on a trip to Italy, where we put the Fiorino through its paces on the streets of Turin and on a twisty mountain road outside the city.
It’s rather fitting that I drove a Fiorino first as the van is actually based on the Fiat Punto chassis. My driving impressions, however, count for all three vans.