Citroen Dispatch van review
Citroen’s brand new mid-size van has its sights on rivals from the Ford Transit Custom to Volkswagen Transporter
Along with its Peugeot Expert and Toyota Proace sister models, the new Citroen Dispatch is unique in the mid-size van sector as a brand new model from the ground up. Other sector rivals such as the Renault Trafic, Ford Transit Custom and Volkswagen Transporter can’t match many of the PSA vans' advantages in economy and packaging, which they derive from the Efficient Modular Platform 2 developed from the underpinnings of the Peugeot 308 and Citroen C4 Picasso.
The EMP2 platform is only loosely shared, as the Dispatch is all-new engineering from the forward bulkhead back. However there are shared hardpoints at the front and the suspension design is carried over from the passenger cars, albeit in beefed-up form. The platform also brings with it an electrically assisted power steering system. There are two wheelbase lengths, while a new oblique wishbone set-up, with variable stiffness shocks and springs to cater for different load states, supports the rear of the van.
The new Dispatch is offered across all XS, M and XL sizes as a standard van, six-seater crew van or nine-seat combi. There’s also a platform cab version, so customers can build their own specialist bodies if required. Load capacity is 1,400kgs on all models.
Fuel economy is likely to be one of the biggest talking points for prospective Dispatch customers, as Citroen and Peugeot are claiming class-best efficiency for their vans’ BlueHDi engines which also meet new Euro VI emissions standards.
The range kicks off with a 94bhp 1.6-litre unit that comes with either a six-speed manual gearbox or an auto version with a robotized clutch. There’s also a 114bhp version of the same engine, which Citroen reckons is likely to be the biggest seller – although you can only pick that one with manual gears.
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Further up the range there’s a 2.0-litre engine that comes in three outputs – 119bhp, 148bhp and 178bhp. The most powerful version is also available with an auto gearbox – of the traditional torque-convertor type – and paddle-shifters behind the steering wheel. Depending on which engine you pick, maximum torque figures range from 210Nm to 370Nm.
The new Dispatch also arrives with an impressive array of new wave technology. On the infotainment front with a new 7-inch touchscreen installation, and on the safety side the roster of kit includes speed limit recognition, a head-up display, and pre-collision braking.
It also comes with a highly distinctive new style thanks to a frontal design that differs markedly from its Peugeot Expert stablemate. Large chrome-effect Citroen chevrons spread their wings across the full width of the nose, as per the Citroen passenger car range. The van’s side-profile is interesting too, with a wheel-at-each corner stance and high ‘forward control’ feel to the cab.
There’s a Look Pack that adds body-coloured bumpers, mirrors and side-strips, which makes the nose appear even more striking. It’s fitted as standard to the luxuriously equipped Enterprise Plus flagship model, but you can also order it as optional equipment on the Enterprise mid-ranger and the X entry-model.
MPG and Running Costs
The new Dispatch costs from around £17,500 to just over £26,500, which is exactly the same as the Peugeot Expert. The spec and options are identical too, so the Dispatch is pretty well kitted-out even in its entry-level X guise. It comes with a pair of sliding side doors, electric windows in the cab, cruise control, DAB radio and Bluetooth.
However, if you’re buying a van to drive yourself you’ll probably want to opt for the mid-range Enterprise model. That way you get the PSA group’s latest 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, air conditioning and the handy Moduwork load through bulkhead and seat. Push the boat out to Enterprise Plus, and on top of the Look pack you’ll get LED driving lights, 17-inch alloys, a rear parking camera and metallic paint.
However, while Citroen throws in the infotainment system on the mid- and top-spec models, you still have to pay extra to add sat-nav, which seems a bit mean. Also, much of the desirable new safety kit is only available from the options list, which is fair enough but will bump the price up for those who want it.
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What does come as standard is class-leading fuel economy, both on the official ‘combined cycle’ figures and in the real world. At least that’s what we’ve been told off the record by PSA engineers, who reckon their benchmark testing shows an economy advantage for all models of ‘at least’ 5mpg across a range of driving conditions from motorways to mountains.
If true, that sort of advantage will delight fleet managers. Meanwhile, according to the official numbers, the 114bhp 1.6-litre can return 55.3mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions of just 133g/km – this making it the most efficient model in the range. The 94bhp version with the automatic gearbox can do 54.3mpg and 135g/km, and 51.3mpg in 5-speed manual form. With the 119bhp and 148bhp vans both returning 53.2mpg, and even the 178bhp unit offering 46.3mpg, the Citroen range boasts an average figure of 52.3mpg.
Load Space and Practicality
All the Citroen Dispatch models have a maximum load weight of 1,400kgs, but it’s the smallest XS model that stands out here for its ability to swallow two pallets. With an overall length of 4.6m and a turning circle of little more than 11m, it seems likely to attract urban and rural operators who appreciated compact dimensions and agility.
The M model has a 3,670m load length, and the XL version will swallow 4,020m. Cargo width between the wheel arches is 1,260m, and the trio have load volumes of 5.1, 5.8 and 6.6 cubic metres. XS and M models are 1.9m tall, while the XL is only 40mm taller.
The impressive Moduwork long-load system is available on all models, and features a bulkhead with a hatch, and a triple-seat folding front bench. The outermost passenger seat lifts and folds away, revealing the bulkhead hatch that allows an addition 1,160mm of load length in what would otherwise be the footwell for narrow items like pipes or ladders. A passenger can still use the middle seat, or that too can be folded to create a table for your laptop.
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The twin sliding doors are a boon for loading, especially with the hands-free option that allows anyone with their arms full and the key in their pocket to operate the door by waggling a foot under the van.
As per the latest European regs, the new Dispatch comes with a fixed metal bulkhead as standard. It doesn’t impinge on the driving position, as there’s still plenty of room to push the seat backwards for tall drivers. There’s also an insulated bulkhead that cuts down on thermal losses for fridge van owners but also improves comfort by reducing noise intrusion from the load bay. It’s also been designed with additional cabin comfort in mind, and so is set back at shoulder height to allow the seat to recline further.
The crew van and combi versions of the Dispatch are versatile too. The crew van comes with either a fixed or folding bulkhead behind its two rows of seats, allowing up to 5.5 cubic metres of cargo in the XL version. The Combi can carry between two and nine passengers with three easily removable rows of seats in the load area, up to 1,300-litres of luggage with all seats in place in the XL.
Reliability and Safety
While the old Dispatch only managed three stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests, we’re expecting the latest version to perform much better. If it fails to grab the maximum five-star award we’ll be disappointed, especially as there’s a full MPV version of the van called the Citroen SpaceTourer arriving in showrooms too.
While the EMP2 platform should provide a solid engineering base for a good crash test result, there’s enough additional safety tech available to satisfy even the most timid of road users. It’s a little disappointing that you have to buy most of the new tech from the options list, but for those who want it there’s a head-up display on the dash, a radar controlled active braking system, Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning, and a rear-facing parking camera with a 180-degree overhead view.
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Road sign recognition uses a front facing camera to pick up speed limits and alert the driver, who can match vehicle speed to the posted limit with a couple of clicks on the cruise control button. Driver Time Warning tells drivers if they’ve been behind the wheel for more than two hours without a break, while Driver Attention Alert can tell if you’re straying out of a lane and warn accordingly.
While four-wheel-drive is on the options list for left-hand-drive models, there’s no current plan to develop a 4x4 Dispatch for the UK. However, you can opt for Grip Control, which is an upgraded traction control designed to improve the ability to make progress on muddy tracks or other slippery conditions.
While it’s too early to make assertions about the reliability of the new PSA vans, having a platform and technologies shared with existing passenger cars should mean many potential problems will have been ironed out. The BlueHDi engines use widely seen technology too, so it seems reasonable to predict there’ll be few problems on the mechanical front.
Driving and Performance
Citroen makes much of the comfort of its passenger cars these days, and indeed it has historically been one of the brand’s strengths. With the arrival of the new Dispatch, Citroen can justifiably claim its place as one of the comfort leaders in the van sector.
The pliant ride can be attributed to the new EMP2 platform, and the fact that PSA engineers started from the premise they’d need to make a smooth-riding MPV version. All the vans benefit from engineering choices made to achieve that goal.
As well as the comfortable ride, cabin noise is muted too. You do get a bit of boom through the standard metal only bulkhead when driving with an empty load bay, but it’s not overly intrusive and the insulated version improves things still further.
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The seats are comfortable too, with plenty of adjustment in all directions even for tall drivers, and you get a good view out across the bonnet. The bonnet may be high, but the nose’s squared-off feel from behind the wheel makes the Dispatch easy to place when parking or manoeuvring. The high waistline and bonnet combined with a relatively low roof also creates a sort of letterbox view out of the cabin, but it’s not detrimental to visibility. Drivers may find the mirrors a little on the small side though – they seem more akin to standard passenger car (or MPV) mirrors.
Underway, the engines are audible and occasionally gruff when you put your foot down, but they idle quietly and don’t come across as gravelly or thrashy. We’ve driven the 114bhp and 148bhp versions and both are respectably responsive, and well matched to the six-speed gearbox, which operates smoothly via a short lever that sprouts from the base of the dash. The 148bhp motor offers a noticeable chunk of extra muscle, making overtaking easier. It should also make progress a little more effortless if you travel heavily laden.
But while the Dispatch is an extremely comfortable workplace, we do have couple of criticisms of the driving experience. The brakes work fine, but can feel sudden in response to light pedal pressure. The steering isn’t a highlight either, as the electrically assisted wheel is over-light and remote. So although the Dispatch goes where you want it to, there’s no feedback to help you place the van accurately on the road. That said, the Dispatch does feel secure and stable while cornering, and is relaxing – if not exactly fun – to drive.
Cab and Interior
We’ve already mentioned the unusual letterbox effect of the Dispatch cab, and it’s a unique feature of the PSA vans that is carried through to the rear in people-carrying versions thanks to relatively narrow windows all around. They’re not exactly slit-like, but other vans have an airier ambience thanks to their bigger glass area.
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Otherwise, there’s really very little to criticise. The interior has a car-like fascia design and a good quality feel with nicely textured plastics, although fit and finish is predictably not quite up to car passenger car standards. If you opt for the 7-inch touchscreen, climate control and Head-Up Display, the effect is almost up their with a luxurious SUV.
It’s a practical cabin as well as a comfortable one. There’s a total of 49-litres of storage space around the cabin, including large door bins, two glove boxes on the passenger side, and an A4 sized compartment on top of the dash.
(Width is body without side mirrors, overall width including mirrors is 2,204mm)
Load area dimensions
|XS van||1,397mm||1,628mm||2,162mm||4.6cu m|
|M van||1,397mm||1,628mm||2,512mm||5.3cu m|
|XL van||1,397mm||1,628mm||2,862mm||6.1cu m|
(Load volume is without Moduwork option – add 0.5cu m if Moduwork is fitted)