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In-depth reviews

Mercedes Citan van review

The new Mercedes Citan is a solid all rounder, available with diesel and electric power

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.5 out of 5

  • Decent space
  • MBUX infotainment
  • Good standard kit list
  • Maximum payload
  • One body style for now
  • No thru-load bulkhead

The Mercedes Citan probably isn’t the first model that comes to mind when thinking about small vans. Even within Mercedes’ own commercial line-up, the Citan can be overshadowed by the giant Sprinter and mid-sized Vito. But the Mercedes Citan is a decent seller in Europe, and the second-generation model features tech from Mercedes' passenger cars.

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Of course it has to contend with all the usual suspects in the compact van class, namely the Vauxhall Combo, Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner, Toyota Proace City and Fiat Doblo, which all share the same running gear. There’s also the Volkswagen Caddy to consider, which will share its underpinnings with the next Ford Transit Connect. And finally, you have the second-generation Renault Kangoo and Nissan Townstar.

The Citan’s styling is more of an evolution than a radical redesign of the old model. There's a mix of B-Class and Sprinter about it, with LED daytime running lights and a large grille with a big three-pointed star in the centre. The traditional two-box design is largely the same as before, and as with the previous generation, the Citan shares its bodyshell and running gear with the Kangoo.

The Mercedes sits on the same platform as the Nissan Townstar too. But while this is the first time the Citan is being offered with an all-electric powertrain – badged as the eCitan – this is Mercedes’ last combustion-engined van.

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There’s no petrol option like in its French and Japanese sister vans, just a 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel engine that in all UK models produces 94bhp and 260Nm of torque. It comes as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, but an optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is available.

Meanwhile the all-electric eCitan is powered by a 121bhp electric motor and 45kWh usable battery. The eCitan arrives later in 2023, and in time will be offered in both L1 and L2 body lengths, or as a crew van, just like the diesel will eventually. 

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But that means that, for now, the Citan range is limited to diesel power and standard wheelbase form that offers a maximum load volume of 2.9 cubic metres. Buyers are also given a simple choice of Progressive and Premium trims. All models get a full-width bulkhead, a single sliding side door to access the load area, rear doors capable of opening up to 180 degrees, a seven-inch touchscreen running Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, a reversing camera, rear parking sensors, air-conditioning and heated side mirrors.

Upgrading to Premium trim adds roughly £2,000 to the Citan’s price, for which you get body-coloured bumpers, 16-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels, LED headlights, chrome interior trim and high-beam assist. Optional extras are available, including wireless charging for your smartphone, a second sliding door, tyre pressure monitors, keyless go, blind spot assist and active lane keeping assist.

Because so many of today’s vans use the same underpinnings, like those from the Stellantis group brands and Toyota we mentioned earlier, buyer’s shortlists are essentially the same vehicle from different brands. So the final decision may come down to matters of price, equipment and the quality or location of your local dealer. 

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The Mercede Citan starts from just over £21,300 (excluding VAT) in diesel form, which is not too bad considering the amount of kit you get as standard compared with the Kangoo and Townstar. Meanwhile, the eCitan starts from over £33,000 (excluding VAT and before the UK government’s plug-in van grant is deducted). Most small electric vans attract similar price increases over their combustion-engined counterparts, and will make many operators hesitant to switch to electric. But if you need a van to run in urban locations (especially those with low-emissions zones) an electric van like the eCitan could be quite cost effective over the long term.

Right now the Mercedes Citan is held back by its limited range of bodystyles, and the fact the all-electric eCitan has yet to arrive. But Mercedes’ smallest commercial offering does come with plenty of kit as standard, including the three-pointed star’s MBUX infotainment system, making it a decent all rounder. 

MPG, CO2 and Running Costs

You have a simple choice when ordering a Mercedes Citan: old-fashioned diesel or modern all-electric power. 

Mercedes says the oil-burner, with its 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine, can achieve up to 54.3mpg on the WLTP combined cycle and emits 137g/km of CO2. Those figures are for the L1 model like the version we tested, however, after covering more than 100 miles in the Citan we averaged 40.9mpg; enough to cover over 520 miles on a full tank. The L2 Citan’s stats are yet to be announced, but it’s likely to be marginally less efficient. 

The eCitan features a 45kWh lithium-ion battery and offers a WLTP combined range of up to 176 miles – five miles more than the Vauxhall Combo Electric and Citroen e-Berlingo van. Admittedly, while its rivals can charge at up to 100kW, the eCitan maxes out at 80kW, meaning a 0 to 80 per cent top-up from a DC rapid charger will take 35 minutes versus 30 minutes in the Vauxhall or Citroen. 

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Fully recharging the electric Citan using an 11kW wallbox should take around four and a half hours, however, 22kW AC charging capabilities are available as an optional extra and cuts the time needed to fully replenish the battery down to two and a half hours.

Load Space and Practicality

Whether you choose diesel or electric power for your Mercedes Citan, there’s no difference in the size of the load area. The L1 model can carry 2.9 cubic metres of cargo, while the L2 will squeeze 3.62 cubic metres inside. The maximum load length for the L1 is 1,806mm, while stats for the long-wheelbase L2 are still forthcoming.

The Citan L1 comes with a single sliding side door as standard and two rear doors capable of opening up to 180 degrees. An additional nearside sliding door is available as an optional extra though. It might not look like it, but the Citan can take a pair of Europallets, with the cargo area also featuring six tie-down points on the floor, and another four on the sides.

The Citan L1 has a maximum payload capability of 667kg, which is significantly less than the 850kg or 840kg you can carry in the ICE versions of the Kangoo and Townstar respectively. Meanwhile the diesel Citan is rated to tow trailers up to a maximum gross train weight of 3,500kg.

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All models get a plastic bulkhead separating the cabin from the load area. The bulkhead itself is curved, which allows for a more comfortable driving position, but does eat into the load bay. There’s no load-through option either to poke longer items through into the cabin, because the clever hinged bulkhead isn’t being made available in right-hand drive models. 

Reliability and Safety

Unlike some other small vans, including the closely related Kangoo and Townstar, the entry-level Citan does come with a decent amount of safety kit. Every Citan features six airbags, Active Brake Assist, an Attention Assist system to detect driver fatigue, cruise control, speed limiter, seat belt warnings for the driver and passenger, rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, which offers a very clear view behind. However, it’s worth noting that the Citan’s alarm isn’t approved by Thatcham.

Top-spec models don’t get any extra safety kit, but there are some available as optional extras, including Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keep Assist, Speed Limit Assist and hands-free parking with the Active Parking Assist system. Unfortunately, the Citan misses out on the 360-degree camera system, intelligent cruise control and digital rear-view mirror available in the Kangoo and Townstar.

The Citan is covered by a three-year/unlimited-mileage warranty, while Mercedes offers warranty extensions at extra cost and numerous service plans too, including a pay-as-you-go package. Mercedes says the diesel Citan needs to be serviced after 18,000 miles or two years, whichever comes first.

Driving and Performance

The diesel Citan 1.5-litre engine produces 94bhp and 260Nm of torque, all of which is sent to the front wheels. Mated to the standard six-speed manual gearbox the Citan will go from 0-62mph in 11.7 seconds and go on to a top speed of 109mph. The eCitan produces a healthier 121bhp and 245Nm of torque from its front-mounted electric motor.

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We’ve only driven the diesel-powered Citan so far, but found it rides pretty well for a small van. It's well isolated from big thumps, while refinement is good, with low wind and road noise keeping the cabin relaxed. Despite the plastic bulkhead dividing the cab and the cargo area, we didn’t find much noise resonating through as we’ve experienced in some rival vans.

The Citan doesn’t have the lightest steering we’ve ever experienced, but enough to make manoeuvring in tight car parks and town easy enough, with the 11.2-metre turning circle also helping in that department.

However, we found the gear selector to be particularly annoying during our time with the Citan, as we often found ourselves skipping past reverse and entering park. It demanded a delicate touch, otherwise what should have been quick manoeuvres were slow and quite frustrating. Once on the move, the diesel engine provided plenty of oomph for most situations, and we never felt we were struggling to keep up with traffic. 

The seven-speed automatic transmission on the other hand was particularly slow to change up at low speeds though, while the start-stop system in the Citan we drove proved to be very temperamental, often starting the engine up again even while in park.

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At least the seats are supportive and soft enough, and with reach and rake adjustment on the steering column, finding a comfortable driving position for anyone around six-feet tall is a cinch, as we found out first hand. That’s with the driver’s seat at the very back of it’s available travel though, so very tall drivers could find the space a little more cramped.

Cab and Interior

The cabin of the second-generation Citan has been infused with an essence of Mercedes’ passenger cars. In the centre of the dashboard you have a sharp seven-inch touchscreen running the firm’s slick, intuitive MBUX infotainment system. The set-up was quick to respond to touches, and comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard which fills the entire display. The steering wheel also features a mixture of touch-sensitive controls, like those in the A-Class hatchback for example. These are used for swiping through the infotainment system and small display behind the steering wheel, while you get physical buttons for the other key controls.

Other elements like the round air vents and three-spoke steering wheel also look similar to those in Merc’s passenger cars, but of course the Citan uses tough plastics to give the cabin a more robust quality. We like the metallic-ringed dials for the heating and ventilation system, and the large shortcut buttons under the dashboard.

Van drivers need plenty of cubbies to store items and avoid cluttering up the cab, and there's no shortage of those in the Citan. Below the gearlever is a tray with USB ports for keeping your phone topped up and out of your line of sight to avoid any temptation from incoming notifications. The glovebox is a decent size, as are the door bins and cup holders. The top of the dashboard also dips slightly, creating what we think is an ideal space to plonk a clipboard or folder so it’s easy to grab when you need it.

There’s another storage bin under the armrest which is nice and deep, but annoyingly the armrest doesn’t support itself and is quite heavy, so you have to awkwardly keep it up, lest it lands on your wrist. You also have an enormous storage tray above your heads, but this should be reserved for larger items.

Van dimensions

Body style

Height

Width 

Length

L1 van

1,832mm

1,859mm

4,498mm

L2 van

1,830mm

1,859mm

4,922mm

Load area dimensions

Body style

Height

Width

Length

Volume

L1 van

1,256mm

1,524mm

1,806mm

2.9m3

L2 van

TBC

TBC

TBC

3.62m3

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News reporter

As our news reporter, Ellis is responsible for covering everything new and exciting in the motoring world, from quirky quadricycles to luxury MPVs. He was previously the content editor for DrivingElectric and won the Newspress Automotive Journalist Rising Star award in 2022.

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