Citroën Nemo — January 2008

Date: Friday, January 25, 2008

Smaller than the current Berlingo, but bigger than C2 Enterprise, Citro?n's all-new Nemo is a compact cargo shifter aimed squarely at the urban operator. It will make its UK exhibition debut at the British Commercial Vehicle Show at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre in April and is scheduled to go on sale here the following month.

Built at Bursa in Turkey, it's the product of a ?380m (?260m) joint venture between PSA ? Peugeot and Citro?n's parent company ? Fiat and Turkish manufacturer Tofas. Peugeot's version is called the Bipper, while Fiat's is known as the Fiorino.

All three vehicles are virtually identical aside from their badges, one key difference being that Fiorino uses a different diesel engine from the one employed by its two stablemates.

Punchy Diesel

In Nemo power comes courtesy of a 1.4-litre HDi common rail four cylinder eight valve diesel pumping out 70hp at 4,000rpm and also to be found in Ford's Fiesta Van.

Peak torque of 160Nm kicks in at 1,750rpm and CO2 emissions are a modest 119g/km. That's a potentially handy benefit given that CO2 output looks set to become an increasingly important factor when city authorities come to assess liability to pay congestion taxes. The engine can be run on up to 30 per cent biodiesel.

The alternative is a 1.4-litre petrol lump generating 75hp at 5,200rpm. Maximum torque of 118Nm makes its presence felt at 2,600rpm.

The diesel is expected to power some 90 per cent of Nemos sold Europe-wide.

Both engines are married to a five-speed manual gearbox. A five-speed clutch-pedal-less automated manual 'box is up for grabs as an extra-cost option if you specify the HDi engine and is expected to be fitted to from five to eight per cent of Nemos registered across Europe.

While Fiat is offering an electric Fiorino, Citro?n looks unlikely to follow suit. For the UK market, however, specialist engineer Nicholson McLaren may soon be converting the petrol model to run on liquefied petroleum gas too. It already produces a dual fuel petrol/lpg Berlingo.

ABS comes as standard on all Nemos, with ventilated 257mm-diameter disc brakes installed at the front and drums at the back. Electronic Stability Programme is not available at present, but could be a possibility for the future.

The front suspension relies on McPherson struts while the rear employs a flexible transverse beam, and Nemo's 14in wheels are shod with 175/70 R14 Michelin tyres.

Hydraulically-assisted power steering comes as standard with 2.8 turns lock-to-lock and parking should be a doddle given the newcomer's compact dimensions. It is 3,860mm long and has a turning circle between kerbs of less than 10m.

Load Area

Nemo boasts a 2.5m3 cargo bay and can handle a 610kg payload. Fold down the Extenso passenger seat and you can expand the load space to 2.8m3 and the cargo bed length to 2,491mm.

To ensure that items placed on the flattened seat do not topple into the driver's lap you can specify a mesh bulkhead with a section that can be swung through 90?, thus separating the driver from the passenger area. Various fixed bulkheads and cargo restraint frames are available too.

With the Extenso seat upright bed length shortens to 1,523mm. Maximum load area width is 1,473mm narrowing to 1,046mm between the wheel boxes while maximum height is 1,181mm. Rear loading height is a modest 529mm.

Access to the load bay is by means of side-hinged asymmetric rear doors ? the narrowest door is on the offside ?? that can be swung through 90?. Press the stays gently and they will release and allow you to push the doors through 180?. A hatch-type door is not available as an alternative.

Both nearside and offside sliding doors are likely to be offered as options in the UK. At the time of writing, however, the precise specification of the models to be sold in this country had yet to be finalised.

Good to see that the load area can be locked independently of the cab, using either the remote or a button on the dashboard. All the doors lock automatically when the van is started.

Six load tie-down points come as standard and the cargo restraint frame, where fitted, that is mounted behind the driver cants backwards into the load area, stealing some space. You can tow an unbraked trailer grossing at 400kg and a braked trailer grossing at 600kg.

Cab Comfort

Turning to the cab, a driver's airbag and a radio/CD player are included in the deal.

Passenger and side airbags are likely to feature on the options list along with Bluetooth compatibility, sensors that alert you if you're getting too close to an obstacle when reversing and a device that warns you both visually and audibly if you're exceeding a set speed. Cruise control will be an option too.

Oddment storage facilities include pockets in each of the doors and a glovebox with a lid that catches the passenger's knees every time you open it.

What Citro?n refers to as a Worksite Pack comprising 15in wheels, a raised suspension system and a skid plate under the engine among other practical extras is on offer in certain markets, but is unlikely to be made available on this side of the Channel. It's designed with the requirements of owners who need to cross rough terrain ? construction sites, for example ? in mind.

Nor is it likely that the passenger car version of Nemo will be sold in Britain.

On the Road

We went over to France to put Nemo through its paces in and around Bordeaux. On the positive side it rides and handles well, offers ample performance across the rev range ? including a surprising amount of top-end punch for its size ? and noise levels are well-suppressed.

While the cab is roomier than you might expect for such a compact vehicle, the seats offer insufficient support. You seem to perch on them rather than sit in them, with the Extenso passenger seat the worst offender.

Build quality is a little variable too with the fit and finish of some of the in-cab furniture ? the glovebox lid, for example ? leaving something to be desired.

On the positive side it's unlikely that Citro?n's new baby will cost you a fortune at the pumps, with projected fuel economy figures of over 60mpg for the diesel. Service intervals are set at 18,600 miles/two years. UK prices have yet to be revealed.

Sales Prospects

?We expect our British operation to sell 4,000 to 5,000 Nemos in 2009, the vehicle's first full year,? says project manager, Richard Meyer. That compares with a projected 10,000 to 12,000 sales in France.

Bursa will build 52,000 Nemos in a full year. Total initial plant output will be 158,000 units annually with the rest of the production allocated to Peugeot and Fiat.

A more powerful diesel Nemo is unlikely to appear in the foreseeable future. ?In fact we've had one or two customers tell us that 70bhp is a bit too much for a van of this size and want it down-rated,? Meyer says.

Aside from Bipper and Fiorino, Nemo's key rival is likely to be the new Kangoo Compact, which won't debut in Britain until the autumn. The Citro?n's earlier launch date may well give it the edge over its Renault-badged rival.

Citro?n is not worried that the newcomer will erode sales of its existing products. ?Nemo will take a few sales from Berlingo, but not to the extent that we need to be worried about it,? says Robert Handyside, Citro?n's UK commercial vehicles operations manager. It may of course appeal to owners of the old C15 who have never quite come to terms with its demise.

VERDICT

Nemo helps fill a niche in the market that to be frank we didn't realise existed up until now. It's undoubtedly an appealing package, but it remains to be seen whether it will tempt fans of Berlingo and vans of similar dimensions to downsize, or enthusiasts for Ford Fiesta vans and their ilk to upsize. Price will be a big determining factor ? and getting it spot-on will be a hard trick for the manufacturer to pull off.



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