Just like people who use their Range Rovers solely for the school run, not everybody who buys a 4x4 light commercial actually needs four-wheel drive. Quite often all they require is the ability to extricate themselves from a bit of mud on a building site, or sufficient clearance to ensure they don’t ground the underside of their vehicle on a patch of uneven terrain.
That’s the sort of customer Citroën is targeting with the front-wheel drive enhanced-traction Dispatch XTR+. Riding 30mm higher than the standard model, it boasts a limited slip differential, beefed-up suspension and snow and ice tyres; all many customers need to keep them out of trouble. With no additional buttons or levers to worry about, it’s also a practical cargo carrier; as we discovered.
Dispatch XTR+ is powered by a 2.0-litre HDi four-cylinder 16-valve common rail diesel pumping out 120hp at 4,000rpm and married to a six-speed manual gearbox. Top torque of 300Nm kicks in at 2,000rpm and the engine is fitted with a variable geometry turbocharger plus an intercooler.
The multi-plate limited slip diff can automatically apportion up to 75 per cent of the engine’s torque between the driven wheels. If one wheel fails to bite, then the torque shifts to the one with greater grip.
XTR+ comes with independent front suspension employing MacPherson struts plus an anti-roll bar. At the back you’ll find independent trailing arms with inclined dampers.
As indicated above, our demonstrator’s 16in steel wheels were shod with Michelin Agilis 51 215/60 R16 snow and ice tyres. ABS and Emergency Brake Assist come as standard as do 280mm ventilated front disc brakes. The rear wheels feature 290mm solid discs.
Hydraulic power steering offering variable assistance is included in the deal. It’s a far better bet from the viewpoint of driving enjoyment than electric power steering, which is unfortunately being fitted increasingly widely. The turning circle is 12.18m kerb-to-kerb, with 3.87 turns lock-to-lock.
Grossing at 2,917kg, XTR+ can handle a 1,200kg payload and tow a braked trailer grossing at 2,000kg.
Access to the 5.0m3 load area could scarcely be bettered thanks to a sliding door on each side plus unglazed twin rear doors. The latter can be swung through 90°, or through 180° if you release the stays.
Half-a-dozen floor-mounted cargo tie-down points are provided along with additional points either side of the back doors and the full-height steel bulkhead. The ventilated bulkhead will set you back an extra £130; all prices quoted here exclude VAT.
The doors and sides are protected against scratches and scrapes to half their height by panels, but there’s no protection for the wheel boxes. Our demonstrator’s load floor was concealed by a timber cover.
A deep narrow shelf above the cab can be accessed solely from the load area and is designed to work with a pipe carrier that runs the length of the cargo bay. The carrier is an optional extra not fitted to our demonstrator.
Maximum load length is 2,254mm. Maximum load width is 1,600mm narrowing to 1,245mm between the wheel boxes, while maximum load height is 1,449mm. Rear loading height is 592mm. The rear door aperture is 1,237mm wide and 1,272mm high while the dimensions for the side door apertures are 924mm and 1,293mm respectively.
Few Dispatch owners will have grounds to complain about a lack of in-cab storage space. Flip the roomy glovebox’s lid down and you’ll discover that its inner face features a couple of mouldings for cups plus a clip for your pen. The lid is lockable.
You get a bin in each of the doors complete with a moulding to accommodate a bottle of water. Set into the top of the dashboard on the passenger side is a large, deep bin that looks a bit like a washbasin minus its taps and plug hole and at each end of the dashboard you’ll find a pull-out cup-holder plus a small cubbyhole.
Above-the-windscreen shelves are provided for the driver and passenger. Rather than the standard twin-seater bench our van came with a single passenger seat — a no-cost option — creating enough floor space for a big storage box if you want one installed. There’s a shelf beneath the height-adjustable steering column. Offering ample head and shoulder room, the driver’s seat is height-adjustable too.
Trafficmaster satellite navigation with a removable screen is included in the price as is a RDS stereo radio/CD player with remote controls. You get electric windows, but the exterior mirrors have to be adjusted manually from inside the vehicle rather than electrically. In the same mood of austerity, the driver is protected by an airbag, but not the passenger.
Good to see the button for the hazard warning lights so prominently positioned on the facia. Good too to see a 12v power point.
Despite the fact that it is positioned between the driver’s seat and door, the handbrake lever does not impede entry or exit. Positioning the gearstick on a moulding that juts out of the dashboard can impede cross-cab movement, however, especially so far as larger drivers are concerned.
With 120hp on tap in a van of this size there’s no lack of performance and the six-speed gearbox offers a user-friendly gearchange. While we’ve been critical of Dispatch for inflicting too much wind noise and road roar on the cab’s occupants, the bulkhead quietened things down nicely and there’s precious little racket from the engine.
Muddy tracks out in the East Anglian Fens held no terrors for the XTR+ whereas a standard Dispatch might have slipped and slithered in places. That extra bit of under-floor clearance was welcome too. So was the presence of underside protection for the body and the engine against being bashed by rocks.
On the downside the fact that XTR+ sits higher than the standard Dispatch upsets the handling and does the ride no favours either. One suspects that the choice of tyre may be affecting the ride too.
Low-speed manoeuvrability is not compromised, however, in the way that it can be with 4x4s, despite the fact that the steering geometry has been altered.
As far as fuel economy is concerned we averaged 35mpg during the test period.
Either all the doors or just the cargo bay doors can be locked or unlocked using either the remote control or the button on the dashboard. Everything locks automatically anyway once you’re under way, and it’s worth noting that Dispatch comes with a Trackstar stolen vehicle tracking system.
Equipped with deep side rubbing strips to protect it against minor bumps, XTR+ is covered by a three-year/100,000-mile warranty, with no mileage limit in the first two years. Service intervals are set at 20,000 miles and the van falls into insurance group 7E.
With an ability to get you out of the mud high on its list of priorities, Citroën’s Dispatch XTR+ with its limited slip differential is well worth considering if your off-road forays are restricted to wet field entrances and badly-rutted grass verges. It’s a practical cargo-carrier with a well-thought-out cab and the 120hp diesel means that it doesn’t lack performance. The fact that it sits higher on the road, the better to avoid under-floor obstacles, affects both the ride and handling, however; the price you pay for enhanced mobility. If better all-round mobility is what you need then XTR+ is worth putting on your shopping list; but don’t forget that some fully-fledged 4x4 light commercials are as cheap as chips these days. They may be worth investigating before you finally commit yourself.