Mercedes-Benz believes the long-awaited arrival of the Citan will complete its commercial vehicle jigsaw and enable the brand to compete on an even footing with its rivals in the marketplace.
While Mercedes is well established in the heavy and medium van sectors with the Sprinter and Vito respectively, the Citan will give customers another option in the light van category where it will rub shoulders with the VW Caddy, Vauxhall Combo, Fiat Doblo Cargo, Peugeot Partner and Ford Transit Connect among others – not to mention the Renault Kangoo, upon which the Citan is based.
The Citan is marked out as a Merc by the bold front grille that is being rolled out across the manufacturer’s family of passenger cars and CVs.
We got behind the wheel of the 109 CDI Blue efficiency version in the long-wheelbase format that is expected to be the best-selling bodystyle in the range. It is powered by the 1.5-litre 90hp diesel engine.
This model has a starting price, excluding VAT, that approaches £11,600. Although this is higher than most of its rivals, Mercedes reckons class-leading official fuel consumption of 65.7mpg – courtesy of the Blue Efficiency package, which includes stop/start, low rolling-resistance tyres and a gear shift indicator (bright green and hard to miss but not overly intrusive) will result in savings in the long run. The stop/start system is one of the smoothest we’ve encountered.
The engine, driving power to the front wheels, is fairly noisy on the motorway where it really suffers from the lack of a sixth gear, which causes it to rev highly. Apparently, a six-speed transmission will be available on the more powerful 110hp version coming later.
Mercedes has placed great emphasis on the Citan’s suitability in urban environments so perhaps it feels five gears are sufficient in such conditions.
Otherwise, build quality is solid, the ride firm and true and the steering reassuringly precise.
The cabin, which is protected by a full-size steel bulkhead, is functional and sober with black fabric seats and dark plastic fittings. The knobs for adjusting aircon, the fan and heat direction are chunky and easy to use and there is a useful overhead storage shelf.
All Citan versions get cruise control, daytime running lights and a speed limiter, and the manufacturer’s commitment to class-leading safety is evidenced by the inclusion of adaptive ESP (Electronic Stability Program) as a standard feature. The driver’s seat is height adjustable and the steering wheel can be adjusted for height but not reach.
The van we tested included options such as electrically folding exterior mirrors (£119), auto lights and wipers (£138), reverse parking sensors (£275), aircon (£872) and a centre armrest storage compartment (£92). The majority of these features can be purchased in the Driver’s Pack for a total cost of £1222.
Other option bundles are the Safety Pack (£517), which equips the van with driver and passenger thorax bag, passenger airbag and fog lamps; the Appearance Pack (£686), which gets you body-coloured bumpers, mirrors and trim, and 15-inch, seven-spoke alloys; and the Cargo pack (£441), which includes the split cargo retention grill instead of the solid bulkhead, reinforced tyres and a folding passenger seat.
Mercedes’ Mobilo Van UK package should appeal to operators too. The in-house service covers technical breakdowns and starting failures and the brand claims 90% of problems are resolved at the roadside.
The 3.1m3 load space in the LWB Citan is reached through asymmetrical twin rear doors that open to 90° and can then swing through to 180°. The van also has sliding doors on both sides.
The load bay floor is plastic-lined with six tie down points.
Overall the Citan is a well-built, capable LCV that should benefit from the good reputation of its larger siblings to establish Mercedes in the light van sector.
A sturdy, classy and practical light commercial.