The arrival of the Mercedes-Benz Citan last year marked the German manufacturer’s first foray into the small van sector.
In a tie-up with Renault (the Citan is based on the Renault Kangoo), the van’s launch meant that, for the first time, fleet buyers could order commercial vehicles from 1,700kg to 44 tonnes gross vehicle weight in a single deal.
Some pundits may query why anyone would buy a Citan rather than the cheaper Kangoo. And they may have a point, unless we are talking about the van on test here, the Citan Compact.
That’s because Renault stopped offering its version of this particular model in the UK a couple of years ago. The Compact is rather a curious vehicle as it is basically a standard length Citan with the rear end cut off.
That means that the cab is far bigger than that in rivals Citroën Nemo, Peugeot Bipper and Fiat Fiorino, which is good thing, but it does give this van a rather strange look – a bit like a bulldog, which is all front end and not a lot at the back.
Power is courtesy of a 1.4-litre Renault turbodiesel powerplant offering 90bhp and 147lb-ft of torque. This gives 61.4 mpg fuel economy and CO2 emissions of 123g/km.
In the back, there’s 2.4 cubic metres of loadspace on offer, which is on a par with the rivals in the sector, while payload is 330kg, which is half the 660kg offered by the Nemo/Bipper/Fiorino.
However, standard spec is much higher than these rivals. Adaptive electronic stability control (ESC), comes as part of the £13,375 ex-VAT package, along with ABS brakes, Acceleration Skid Control, Brake Assist, folding front passenger seat, a plastic loadfloor in the rear, cruise control, stop-start technology, remote central locking and Bluetooth connectivity.
We are beginning to see more Citans on the roads as fleets see the appeal of driving around with a three-pointed star on their vans.
This may be a Renault Kangoo underneath but there are certain things you get with a Mercedes-Benz that you don’t get with other brands.
There are higher residual values for starters, as well as the German company’s unrivalled back-up if you break down. Mercedes-Benz has its own system of dealing with breakdowns thanks to the truck levels of aftercare and says it gets 84% of people moving again rather than having them towed into the nearest garage as most manufacturers do.
As for the van itself, the cab is huge for the size of the vehicle and features big supportive seats, a large chunky dash and a handy overhead shelf. The passenger seat folds right down into the floor and there’s a swivelling bulkhead that protects the driver from moving cargo. This means that loads of up to two metres long can be carried.
The rear end doesn’t have a side loading door. The wipe clean floor is a boon and is something that’s an extra in many vans of this size.
On the road, the Citan Compact is a lively performer, with ESC fitted as standard. This van has an amazingly tight turning circle too, just what you need for urban deliveries and manoeuvring in tight car parks.
However, the mesh bulkhead meant that a fair amount of noise emanated from the back end, including a variety of annoying little rattles, the source of which I couldn’t quite pinpoint.
By Trevor Gehlcken