Mercedes' new Citan offers relatively cheap passage, lots of room and no penalty on excess luggage
Budget carrier The Mercedes-Benz Citan is designed like a box, which means it has lots of room inside. -- PHOTO: MERCEDES-BENZ

Presenting the new Citan minivan, a social leveller from luxury car maker Mercedes- Benz.

It is a diesel, it is a manual and it sits in COE Cat A. It is also known elsewhere as the Renault Kangoo (the car is made in collaboration with Renault and is assembled in France).

Priced in the same ballpark as Asian-made Japanese models such as the Toyota Avanza and Suzuki APV, the Citan is aimed at budget buyers. Perhaps budget buyers who want to drive a car with a three-pointed star.

Its hallowed emblem aside, there is nothing luxurious about the Citan. But like the multi-purpose Merc Vaneo it replaces, the van-cum-car offers an astounding level of practicality. Its tall, boxy structure means lots of interior room. Door openings are tall and wide too, allowing swift and easy ingress and egress, as well as loading and unloading.

Even without folding the second row of seats, the cuboid cargo area will easily swallow a couple of foldable bicycles. With seats folded, perhaps two full-size bikes. Even the front passenger seat can be folded flat to accommodate extra-long objects.

In terms of versatility, few cars come close to matching something like the Citan. The stowage area can be configured in a number of ways to suit the needs of handymen, outdoorsy types, pet owners, delivery businesses and even travelling bands.

For instance, optional retention grilles can be installed to separate the cargo and passenger compartments.

All in all, you have 3,700 litres of cargo space to play with - equivalent to what the biggest wagons offer. What is amazing is that it will accommodate objects over 2.1m long and over 1.2m tall.

The Citan may be classified as a compact van but it is actually quite sizeable. It measures 4,705mm tip to tail, with a limo-like wheelbase of 3,081mm. Which explains its roomy cabin.

But how user-friendly is it, really?

Well, let's start with the twin sliding doors. They are not motorised but are light enough for the daintiest damsel to operate. Like a compact MPV, its five seats are at an ideal height for sliding into and out of. And as mentioned, the enormous doorways make things even easier.

Compared to latter-day cars, the Citan is rudimentary. No keyless system, climate control, cruise control or electronic parking brake. No automatic transmission even.

But you will be glad to know that the wing mirrors are electrically adjusted, the steering wheel is adjustable at least for reach, the windows are motorised and the headlights are automatic.

There are reverse parking sensors, along with an after-market reverse camera. And there is a stop-start system to help keep CO2 emissions down.

On the go, the Citan is really not as bad as expected. Its 1,461cc turbodiesel, mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, offers lots of usable torque across a decent rev band.

An indicator prompts you to shift up or down, but quite often, you are able to stay in one cog for quite a while. The car could probably do with a sixth gear, as it still feels a bit high-strung in fifth.

Gear changes are sharp and clean, with none of the vagueness you recall of past Renaults. The same goes for the clutch action. Body roll is fairly controlled for a vehicle of its shape and configuration, and ride quality is actually pretty decent.

Despite being a little rough around the edges when it comes to noise, vibration and harshness, the car is very easy to live with. Perhaps because expectations were not sky-high to begin with.

The only thing which Mercedes had oversold was the Citan's efficiency. The car averages

7.9 litres/100km in the real world - not quite the claimed 4.6. Other than that, the Citan is a cute, peachy goods-cum-passenger vehicle.

CAR INFORMATION

Mercedes-Benz Citan 109 CDI Mixto (M)

Price

:POA

Engine Type

:

4-cylinder in-line Turbocharged

Engine Cap

:

1,461 cc

Horsepower

:

88 bhp

Torque

:

200 Nm

Transmission

:

5-speed (M)

Acceleration

:

13.1 sec (0-100 km/h)

Top Speed

:

155 km/h