PSA Peugeot-Citroen builds the new Dispatch,at its Sevelnord plant near Lille in northern France and the vans represent a significant step up in terms of quality, practicality and economy compared with their predecessors.
Martin Gurney, Citroens fleet and used vehicles director, is confident the new medium vans will deliver dramatic volume growth. He says Citroen hold a combined UK market share of about 17% (Peugeot 9%, Citroen 8%) but that the previous Expert and Dispatch models were only managing 8.5% between them.
“By the end of 2019 we want the [medium van] share to be in line with the 17% average,” he says, and predicts this will equate to at least 10,000 more sales a year.
First off, Citroen got in a worthwhile and practical innovation of their own by breaking new ground with the introduction of a Compact derivative to the line-up. This version is 4.6m long and has a 5.1m3 loadspace, but boasts a not-to-sneezed at 1.0t payload.
The Compact also has a turning circle of 11.3m, compared with the 12.4m of the Standard and Long vans, which makes it a compelling proposition for the urban operators at whom it is specifically targeted.
All the vans in the ranges have a height advantage. Standing at 1.9m tall – down from 1.97m in the second generation – they will comfortably negotiate the height-restrictive barriers at underground car parks and tolling gates across Europe.
Apart from the Compact, the other bodystyles in the line-up can carry a meaty and class-leading maximum of 1.4t. In terms of the competition, the Vauxhall Vivaro gets nearest to this with a maximum 1,281kg.
The top towing limit of the Dispatch derivatives has gone up from 2.0t to an impressive and joint class-leading 2.5t. The Ford Transit Custom and VW Transporter can match this but the Mercedes Vito, Renault Trafic and Vauxhall Vivaro max out at 2.0t.
The Dispatch vans will be available with a selection of Euro6 1.6 and 2.0 Blue HDI powertrains with outputs ranging from 95hp to 180hp.
The entry-level 95hp unit comes with a five-speed manual gearbox but can also be specified with a robotised ETG6-controlled ‘box with stop/start. The 1.6-litre 115hp Stop & Start comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as do the 120hp and 150hp 2.0 S&S derivatives.
The top-of-the-range 180hp S&S gets the EAT6 automatic transmission and, like the ETG6.
All of these engines incorporate selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology to meet the Euro6 standard and come with a 22.4-litre Adblue tank with a range of 9320 miles.
Our podium winner has also raised the bar when it comes to economy. The 1.6 115hp engine is the most efficient with official fuel consumption of 55.3mpg and CO2 emissions of just 133g/km. These figures make the PSA and Toyota models comfortably the most frugal and environmentally friendly in the sector.
The Ford Transit Custom Euro6 has a best official consumption of 49.6mpg with CO2 of 161g/km, the Renault Trafic delivers a best of 47.9mpg with CO2 of 155g/km, and the most frugal VW Transporter claims 47.9mpg with CO2 of 153g/km.
Another innovation is the Moduwork, configurable passenger bench seat with a load-through bulkhead. This is similar to the load-through hatches Ford introduced for its Custom and Renault and Vauxhall employ in their Trafic and Vivaro ranges, and extends the load length by 1.16m, making it possible to carry longer pipes or ladders.
Sylvain Champomier, product leader for the Dispatch , says the Moduwork system differs from the Ford and Renault alternatives, which just provide a hatch in the bulkhead, by allowing the seat to fold upwards to increase load volume by 0.5m3 to 5.1m3 on Compact, 5.8m3 on standard and 6.6m3 on long versions.
An ingenious feature designed to make life easier for busy parcel delivery drivers is the hands-free sliding side door feature. This enables the driver to open and close the side door with a movement of the foot under the corner of the rear bumper, triggering a sensor, when their arms are full with packages. The driver must have the electronic key in their possession for the system to function. It also closes and locks the vehicle automatically when the driver moves away.