Is it me or are vans becoming much better-looking nowadays?
Name any model and design seems to have been as important as payload in its development.
The Ford Transit is looking all edgy and stylish nowadays, while the Volkswagen Crafter is more brutal, but still a really eye- catching design.
And then there is the Citroën Dispatch, one of a trio of almost identical vans that includes the Peugeot Expert and Fiat Scudo.
Differentiating between them comes down to equipment and, in the Citroën’s case, technology is leading the way, with standard Smartnav satellite navigation and vehicle tracking free for three years. In practice, the driver simply gets a touch-screen the size of a credit card at the side of the dashboard.
It’s all pretty flimsy, but it actually does a good job, as the sat-nav has traffic updates and will re-route around jams.
On one journey it saved me from a 30- minute queue.
At this rate, the time and fuel savings achieved from avoiding jams and not getting lost could easily reach Citroën’s estimates of £2,000 per vehicle per year.
The Dispatch has a choice of two wheelbases and two roof heights offering three different cargo volumes, between 1,000kg and 1,200kg, an increase of a third over previous models.
Customers can choose 90, 120 or 136bhp versions.
The 90bhp version uses a 1.6 HDi engine, which is responsive enough for local multi-drop work but not so good for covering hundreds of miles a week on the motorway.
Both of the more powerful engines use versions of a 2.0 HDi engine and the 120bhp version should be more than adequate for most jobs.
The driving position in the Dispatch is excellent, with a car-like dashboard design.
The seats are comfortable, but the driver’s seatbelt catch can be difficult to reach, especially when carrying passengers.
Anyone in the middle seat must share knee-space with the gearstick housing.
There’s plenty of storage in-cab, including lots of places to hide valuablesfrom thieves.
Road and engine noise can become quite loud at motorway speeds, but never enough to make long journeys uncomfortable, while ride comfort is excellent.
In the rear, there is between five cubic metres and seven cubic metres of load space on offer, with plenty of load-lashing eyes and the benefit of twin-sliding side doors for easier loading.
LX models also get self-levelling rear suspension as standard, including a lowering facility, which can drop the deck height to 491mm for easier loading.
Overall, this is a strong contender in the market that is offering much more for a fleet operator’s money.
CO2 emissions (g/km): N/A
Private use car tax bill (2007) 22% tax-payer: £55 per month
Insurance group: 7E
Combined mpg: 39.2
Test mpg: 40
CAP Monitor RV: £5,025/32%
Contract hire rate: £331
Expenditure to date: Nil
Figures based on three years/60,000 miles