As 2015 begins, the rush of new van models and updates is subsiding, leaving a British LCV parc that is newer and fresher than it has ever been.
Just about every van available received some kind of attention last year, whether it was a completely new model or simply a few nips and tucks.
One of the ‘nip and tuck’ brigade was the van on test here, the Citroën Relay, which now sports a smart new front end and a series of other smaller improvements to build quality and fuel economy.
Priced at £20,205, our test model is the smallest Relay available and is in base format, which is probably what just about all fleets will be buying.
This variant offers a gross vehicle weight of 3,000kg, a loadspace of eight cubic metres and payload of 1,155kg.
As expected, this van isn’t exactly brimming over with standard equipment, but does nevertheless feature ABS brakes and electronic stability control, a full steel bulkhead, remote central locking and a Teletrac sat-nav system.
Our test model also had added extras such as a reversing camera at £225, metallic paint at £400 and a lane departure warning system which makes a buzz if it feels that van is drifting out of the lane. This system only works above 37 mph.
The Relay now has a very classy front end, setting it well apart from its predecessor. Even my partner, who has no interest in LCVs at all, remarked on what a nice looking vehicle it was.
Climbing aboard, the interior has been reworked and now features an overhead parcel shelf and, for the first time, a dedicated coffee cup holder (vital for long distance drivers) although, rather annoyingly, it is situated on the opposite side of the dash from the driver’s seat.
There are certainly no complaints about said seat, which I think is best-in-class, with plenty of lumbar support. I undertook a 450-mile trip in one day during our test week and alighted at the other end with no back twinges at all.
There are some nice smaller touches in the cab too, such as a pop-up A4 document clip on top of the dash and two 12-volt take-offs, so a sat-nav unit and a mobile phone can both be plugged in at once. But there really is no need for a separate sat-nav unit as the Relay, like most other Citroën vans, comes complete with a free Teletrac unit which also acts as a stolen vehicle tracker.
And it’s not a bottom-of-the-range unit either. Hit the telephone icon and the driver can connect directly with an operative at Teletrac HQ in Oxfordshire, speaking through the unit itself.
Our test model featured the 2.2-litre 110bhp turbodiesel powerplant, which is the lowest-powered variant on offer. It won’t exactly set the road on fire, but we reckon there is power enough for fleet purposes.
With a few technologial tweaks, this engine now offers a creditable 41.5mpg on the combined cycle, although in real life the figure is more likely to be in the mid-30s.
On the road, the Relay is a neat performer with well-balanced power steering giving plenty of ‘feel’ through the steering wheel.
Now that ESC is a legal requirement we get this admirable safety device as standard on the Relay. It was always one of our big bugbears that it remained on the options list until the law was passed on October last year.
With good looks, low running costs and a very comfortable driver’s seat, the Relay is a worthy fleet contender. Its biggest rival is likely to be the cracking new Ford Transit, from which it has come under increasing pressure recently. I’ll be eagerly watching the monthly sales charts this year.