This is proving to be the year of the small van, with new offerings already on sale in the form of the Volkswagen Caddy Maxi, Citroën Nemo, Peugeot Bipper and Fiat Fiorino.
To follow shortly are the new Citroën Berlingo and Peugeot Partner.
Renault joins the fray in September with the brand new Kangoo which will, for the first time, be offered in two formats, the smaller of which is being labelled the Kangoo Compact.
New Kangoo is based on the Scenic platform and offers a fresh design inside and out, more loadspace and better driveability.
In the cab, there’s a light airy MPV-style ambience and stowage space has been increased with a 15-litre glove compartment, side door bins and an overhead shelf, along with a shelf for A4-sized documents on top of the dash.
Multi-media connectivity with Bluetooth capabilities will be available along with a wealth of extras from the car world, such as cruise control, speed limiter, parking sensors and automatic headlamp and wiper activation.
In the rear of the Kangoo, there is 3.0 cubic metres of cargo space, up from 2.75 cu m in the old model, and this rises to 3.5 cu m when a special fold down passenger seat is specified.
The width between the arches is 1.21 metres, which means a Europallet can be carried.
Renault has pulled off a neat trick with the Kangoo Compact insofar as width and height stay the same as with the longer model.
Load volume reduces to 2.5 cu m but a Europallet can still be carried.
Under the bonnet, Kangoo has either a 1.5 dCi common rail turbodiesel unit offering 70bhp, 85bhp or 105bhp or a 1.6-litre petrol unit offering either 90bhp or 105bhp.
Meanwhile, Kangoo Compact has the 1.5 dCi unit offering 70bhp or 85bhp or the 1.6-litre petrol with 90bhp.
The Compact is very much built for urban use and has an amazing turning circle of 9.7 metres, which is less than for the petite Twingo car.
British specification has yet to be unveiled but expect ABS brakes and driver’s airbag as standard, while ESP traction control will be available as an added extra on higher-powered models.
A Kangoo car derivative is due to follow in 2009.
Prices will be revealed nearer to launch date in September.
Behind the wheel
Our first drive in left-hand drive versions took place in the winding hilly roads around Chantilly in France and although only 85bhp vehicles were available for testing, this is likely to be the big fleet seller.
New Kangoo has a fresh shape and a curious snub-nosed bonnet, the purpose of which reveals itself when you climb aboard.
The shortness of the bonnet is because the windscreen has been pulled right forward, making for extra space in the cab.
And what a cab is it – it’s massive.
There’s a huge, sweeping dash and an enormous amount of glass, making it feel like you are driving a much bigger vehicle than it really is.
The seats feel soft at first but have plenty of support both at the sides and back.
Both Kangoo and Kangoo Compact feature a wipe clean floor and half-height load liners, while there is the option of mesh bulkhead or full metal one.
Kangoo features six load-lashing eyes while Kangoo Compact has four and there is an option to have more fitted to the sides at buying time, which sounds like a simple but effective idea.
Most people generally make up their minds about a vehicle in the first 30 seconds of driving but it took me less time than that to realise that the general driving experience of the Kangoo is excellent.
The 1.5 dCi unit didn’t seem quite aa smooth and quiet as the ones offered in the new Berlingo and Partner which I drove recently but Kangoo certainly made up for this on the road, with gutsy acceleration, pin-sharp handling and a nice slick dash-mounted gearstick.
Swapping over to the Kangoo Compact, its handling didn’t quite match up to its longer-wheelbase brother, feeling a little on the floaty side.
But when we hit a couple of nearby town centres and had to negotiate some tight little corners, it showed itself up to the job and more.
After all, this is where the Compact is built to excel and that’s exactly what it did.
You couldn’t get a fag paper between the capabilities of the Kangoo, Kangoo Compact, Citroën Berlingo, Peugeot Partner, Citroën Nemo, Peugeot Bipper and Fiat Fiorino.
At the end of the day, sales success or otherwise will probably be down to a mixture of brand prejudice, slick marketing and pricing.
Gross vehicle weight (kg):
|Max power (bhp):||70-105||70-85|
|Max torque (lb-ft/rpm):||94/3,000-177/2,000||94/3,000-147/1,900|
|Load vol (cu m):||3.0-3.5||2.5|
|Fuel consumption (mpg):||34.4-54.3||35.3-55.3|