PSA Group, the French giant that makes Citroen, Peugeot and DS cars has jointly launched its latest commercial vehicle and Motorhub went to Paris to test it. The new van features a host of new technology that shakes up the class and throws down a marker to its rivals.
Citroen call its version Dispatch while Peugeot calls its one Expert. Toyota also has a version of the same and I mean exact same van that it calls Proace. Economy of scale is the driving force behind the collaboration – remember Toyota and PSA have triplets already with the Toyota Aygo, Citroen C1 and Peugeot 108. Anyway back to the vans, all the front wheel drive machines (four wheel drive versions are available) are structurally and mechanically identical – the only differences being some styling touches like front grilles etc. They sit on the same EMP2 modular platform that is used in the C4 Picasso and Peugeot’s 308 to name just two PSA machines.
To save ink, we’ll concentrate on Citroen’s Dispatch. New to the sector is a short (L1) bodied version ‘XS’. At 4.606 metres long, this machine is perfect for city use thanks to a shortened wheelbase (2,925 metres) and a tiny 11.3 metre turning circle. Dispatch is 1.9 metres tall so it is car park and toll barrier friendly. We tested what will be the volume selling 4.956 metre L2 ‘M’ mid-sized Dispatch – there are three body lengths available in total – the longest being the XL at 5.308 metres. Exterior styling is impressive. The stubby bonnet can house units from a range of Euro 6 diesels. This styling is bang on trend in the sector as it slowly moves away from the one box look. Dispatch has a stocky and robust road presence thanks to its high shoulder line and blocky shape. Nice touches include the integrated Adblue filler in the nearside door frame that is concealed when the door is closed and the fuel filler cap that is positioned in the pressed metal arc above the nearside rear wheel arch. New is an electronic opening side door that with a kick of your foot under the rear side bumper opens (and closes the same way) once the key is on your person. When the key is in the cab it doesn’t work for obvious security reasons. There are countless variations of Dispatch depending on requirements, from tippers to VIP passenger shuttles, but the standard three-seat panel van will attract most buyers.
We tested two engines, a 120hp 2-litre and the 1.6. The smaller engine was very impressive and seemed quieter too. Even with a bulkhead behind the seats it is easy to get a good driving position. The bulkhead has a party trick as there are some opening panels in it to allow long loads through in to the cabin under a popup passenger seat base. Automatics are available (a growing trend in LCVs) but the manual six-speed is good and overall the drive is quite car-like. The five-engine range features power outputs from 95-180hp.
On the road there are many safety aids available that will help fleet and owner operators stay safe and keep repair bills low like the blind spot monitoring system that flashes a warning light in your side mirror should anything be unseen in the blind spot. A head up display that we’ve seen in 3008 and others of late is brilliant as it displays not only your speed but also Nav directions at critical times. Connectivity is great too with Mirror Screen that allows smart phones to connect effortless using either Carplay or Mirror Link. There is also a very handy lane keeping assist function. Parking sensors help reduce prangs plus a great rear view camera available. To help keep your licence clean a clever speed limiter/cruise function reads speed signs and allows you easily set that speed into the limiter with just two presses of a button. Specification is dependent on your budget and on higher trimmed versions there is also a very nice 7-inch touch screen. The cabin is well thought out and not a bad office at all.
In Europe PSA is the LCV sales leader but in this specific class it needs to do better. The bigger sellers last year in Europe included VW Transporter, Transit Custom, Mercedes Vito & V class, Renault Traffic and Opel Vivaro.
Citroen Ireland told us that at present LCVs account for over 50% of its business. For 2016 Citroen Ireland predicts a total of 1,700 LCV sales. Its bread and butter machine is the smaller sized Berlingo range. Berlingo will account for 80% of those sales but there are high hopes for the new Dispatch.
The LCV (light commercial vehicle) market is growing in Ireland and this is a great indicator of economic growth. PSA with its new LCV is making life for the working driver safer and more enjoyable with the new Dispatch/Expert.