Three-and-a-half-tonne dropside trucks are enjoying a bit of a halcyon period at the moment.
It’s as a result of the old 7.5-tonne sector going into freefall because of all the legal restrictions on those vehicles.
To run a 7.5-tonner you now need a tachograph and a speed limiter – and of course drivers who passed their car tests after 1995 won’t be able to operate them.
The major LCV manufacturers are making the most of this unexpected sales manna from heaven by offering dropside trucks at 3.5-tonnes – and Citroën is one of those queueing up for fleet business.
The vehicle on test here is one of the ones from Citroën’s Ready To Run range.
Buyers can choose window vans, crew-cabs, Lutons, tippers and glass vans.
One of the benefits of vehicles like these is that they come straight from the showroom and are guaranteed by the manufacturer.
Therefore if something does go wrong with the body, Citroën won’t turn round and tell you to go and see the bodybuilder.
This particular rear end comes courtesy of Ingimex and measures a stonking 3,675mm by 2,026mm – that’s around 12 feet long to you and me.
Payload is 1,500kg.
Under the bonnet, Citroën offers a choice of 2.2-litre HDi common rail diesel engines offering either 100bhp or 120bhp.
There’s a 3.0-litre variant too with 160bhp on tap but it’s not really a fleet vehicle.
Our test model had the 120bhp unit which pumps out 236lb-ft of torque.
The price is £13,150 ex-VAT.
- Behind the wheel
The first thing you’ll notice about this particular vehicle – apart from its huge load length – is the price.
When the Relay arrived at the Fleet Van offices I thought they’d made a mistake in the press pack and called the Citroën press office to check.
But no, £13,150 is the price and all I can say is that I’m staggered, especially after having driven a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter dropside the other month which had a lower payload and weighed in at £25,415.
OK, so the Sprinter was a crew-cab and offered a far superior ride and a sturdier build quality but hey, you could almost buy two Relays for that money.
The Relay was only launched in its latest incarnation at the back end of 2006 and it’s a classy looker to be sure.
Climbing aboard (via remote plip-locking) the cab reveals itself to be as chic as the exterior, with plenty of cubby holes and storage places.
The back of the middle seat folds down to reveal a little desk and the top of the dash pops up to make a sort of easel for A4 sheafs complete with a clip at the top.
The chassis underneath looks massive but it can’t be too heavy as the Relay boasts a payload of around one and a half tonnes.
The Ingimex body is aluminium and there’s a sturdy mesh headboard to protect the occupants from loads flying forwards.
Meanwhile the floor is made of non-slip material which can be easily hosed down when dirty loads have been carried.
- On the road
We’ve just had a Relay van on long-term test for six months so it was interesting to see the difference between it and this dropside.
The driver’s seat was the same ultracomfortable item which moulds itself to every contour of the body and has plenty of lumbar support.
But underway the suspension is a lot stiffer and with no load on board, there was quite a lot of harshness on some of our rougher roads.
However, on loading the truck down with a half-tonne weight it soon settled down to a pleasant lope.
The 120bhp powerplant should prove quite adequate when this truck is weighed down – it’s a lively unit that won’t disappoint.
Nicely-weighted power steering adds to the pleasant driving experience and with a clear view behind, it’s a simple job to winkle this lengthy contender into small spaces.
Top marks to Citroën for the standard ABS brakes but it’s a shame the firm doesn’t follow the example of Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen and make ESP traction control a standard fitment.
With such a low price, it’s impossible to go wrong with a vehicle like this.
Our only warning to buyers is that it’s all too easy to overload it.
We’d recommend the fitment of a device such as VanWeigh which will give off a warning when too much cargo is added.
Gross vehicle weight (kg): 3,500
Max power (bhp): 120
Max torque (lb-ft): 236
Payload (kg): 1,500
Price (ex VAT): £13,150