Peugeot and Citroen are gearing up for a fresh assault on the burgeoning medium van sector with new-generation versions of their respective Expert and Dispatch models that are scheduled to arrive in showrooms in September.

It is a pivotal moment for the PSA brands, both of whom have historically underperformed in what is the fastest-growing, and now the largest, segment of the LCV market.

Neither the Dispatch nor the Expert were among the top five-selling medium vans in the UK last year, with registrations for both bumping along at just less than 5000 units. This compares with the Ford Transit Custom, the UK’s top-selling van overall, on 42,839 units.

Martin Gurney, PSA’s fleet and used vehicles director, is confident the new medium vans will deliver dramatic volume growth. He says the two brands hold a combined UK market share of about 17% (Peugeot 9%, Citroen 8%) compared with the Expert and Dispatch models on just 8.5%.

“By the end of 2019 we want the [medium van] share to be in line with the 17% average.” This will equate to at least 10,000 more sales a year, he calculates.

Obviously, the PSA vans share DNA and are mechanically identical, with the same engine line-up, dimensions and interiors. Externally, however, their brand faces are easily distinguishable. The Expert sports a more prominent and far more aggressive-looking grille.

The grille puts the Peugeot lion to the fore in a new three-dimensional design that has replaced the old horizontal blades. By contrast, Citroen has gone for a softer nose, which it claims gives the Dispatch a more friendly and reassuring appearance.

The vans will be available with a range of Euro6 1.6- and 2.0-litre Blue HDi powertrains with outputs spanning from 95hp to 180hp. The entry-level 95hp engine comes with a five-speed manual gearbox and this unit is also offered with an ETG6-controlled gearbox with stop-start (S&S).

The 1.6 115hp S&S gets a six-speed manual ‘box, as does the 120hp 2.0 S&S and the 150hp 2.0 S&S. The flagship 180hp S&S model gets the EAT6 automatic transmission. All engines incorporate selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology and come with a 22.4-litre Adblue tank with a claimed range of 9320 miles. The 1.6 115hp engine is the most efficient of the range, with official fuel consumption of 55.3mpg and CO2 emissions of 133g/km, which PSA claims is also the best in class.

The Renault Trafic, which also provides the platform for the Vauxhall Vivaro and the forthcoming Nissan NV300 and Fiat Professional Talento, delivers a best of 47.9mpg – a figure matched by the most frugal VW Transporter.

The third dimension

The new Dispatch and Expert vans are up for grabs in three lengths. As well as the core medium (4.95m) and long (5.3m) versions, PSA has also introduced a 4.6m Compact derivative to the panel van, which it claims is unique to the segment.

Load volumes range from 5.1m3, through 5.8m3 to 6.6m3, and the maximum payload for all bodystyles is a meaty 1400kg. Towing capacity goes up to 2.5t. The side passenger seat can be raised to extend the load length by 1.16m, providing maximum loading lengths of 3.32m, 3.67m and 4.02m.

The Compact and standard vans are 1.9m high, making for comfortable access into underground car parks, while the long model is 1.93m high. Turning circles range from 11.3m in the smallest model to 12.4m in the larger versions.

David McQueen, PSA’s head of LCV product development, says the Compact van will appeal to urban operators looking for a vehicle with the manoeuvrability of a light van but with enhanced workhorse potential.

An innovation on both the Dispatch and Expert is the hands-free sliding side door feature. This enables a driver who has their arms full of packages to be able to open and close the side door with a movement of the foot under the corner of the rear bumper, where there is a sensor.

The driver must have the electronic key in their possession for the system to function. It also closes and locks the vehicle automatically when the driver moves away. It is an ingenious device but does require the operator to stand on one leg with hands full of goods.

PSA claims the head-up display on the dashboard is another first for LCVs. It enables the driver to check navigation instructions, speed limits and traffic alerts via a translucent panel in their line of vision.

Specialist customers who also require off-road capability are expected to be able to order 4×4 conversions on 2.0-litre models with manual gearboxes