Not everyone in search of a 4x4 light commercial needs something that will tackle heavily rutted, boulder-strewn terrain criss-crossed by deep ditches. All many operators require is a vehicle with modest off-roading ability that’s pleasant to drive on an ordinary road surface, because that’s where it will be spending most of its time.
What we’re really talking about is a soft-roader van, and both Mitsubishi and Citroën have come up with a product that fulfils that role admirably. Mitsubishi’s is called the Outlander Commercial, Citroën’s is called the C-Crosser Enterprise and we’re happy to present both models with our 4x4 Van of the Year award.
Why a joint prize? Because both the five-door vehicles share the same basic design thanks to yet another co-operative venture between manufacturers.
Four-wheel drive is selectable in both cases. When you’re in 4x2 mode drive goes to the front wheels, with four-wheel drive engaged electronically by twisting a knob positioned just behind the gearstick. Do so and the available torque goes straight to whichever wheels happen to have the most grip at the time subject to a maximum 70/30 front/rear split. If you’re still struggling then twist the knob again, this time to Lock. That locks the centre diff, giving you a 50/50 front/rear split.
ABS comes as standard along with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Traction Control and an Active Stability package.
An unglazed hinged door on each side of the cargo area plus a rear hatch provide access to 2.0m3 of space. Maximum payload capability is getting on for three-quarters of a tonne and there’s enough capacity to tow a braked trailer grossing at 2,000kg. Equipment includes air conditioning, electric windows and electric exterior mirrors.
There’s one big difference between the two vehicles. Open the Mitsubishi’s bonnet and you’ll find a 138hp 2.0-litre diesel hooked up to a six-speed manual gearbox. Open the Citroën’s and you’ll find a 156hp 2.2-litre diesel instead, again married to a six-speed manual.
No matter which version you pick, both vehicles are a pleasure to drive on the public highway. They handle well, with plenty of feedback through the steering and little if any body roll, and the suspension system is happy coping with the potholes that increasingly disfigure Britain’s fast-disintegrating road network.
Noise is not an issue. Nor is build quality, and to our eyes both vans look good. We doubt you’d feel ashamed if you had either of them parked on your drive.
Off-road they clearly have their limitations, but they’ll both get you up a muddy farm track or a snowy country lane without any dramas. In fact they can ascend and descend some surprisingly steep and slippery slopes without breaking sweat or getting bogged down. Obviously the C-Crosser offers more performance but we doubt you’ll feel short-changed if you opt for the Outlander instead.
The two soft-roaders aren’t the only attractive light commercials in their category. SsangYong’s Kyron C-S 4x4 is well-equipped, well-built, and offers more than ample performance. It too is a five-door, with a 2.4m3 cargo box. A product that deserves to become more familiar to UK buyers, it gets our Highly Commended prize.