Just when you thought that the light commercial vehicle world couldn’t possibly split into any more niche sectors, Citroën, Peugeot and Fiat have launched a new joint model that slices up the market even further.
The Citroën Nemo, Peugeot Bipper and Fiat Fiorino, which will hit the UK in May, may look rather like the Berlingo, Partner and Doblo Cargo, but on closer inspection prove to be very different animals.
The vans will be built in Turkey and there will be a few differences between the models offered by each manufacturer – more of which later.
The vans are specifically designed for round-town use and can winkle into little back streets and spaces with a turning circle of just 9.95 metres.
But the smallish looking exteriors hide the fact that they can carry 610kg of cargo in 2.5 cubic metres of space, which expands to 2.8 cubic metres with the clever folding passenger seat stowed away.
A low step at the back makes loading easier.
Meanwhile, maximum load length is 1,523mm, extending to 2,491mm with that seat stashed.
That’s nigh on two and a half metres, or 8ft 2in to us old ’uns.
Prices and equipment have yet to be decided, but on offer will be an automatic gearbox for the diesel versions, ABS brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, driver, passenger and side airbags, rear parking sensors, deadlocks, an alarm and selective front and rear opening on the plip key.
ESP traction control is on the cards for later on in the year.
All this has given the new van a five-star Thatcham rating for theft and four stars for break-in resistance.
Combo versions with seating for five will also be produced in Europe but so far only Fiat has said definitely that it will import it. Citroën and Peugeot have yet to decide but it looks unlikely.
That’s the first difference – others follow under the bonnet.
Fiat will use its tried-and-tested 1.3 MultiJet diesel, offering 75bhp and 140lb-ft of torque.
It won’t be bringing in any petrol variants.
Citroën and Peugeot, on the other hand, will be offering either 1.4-litre petrol (allowing for LPG conversion) or 1.4 HDi diesels.
Both diesels emit just 119g/km of CO2, while fuel economy figures claim 62.7mpg on the combined cycle.
Behind the wheel
It is always a headache when Citroën, Peugeot and Fiat launch a combined van.
I wasn’t able to make it to the Nemo launch in France, but tagged along with Fiat on a trip to Italy, where we put the Fiorino through its paces on the streets of Turin and on a twisty mountain road outside the city.
My driving impressions count for all three vans.
The diesel engines are different but, looking at the performance figures, you couldn’t get a cigarette paper between them.
Therefore to avoid arguments, I’ll just call it ‘the van’.
The van has a chunky, well-built feel about it that promises a devotion to duty over many years.
Our testing was confined to diesel models as I don’t believe the petrol will be a fleet seller.
And talking of fleet sellers, the van is not really built to be that, concerning itself more with owner/drivers such as plumbers and electricians.
Having said that, Fiat was about to ship out some of the big fleet hitters from utility companies, so it is presumably hoping to grab some business there.
From the outside, the van looks chic and stylish. Front, back and sides are swathed in black plastic to avoid annoying scrapes and scratches but surprisingly there is no protection on the wheelarches.
However, the front end has been cleverly designed so that the bonnet and headlights are out of the normal crash impact area.
Inside, the van goes for a stylish yet conservative dashboard layout.
But what a joy the driver’s seat is. Our test model offered plenty of side support, a firm squab and lumbar and height adjustment.
Mind you, this seat is likely to appear on the paid-for options list when the van is launched here, along with that fold-down passenger seat which offers extra loadspace.
In the rear, the low load height is a boon, while the cargo area has a wipe-clean plastic floor and six load-lashing eyes.
The diesel engine is a belter, firing up with quiet enthusiasm and pumping out a lot more power than it has any right to.
The secret is in the fact that maximum torque comes in at 1,750rpm.
Expect similar oomph from Citroën and Peugeot as its 1.4 HDi figures almost match Fiat’s.
Out on the road, the van is a joy to drive.
It nudges round sharp bends with pin-sharp accuracy and has power steering that is balanced just heavily enough so that the driver has plenty of feel through the wheel.
This van is one that immediately impresses – it looks chic and stylish, it’s comfortable inside and is hugely practical, too.
Expect to see a lot of these vans on UK roads this summer.
|Model||1.4i||1.4 HDi||1.3 MultiJet|
|Gross vehicle weight (kg):||1,680||1,680||1,680|
|Max power (bhp/rpm):||75/5,200||70/4,000||75/4,000|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||87/2,600||118/1,750||140/1,750|
|Load volume (cu m):||2.5||2.5||2.5|