Citroën Dispatch — March 2007
Monday, March 26, 2007
Like its Relay big brother, the front-wheel drive Dispatch comes with Trafficmaster's Smartnav satellite navigation package plus Trackstar, its GPS-based stolen vehicle tracking service.
Citroën has unveiled the latest Dispatch, now on offer in long- as well as short-wheelbase guise and with the choice of either a high or a low roof. Brought to market as a consequence of a well-established joint venture between PSA Group — Peugeot and Citroën's parent — and Fiat, it shares the same basic design as Peugeot's new Expert and Fiat's new Scudo and is up for grabs with no less than 27 different body configurations.
A free three-year subscription to both is included in the deal. So is a removable touchscreen, the better to frustrate thieves.
Buyers get to pick from two different common rail HDi diesel engines; a 1.6-litre kicking out 90 bhp or a 2.0-litre producing either 120 bhp or 136 bhp. Maximum power makes its present felt at 4,000rpm in all cases and the beefiest variant comes with a particulate trap.
The 1.6-litre generates its maximum torque of 132 lb/ft at 1,750rpm. The 120 bhp gives you 221 lb/ft at 2,000rpm while the 136 bhp comes up with 236 lb/ft at the same engine speed.
Citroën quotes combined cycle fuel economy figures of 39.2mpg for the 1.6-litre and the 120 bhp 2.0-litre and 38.2mpg for the 136 bhp 2.0-litre.
Developed in co-operation with Ford — not that the French want to give an American company too much credit — the 2.0-litre diesel is married to a six-speed manual gearbox no matter which power option you choose. Buy a Dispatch with a 1.6-litre engine and you'll have to be content with a five-speeder.
Both engines with run on fuel containing up to 30 per cent biodiesel.
Load cube ranges from 5.0m3 if you select the short-wheelbase standard roof version increasing to 6.0m3 if you choose the long-wheelbase standard roof and 7.0m3 if you opt for the long-wheelbase high roof. The old Dispatch had just the one option; 4.0m3.
Citroën has not been slow to point out that with an overall height of 1,942mm, standard roof Dispatches are low enough to allow the driver to enter most multi-storey car parks.
Maximum payload capacity ranges from 1,000kg to 1,200kg, up from the old model's 900kg maximum.
Load bed length has increased by up to 25 per cent compared with the old model and is 2,254mm if you opt for the short-wheelbase, or 2,584mm if you favour the long-wheelbase. Longer items such as copper tubing can be transported courtesy of the intelligently designed optional overhead storage tunnel mounted beneath the cargo area's roof.
Starting at the rear of the vehicle the tunnel extends through the bulkhead — another option — and into the cab above the occupants. It will take objects up to 2,884mm long.
Maximum load bed width is 1,600mm in all cases, narrowing to 1,245mm between the rear wheelboxes. Top load height is 1,449mm for the standard roof rising to 1,750mm for the high roof
At 562mm the rear loading height is 23mm less than that of the old model. If that's still too high for you, then it's worth noting that Dispatch can be ordered with pneumatic self-levelling rear suspension as an extra cost option.
It gives Citroën's latest offering a constant load ride height of 491mm, no matter what it is carrying, and it can be lowered by a further 50mm when Dispatch is stationary. What's more, it cuts the overall height of a standard roof model to 1,894mm.
It's standard on LX models, which cost £450 more than their base specification stablemates.
Independent, coil sprung, trailing arm rear suspension is fitted to standard models and includes a semi-flexible transverse beam with an offset Panhard rod and inclined hydraulic dampers. Independent MacPherson strut type suspension is found at the front along with triangulated rear arms and an anti-roll bar.
Rear entry to the load box is courtesy of twin, side-hinged, doors that can be pushed through 180° if you release the stays. Extending to the roof even on high roof derivatives, they can be either glazed or unglazed. A tailgate is up for grabs as an option on some models. A full width rear step is standard in all cases.
A sliding door on each side of the cargo bay is a standard feature. Even the short-wheelbase variant can boast eight cargo tie-down points and all the van derivatives feature a load restraint frame mounted behind the driver and protective panelling to half the load bay's height.
Dispatch is also marketed as a long-wheelbase platform cab.
Disc brakes, ventilated on the front wheels, are fitted all round on everything bar the short-wheelbase standard roof 1.6-litre. It gets drums at the back.
ABS with Emergency Braking Assistance is included in the price, but Citroën has decided not to throw in Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) as well. It's an extra-cost option, which seems a pity given the contribution it makes to road safety.
The 2.0-litre diesels feature electro-hydraulic speed-sensitive power steering, while the 90 bhp Dispatches are equipped with variable rate hydraulic power steering instead. No matter which system is fitted, short-wheelbase models offer a 12.2m between-the-kerbs turning circle rising to 12.6m for long-wheelbase variants.
Safety & Security
Dispatch has been strengthened to protect the occupants and reduce the risk of serious damage to its structure in a collision. It has a steering column that retracts by over 80mm in a heavy shunt, a front bumper with an impact-absorbing metal beam, a beefed-up front subframe, reinforced engine mountings and a stronger cantrail.
On top of all that Citroën's new baby boasts height-adjustable seat belts with pyrotechnic pre-tensioners and force limiters, and a driver's airbag.
Vans are prone to collecting minor dents and scratches, so it's good to see that the body's exterior is protected by side rubbing strips and large, multi-section, bumpers.
With security in mind, as well as convenience, the driver can lock or unlock the load area independently of the cab either from his seat or by using the three-button remote. All the doors are equipped with deadlocks and all models are protected by a transponder-actuated engine immobiliser.
If you're willing to pay the extra the foregoing can be supplemented by an alarm and a tow-away protection system.
Storage facilities include a roomy lockable glovebox, a pull-out cup holder plus a cubby hole at each end of the dashboard, and a shelf above the windscreen. They're supplemented by small shallow bins set low down in each door with mouldings for a bottle of water or a flask.
Yet again the gearlever sits on a moulding that sticks out from the facia, frustrating cross-cab movement and defeating the objective of not having the lever on the floor to begin with.
The steering column and the driver's seat can both be adjusted for height — the latter features lumbar adjustment too — and a 12v power socket is fitted to all models. There's one in the load area too.
A dual passenger seat comes as standard as do electric windows plus a radio/CD player with remote, steering wheel mounted controls.
Other goodies that can be specified in addition to those mentioned earlier include air conditioning, reversing radar, passenger, side and curtain airbags, a speed limiter/cruise control system and alloy wheels.
Service intervals are up from 10,000 miles to 20,000 miles. Insurance groups are 6E, 7E and 8E depending on the model concerned. A three year/100,000 mile warranty is provided, with no mileage limit in the first two years.
Dispatch is also being sold as a window van and as a passenger-carrying Combi with accommodation for either six or nine people.
Prices extend from £13,670 for the entry-level van to £19,642 for the top of the range Combi. All prices exclude VAT.
On the Road
So what's Dispatch like to drive? We decided to sample the 1,200kg-capacity 120 bhp long-wheelbase standard roof 2.0-litre to find out.
The good news is that it handled well and, as the vehicle was unladen, there was no lack of performance. Aside from the occasional bit of bumping and thumping from the suspension as we crossed transverse ridges in the road surface, the ride was satisfactory too, and we were happy with the gearchange.
Our test van seemed solidly built and looked good into the bargain; certainly better looking than its predecessor. The fact that the cab floor is so low that there's no need for a step means that access is a doddle, and the driver's seat is positioned at just the right height for multi-drop delivery people who will need to hop in and out of the vehicle many times daily.
Even though the steering wheel is slightly offset to the left we found the driving position to be comfortable, with no lack of head or shoulder room and good vision ahead and to either side.
On the downside the absence of a full height bulkhead meant that in-cab noise levels were way too high.
Compared with its predecessor the newcomer's cab appears to have been pushed forwards in a bid to create extra load capacity.
While more carrying capacity is to be welcomed it means that space in the cab has been compromised, with the passengers in particular suffering from an absence of leg room and a lack of space in the footwell, especially for people who may be wearing working boots. The inboard passenger suffers the most.
Although there are indents on the inside of the glovebox lid to accommodate drinks, it's hard to see what use could be made of them. Open the lid and it ends up resting at an angle against the passenger's knees rather than lying horizontally, spilling the contents of the cups.
At least all three of the cab's occupants are held in place with lap-and-diagonal seat belts.
With more cargo space and payload capacity, a wider model range and excellent diesel engines the new Dispatch is a big improvement on its predecessor. With a high standard of equipment — though it's a pity ESP isn't standard — it rides and handles well too, and customers after a bit more performance won't be disappointed by the engine line-up. Unfortunately in-cab noise levels are too high without a bulkhead and passenger space is restricted.
Don't forget that pretty much the same model is marketed by Fiat as the Scudo and Peugeot as the Expert. Play all three dealers off against each other and you may be able to drive down the price of the van you need.