It’s big, it’s useful, it has a smooth common-rail diesel engine and it costs £10,000 ex-VAT, if you include Citroen’s £2,000 cashback deal into the equation. No other van manufacturer can match this price for a panel van.
Initially, we were a tad suspicious. Cheap usually means low quality, so we were expecting a vehicle that was a bit of a dog’s dinner.
In the event we were pleasantly surprised. OK, the van doesn’t have any airbags, central locking and ABS brakes, but the basic package is faultless.
For 10 grand, you get a 2,490kg gross vehicle weight van with a load capacity of 7.5 cubic metres, payload of 735kg and a 2.0-litre common rail diesel engine offering 86bhp at 4,000rpm and 142lb-ft of torque at 1,900rpm.
Standard equipment includes a dual passenger seat, side sliding door, power steering, engine immobiliser and a radio/cassette player.
Our test model also had electric windows which, according to the spec sheets, you can’t get without a CD player as well.
The only options on the official list are metallic paint at £300 and the CD player/electric windows at £310.
This Relay is the smallest one in the range, with a short wheelbase and low roof. For those who need larger dimensions, the Relay can be specified right up to 3.5-tonnes gross vehicle weight, with medium and long wheelbases, offering up to 12 cubic metres of space and payloads up to 1,635kg.
There are also more powerful 2.2 and 2.8-litre diesel engines on offer with up to 127bhp. Prices go up accordingly and reach £19,830 before the cashback deals.
As usual when we have a van on loan, there is no shortage of eager drivers who want to borrow it to carry out those little jobs that you just can’t do with a car.
The only real gripe was the deafening roar that emantes from the back while on the road. Many panel vans now come equipped with standard bulkheads. As the Relay didn’t have one, it was rather like driving around in a dustbin. This brickbat aside, the Relay gained a full set of bouquets.
The driver’s seat in particular came in for praise for its firm supportiveness. Yours truly completed a 200-mile drive without a stop and alighted with a nimble step, blissfully free of back twinges, although I must admit I had a slight headache from the racket.
The Relay had a chance to really shine when number one son decided to return to the family home after living away for four years. His detritus just about filled the loadspace and actually improved the van’s ride and handling characteristics, which can be a trifle skittish when empty.
As a final swansong, we got features editor Adele Burton to pack up her belongings in it for her house move, rather than letting the lads from Pickfords take the strain.
She came back full of praise for the van’s car-like stance. Her only moan weas the vehicle’s rather curious smell – a cross between a pet shop and a garden centre. It was there when we got it and still present when we handed it back.
Model: Citroen Relay 900
Price (ex-VAT): £10,000 (with cashback deal)
Final mileage: 11,223
CO2 emissions (g/km): n/a
Company car tax bill (2006) 22% tax-payer: £9 a month
Insurance group: 10A
Combined mpg: n/a
Test mpg: 25.4
CAP Monitor residual value: £2,400/18%
HSBC contract hire rate: £326
Final expenditure: Nil