Motoring review: Mercedes Citan 109 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY

Budding man with a van? Try this Merc for size

Price: from £13,095
Engine capacity: 1.4 litre diesel
Power output (PS @ rpm): 90 @ 4,000
Max torque (Nm @ rpm):
200 @ 1,750-3,000
Top speed (mph): 93
Fuel economy (mpg): 65.7
CO2 emissions (g/km): 112

Some of my earliest memories involve driving around the north-west in my dad's white Mercedes. It wasn't a grand S-Class or sleek C-Class, but a lumbering white TN van full of joinery equipment.

And, not to get too Nizlopi about it, it didn't stop me boasting on the playground casually boasting about "my dad's Mercedes".

I remember the TN looking pretty cool, but Google provides a correcting reminder that it was a big, Soviet-looking box.

Anyway, that didn't stop me getting excited when I was handed the keys to the new Citan, the German giant's new city delivery vehicle which, in the long-wheelbase, extra-panel version I drove, ought to work for all but the largest of deliveries. It won't, however, fit a king-size mattress. Unless you shove it in at an angle, bend it and slam the door before it springs back. But not as many people would be as stupid as this reviewer in trying to move house with a marque's smallest commercial van. Oh well.

A powerful beast, the Citan also looks pretty good, with its panels curving nicely around from the roof to the wheelbase. Inside, things are sparse enough. This isn't a weekend leisure drive, it's a utilitarian jobber, with plastic floors, big roomy seats and a no-nonsense CD/MP3 player. And although you get the prestige of a Merc, it's in a similar price range to many of its rivals, including the very similar, popular Renault Kangoo.

In the Kangoo's case, there's a reason for this similarity. Though its hearty diesel rumble makes it feel very much like a Teutonic heavyweight – a four-wheeled Max Schmeling – the Citan is actually derived from the Renault van. It's all part of a deal Daimler signed with Renault-Nissan to work together on some engine platforms and ranges about three years ago. The deal was extended at the end of last year, with new engines from the collaboration expected to begin appearing in cars from around 2016, in mid-size cars such as the Megane.

Back to the Citan. As well as its outstanding mileage (great for people using it for work), it's actually fairly fun to drive too, with a responsive kick and a breaking system hardy enough to manage a fuller-than-full load (ie, all of my possessions) even in the busy stop-start environs of London's north circular on a balmy Saturday afternoon. In fact, the non-panelled versions of the Citan, the Dualiner and Traveliner, which come with rear windows and seats would make it a decent bet for a large family car. Especially at £15,000. It might turn out to be a popular bet for those looking to adapt it for wheelchair access, too.

Safety-wise things aren't quite so good. The Citan only scored three-out of five stars in NCAP testing, who discovered a faulty side airbag, which got caught on the seatbelt. As a result, on Monday, Daimler recalled 3,500 Citans from around Europe to fix the problem, and its chief exec Dieter Zetsche has since promised to improve matters.

You don't doubt they will. That aside, the Citan is a nimble, roomy, powerful, cheap-to-run van for all seasons.

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