Mercedes-Benz Citan Panel Van (2012 - ) review

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The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 2.5

The Citan was born as a result of a partnership with Renault, so there are many shared parts with the Kangoo underneath its skin. It does the basics well enough, making it a competent tool, while the engines are dependable and efficient. The three-year warranty is fairly standard, but the fact you can cover unlimited miles during that time is a bonus.

Pros

  • Versatile range of body lengths
  • Strong engines
  • Good economy

Cons

  • Outdated interior
  • Poor cabin layout
  • Over sensitive steering at speed
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Interested in buying a Mercedes-Benz Citan?

Cargo & practicality 2/5

In the Citan’s favour, it comes with a wide range of different body styles, with a Compact, Long and Extra Long all offered for the panel van, along with a five-seater Crew van. There is only the one height on offer, though.

Go for the longest of these and you get a decent 2137mm of load length and an overall loading area of 3.8 cubic meters. The smallest model only has 2.4 cubic meters of space and a 1369mm load length. This is not that great when you put the Citan up against the likes of the Fiat Doblo, which can take up to 5.4 cubic metres.

The Citan’s other shortcoming is its payload. It matches the Renault Kangoo’s, but is bettered by most of the other models in the class. With an official maximum payload of 638kg (although Mercedes quotes its payload including a 75kg driver, so for comparison’s sake it works out at 713kg) it is some way short of the best available – the Citroen Berlingo/Peugeot Partner/Vauxhall Combo trio and the Fiat Doblo can all carry in excess of 1000kg.

Interior 2/5

More than anywhere else, it is in the cabin the Citan feels like a product of a bygone age. The interior is really very old-fashioned by modern standards. While most vans aspire to offer a car-like experience behind the wheel, the Mercedes is still stuck in a commercial vehicle past.

The dashboard is a wall of upright plastic and rubbery feeling materials that make no secret of having been designed for their hard-wearing qualities, rather than their tactility. That in itself is not the end of the world, but the other elements around the cabin make the Citan a tricky place to get comfortable.

The steering wheel doesn’t go in and out, while the handbrake lever is stuck on the opposite side of the central console, so you have to reach a long way to pop it on and off. These small ergonomic factors add up on a long day’s driving to make the Citan more awkward to drive than it should be.

Running costs 4/5

Fuel economy in the Citan range is strong across all the core models. The majority offer an average in excess of 60mpg, with only the petrols dipping below that mark. The king among them is the best-selling model, which manages just over 65mpg.

It goes without saying the Renault Kangoo, with the exact same engine, matches the Citan’s best. The VW Caddy also offers the exact same best economy rating, but the Citroen Berlingo/Peugeot Partner/Vauxhall Combo trio are that bit more efficient.

Reliability 4/5

The Citan might not be Mercedes’ best-selling commercial vehicle, but by sharing many of its parts with the Renault Kangoo – the engines, and other crucial components – the Citan opens up the number of servicing options to owners. It also means the engines are widely used and dependable units that have appeared in many other vehicles.

The three-year warranty is fairly standard, but the fact you can cover unlimited miles in those three years is a real bonus.

Performance 3/5

One benefit of the Renault tie-up is the engine sharing that means the Citan gets the strong 1.5-litre diesel engine that has featured in a wide range of Renault and Nissan models. It comes in two different power options in this case – one with 90 horsepower and one with 110 horsepower.

The higher-powered version pulls well from lower speeds, but struggles a little if you are trying to overtake slower vehicles. The turbocharger takes a while to kick in at lower revs, so it isn’t simply a case of hitting the accelerator and cruising past – overtakes take some planning.

The lower powered version is better suited for town driving, especially if you are looking to carry hefty loads on a regular basis.

Ride and handling 2/5

The Citan rides well, and is particularly adept at low-speeds where it deals well with the usual urban road detritus. The steering is sharp without being over heavy, too, so getting in and out of tight spots is relatively easy.

It is less accomplished at higher speeds, though. The ride remains commendable, especially with a chunk of weight in the back, but it is the steering that really lets the Citan down. The weight of the steering resistance feels all wrong at motorway speeds. Rather than stiffening up and offering more resistance, it is over sensitive and responds to the lightest of touches.

This means you end up having to make continual minor adjustments to keep the van in lane on the motorway. Not only does this feel disconcerting, it also adds to the mental strain created by several hours behind the wheel.

Safety 3/5

The standard-fit safety kit on the Citan is about par for the course among its peers, with ESP anti-skid control, a driver airbag and hill-start assist all included. There isn’t a wide array of different models that add on extra kit, so it is just a case of delving into the options list – you can get passenger and side airbags separately or go for the safety pack, which also adds in halogen fog lights.

Equipment 2/5

The Citan’s equipment offering is remarkably simple, largely due to the fact there aren’t multiple different trims with different levels of equipment.

This means you have to hit the options list for most things, and some of those will be prohibitively expensive for those buying with company money. Air conditioning will add more than £1000 to the price , while the tiny, fiddly and old-fashioned satellite navigation adds more than £600.

On the plus side, you do get asymmetrical rear doors, lashing rings and a plastic load floor covering all included, which is more than some rivals get.

Why buy? 2/5

Sadly there is little reason to recommend the Citan over a group of much more commendable rivals these days. The Volkswagen Caddy is better to drive, the Fiat Doblo carries more weight and the Citroen Berlingo/Peugeot Partner/Vauxhall Combo trio offer a higher level of technology, better economy and a far superior driving experience.

The premium badging might win over a few buyers, but it should not be enough to convince those that are buying with a cool business head on.

Interested in buying a Mercedes-Benz Citan?