The more eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that something rather curious is happening in the world of small vans – they are getting much much bigger.
It started with the Citroën Berlingo and Peugeot Partner, which grew considerably in stature when new models were launched last year.
To fill in the gap underneath, both manufacturers launched a brand new model – the Nemo and Bipper respectively – which opened up a new sector, ‘urban delivery van’.
Now, Renault has launched two new Kangoos – but instead of spending millions of euros designing two different vehicles, the French maker has launched the new Kangoo and simply hacked a bit off the back end to make a rival for the Nemo and Bipper – called the Compact.
While load volume is restricted to a rather dinky 2.3 cubic metres, the cab seems enormous – which indeed it is compared to those in the Nemo and Bipper. Under the bonnet there’s a choice of 1.6-litre petrol engine offering 90bhp and 94lb-ft of torque at 3,750rpm or 1.5-litre dCi common rail diesel units with either 70bhp and 118lb-ft of torque at 1,700rpm or 90bhp and 147lb-ft of torque at 1,900rpm.
Our test model featured the lower-powered diesel unit, which promises fuel consumption on the combined cycle of 53.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 140g/km. That’s a lot less mpg than the Nemo/Bipper at 62.8mpg and the Kangoo Compact also can’t touch its French cousins on CO2 as they both emit just 119g/km.
Trim levels are either SL or SL+ and prices range from £8,690 to £10,490 ex-VAT. For the price you get as standard ABS brakes with EBD, driver’s airbag, full steel bulkhead, height adjustable steering wheel and remote central locking.
Behind the wheel
Comparisons will always be made between this van and the Citroën Nemo/Peugeot Bipper as all three models go head to head in the market So it was handy that during my test week with the Kangoo, I also had a Nemo parked on my driveway.
The first difference to note is that against the Nemo, the cab in the Kangoo Compact seems massive.
The windscreen is placed well forward of the driver and the impression is that you are at the helm of a much bigger van than you really are.
But although this van looks bigger when parked side by side, it actually has a smaller payload (500kg to 610kg) and a smaller load area (2.3 cu m to 2.5cu m) than the Nemo/Bipper. Also on the minus side, you can’t buy a Kangoo Compact with a side sliding door (Nemo/Bipper has one as standard on higher level models).
On the road, the Kangoo Compact feels heavier than the Nemo/Bipper.
Enginewise, the Kangoo Compact is a delight to drive with a powerplant that’s smooth, refined and lusty too, although on the noisy side.
Having spent a week with the 70bhp model I really can’t see the point of opting for the 90bhp version which is £400 more. This lower-powered model never felt lacking and will lope along at a fair lick when required.
With sales of LCVs dropping like a stone at present, we’re going to see a bitter sales battle this year. In the end, a buying choice between Kangoo Compact, Nemo and Bipper could well boil down to whoever offers the largest discounts.