Van buyers have a greater choice of vehicles in front of them than they have ever enjoyed before. As well as the addition of completely new products to manufacturer line-ups – Citroën’s Nemo is a prime example – models that were previously available solely with a take-it-or-leave-it single wheelbase and roof height are now up for grabs in a wider selection of shapes and sizes.
That’s certainly the case with Citroën’s Dispatch, Peugeot’s Expert and Fiat’s Scudo; collective winners once again of What Van?’s Small Panel Van of the Year award for 2008. The collective accolade is justified because all three of the front-wheel drive vehicles share the same basic design thanks to a long-established joint venture between Fiat and PSA, Peugeot and Citroën’s parent company.
Purchasers get to pick from two common rail diesel engines, both of which are biodiesel-friendly. On offer are a 1.6-litre with 90bhp on tap and a 2.0-litre generating either 120bhp or 136bhp. Select the 2.0-litre and you’ll soon discover that it’s married to a six-speed gearbox. ABS comes as standard along with Emergency Braking Assistance.
The existing line-up’s predecessors were produced in just one size. Their successors, however, are marketed with three different cargo area capacities.
Load space extents from 5.0m3 if you go for the short-wheelbase standard roof model increasing to 6.0m3 if you favour the long-wheelbase standard roof van instead. If you need even more room, then you can always opt for the long-wheelbase high roof derivative. It offers up to 7.0m3 to play with. Whichever variant you pick, a sliding door provides access to each side of the cargo box. Payload capacity ranges from 1,000kg to 1,200kg and don’t forget that platform cab and people carrier variants are available.
Access to Dispatch/Expert/Scudo’s three-man cab is exemplary. The low floor means that there’s no step up and the handbrake lever won’t impede your progress, even though it’s positioned between the driver’s seat and the door.
The comfortable and supportive seat is set at just the right height for people on multi-drop delivery runs who have to hop in and out of the cab continually during the working day. Vision is good ahead and to either side, with vision backwards along the vehicle’s flanks aided by large exterior mirrors. There is plenty of in-cab stowage space for the bits and pieces drivers cart around with them.
Remember that Dispatch is equipped in almost all cases with Trafficmaster’s Smartnav satellite navigation package and Trackstar, its GPS-based stolen vehicle tracking service, when you’re deciding on the make of the van you want to acquire.
Light commercials the size of Dispatch/Expert/Scudo are nibbling away at the smaller end of the full-sized panel van market. In the UK they have the short-wheelbase Ford Transit in their sights; our Highly Commended choice for this sector of the market.
Now up for grabs with a new 115hp version of the 2.2-litre Duratorq diesel, it rides and handles well, offers a slick gearchange, boasts a well-designed cab and residuals tend to be rock-solid. Nobody ever got shot for buying a Transit.