Fleet News

Citroen fights off Ford challenge with new van

CITROEN has stunned the light commercial vehicle world by launching a brand new van after just a few months of planning and development.

The Xsara Enterprise, a thinly disguised van cousin of the Xsara estate, goes on sale in January and will have a price tag of under £11,000 ex-VAT.

The launch, together with an updated version of the Berlingo, is in response to Ford's new Transit Connect light van, which will see the end of production of the evergreen Escort van. Citroen bosses believe that many Escort van buyers will shun the Connect and look instead for a van that has more car-like levels of ride, comfort and sophistication.

Commercial vehicle operations manager Brian Roskell said: 'Before launching the Xsara Enterprise we took a close look at the sub-high cube light van sector. Our research showed there are a significant number of UK business customers who are looking for a new type of commercial vehicle.

'They want a combination of car-like appearance, performance, equipment and load carrying capacity. The Xsara Enterprise meets these requirements and thus forms a new commercial vehicle class of its own. This is a toe in the water exercise but we are quietly confident.'

The firm expects users to be ex-estate car or car-derived van drivers, typically computer technicians, office equipment service engineers, couriers and craftsmen. Citroen revealed the new van to Fleet NewsNet at its Slough headquarters last week. To the unwary passer-by, it would pass for a Xsara estate with the rear windows blacked out but in fact it has been modified to provide a load bed by removing of the rear seats and their mountings and the rear seatbelts.

Rear windows feature toughened Pentagon glass. Such vans are commonplace in mainland Europe but the new model is a first for Britain.

One model only is available, featuring Citroen's 2.0-litre HDi common rail diesel powerplant offering 90bhp and 154lb-ft of torque. This engine is capable of returning over 50 miles per gallon. Warranty is three years/100,000 miles.

Standard equipment includes ABS brakes, front and side airbags, power steering with height and rake adjustable steering column, electric front windows and height adjustable driver's seat.

In the load area, which is rubber matted with four lashing points, the Xsara Enterprise has a payload of 530kg and a carrying capacity of 1.535 cubic metres.

The van will also appeal to company car drivers looking to cut down on their benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax bills. A van carries a £500 per year flat charge, so a 22% taxpayer will pay just £9.16 a month for the privilege of driving the Xsara Enterprise.

Asked if Citroen had certified that the van will be treated as such for BIK purposes, Roskell said: 'We have cleared this with the Inland Revenue. It is a permanent load deck and you can't put the rear seats back – that is the important fact. We have also removed the seatbelt mountings. The tax people told us it would still be counted as a van even if we did not blank out the rear windows but we have decided to do this as a safety measure.'

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