Unlike the renault Kangoo model that Mercedes has based its light van on, the Citan has a Compact variant in the range, which effectively takes on the likes of the Citroen Nemo/ Fiat Fiorino/Peugeot bipper trio at the smallest end of the light commercial vehicle marketplace.
Renault dropped the Kangoo Compact as part of a revamp of its UK business at the end of 2011, but Mercedes feels there is a market for the tiny van that it added to the range in the third quarter of 2013, although it won’t be a model that takes a large share of sales.
It has to be said that it looks a little ungainly, and unflattering comparisons with Postman Pat’s transportation are somewhat inevitable, especially were it to be specified in red. It looks tall but tiny, and just as the longest Citan appears a little stretched and out of proportion, this model’s shape is also distorted.
The interior is a little sparse but functional and with enough space, and the useful shelf above the windscreen remains, although that and a small glove box are the only places where you can tuck things away from prying eyes. The stereo buttons are a touch on the small side to be helpful, and the aircraft-style handbrake sourced from the Kangoo donor vehicle isn’t the most impressive or user-friendly piece of equipment.
But the optional £270 folding grille bulkhead combined with the fold-flat front seat is certainly worth having if there’s a chance of users needing more than the 1369mm of load length. It creates a flat floor the entire length of the cabin, and the bulkhead folds around so it still protects the driver from any moving load. Predictably, due to the tiny length, there is no sliding side door.
Under acceleration, the 90hp 1.5-litre diesel isn’t the most refined, but shifts the Citan Compact along happily enough, given the likely urban confines of the vehicle.
The big issue is that it is operating in a sector where budgets are tightest, and a small delivery van has to be cost- effective. If fashion and premium badging are a requirement, then the Mini Clubvan is a little more expensive, but looks like a more complete vehicle, while the Citroen/Fiat/Peugeot trio mentioned earlier can easily serve the urban small van market with aplomb for significantly less outlay than the Compact. That trio of vehicles also have a larger load area and higher payload.
It’s a little tough to see where the Compact fits in: it’s outgunned for both cost and style, leaving it perched awkwardly, which given the toy- van styling is perhaps where it belongs. While the Citan range overall – highly commended in the 2014 What Van? awards – is a welcome addition to the light van sector, this Compact version is not the high point. For some it may serve a purpose, but those people for whom the Citan Compact is the number one logical and desirable option will be few and far between.
The Mercedes-Benz Citan is usefully compact but expensive versus the likes of the Peugeot Bipper that does a similar job.