Fleet News

New launch: The Citroen Dispatch, Peugeot Expert and Fiat Scudo

THOSE popular Sevel triplets – the Citroen Dispatch, Peugeot Expert and Fiat Scudo – have been given a mid-life wash and brush-up to fight off an ever-increasing onslaught by the opposition in the light panel van sector.

At the front, the new van features a more robust-looking bonnet with a raised profile, new headlamps with clear glass and a redesigned bumper which incorporates optional circular foglamps. Here you'll find the only real difference between the three.

All have chosen their own grilles and all look markedly different. I'll leave it to individual tastes to decide which is best looking but personally I favour the Expert. The sides now have rubbing strips that extend across the rear wheelarches and right up to the rear bumper, which should help protect the vans from knocks and scratches.

Inside, the dash remains the same but the seats have been restyled with lengthened seat cushions, raised backs and strengthening of the lateral support. The cab gets an added overhead storage space, together with a ladder frame bulkhead behind the driver's seat.

Both panel van and five-seat Combi versions will be available in the UK, although sadly, a handsome-looking long wheelbase variant will not make it to these shores.

On the safety front, the new vans have a standard driver's airbag and seatbelt pretensioners, while a passenger airbag is an option, along with ABS brakes and electric windows.

Noise suppression has also been given attention and the new model features inserts in the B and C pillars to prevent transmission noise from under the vehicle intruding into the cab and new sealing for the rear doors.

Before the final coat of paint is applied, PVC is sprayed under the load floor as an added quietener.

The rear end of the van is the same as the old model, with load volumes of four cubic metres and payloads of 851kg or 925kg. Gross vehicle weights are 2,205kg and 2,330kg.

Under the bonnet, things are much the same as they were in the old model. Two diesel engines are available – a naturally-aspirated 1.9-litre unit offering 71bhp at 4,600rpm and 170lb-ft of torque at 2,500rpm and a 2.0-litre common rail turbodiesel unit offering 110bhp at 4,000rpm and 250lb-ft of torque at 1,750rpm.

A petrol unit is available in Europe but will not be offered in the UK, effectively eliminating any possibility of a dual-fuel LPG version.

Servicing intervals for the common rail diesel versions are extended to 20,000 miles or two years while the naturally-aspirated version stays at 10,000 miles or two years.

On the road

MANY van makers boast that their vehicles have car-like driving capabilities and in many cases that claim is little short of laughable.

But in the case of these vans, it couldn't be truer. After all, they were originally cars – the Peugeot 806, Citroen Synergie and Fiat Ulysse to be precise. They have been given a higher roofline and a loadspace in the rear in place of the seats.

The cars were originally launched in 1993 but after 10 years on the road these van versions still look fresh and stylish.

I have driven all three and can confirm that the HDi (it's called JTD in the Fiat) engine is a gem among diesels. It appears in such diverse offerings as the Citroen Xsara and Peugeot 206 and in these vehicles, it gives ample power, smoothly delivered.

I had never thought that the old model was a noisy performer but all the new padding seems to have worked well and it is possible to talk in hushed tones, provided a bulkhead is fitted.

The trio were among the first vehicles to feature a dash-mounted gearstick and I remember being suspicious about this move at first.

Nowadays, most vans have gone down this route and the stick in the new model is as slick and smooth as it ever was. The handbrake, meanwhile, is on the driver's door side, which gives added legroom for a third passenger.

The driver's seat is noticeably improved over the old model.

As a leggy specimen measuring 6ft 3in, I don't like seats with short squabs. It feels as though you are sitting on a bar stool rather than in a van seat. The new van's chair has plenty of support, not only for thighs and back but for the sides too.

I haven't driven the naturally-aspirated version but my view is that it's worth stumping up the extra cash for the common rail engine. Payload is improved and combined fuel economy is better at 42.8 mpg, compared to 36.2 mpg for the smaller engine.

Driving verdict

These old fleet stagers could well teach the younger offerings a thing or two and the facelift shows they still have plenty of life left in them. Eight years on and the general driving experience still beats many of today's light vans. Add to that a good load-carrying capacity and a competitive price and the van makes a very convincing case for itself among fleet buyers.

Fact file
1.9D 2.0HDi/JTD Combi
Max power (bhp/rpm): 71/4,600 110/4,000 110/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 170/2,500 250/1,750 250/1,750
Payload (cu m): 851 925 918
Load volume (kg): 4 4 4
Gross vehicle weight (kg): 2,205 2,330 2,505
Fuel economy (mpg comb): 36.2 42.8 42.1
Prices (ex-VAT):
Peugeot Expert: £11,240 £12,720 £14,010
Fiat Scudo: £11,200 £12,600 £13,785
Citroen Dispatch: £11,160 £12,640 £13,930

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