Vehicle Comparisons

Citroen Nemo Van

Citroen Nemo Van

The Citroen Nemo van is small enough to make light of the city traffic but can still carry a decent amount. A highly economical diesel engine is the icing on the cake for a product that, if it fits the bill, will be plenty good enough for most operators. Recent improvements for this enhanced Euro6 model include a torquier HDi 80 diesel engine which is a touch more frugal.

One of the advantages of a modest size and weight is that you don't need a big engine to move it. In Euro6 form, the Nemo is offered with a 1.3-litre HDi 80 diesel that delivers 80bhp and 200Nm of torque. At the wheel, the gear lever is mounted on the dash as is the fashion with LCVs these days and the snappy, short-throw action is fun to operate. On the move, you won't be expecting this Citroen to be earth-shatteringly quick - and it isn't - but the chance to approach the speed limit has become a rare luxury in the areas where it's designed to work, so that shouldn't be a big concern.

The Nemo has independent front suspension, while at the rear is the old commercial vehicle standard transverse beam. The set-up works well helping to give this van the lively and energetic feel on the road that the current supersized Berlingo has partially lost. The downside is that this Citroen is less comfortable a proposition on the open road, but around town its short overhangs and teeny dimensions make it highly manoeuvrable. The turning circle is super-tight at under 10 metres kerb to kerb.

Although styling might not seem less of a priority than sorting out the balance sheet to a business owner, good looks haven't hurt the Nemo's chances. In fact, many small urban businesses require a sign written vehicle that projects a certain corporate image and the Nemo looks cheeky and unthreatening. The bumpers, the wheel arches and even the windscreen dome outwards and along with the wide track, this creates a squat, planted stance. The inherent chunkiness also suggests the Nemo is a tough customer and there's not much to dissuade you from that opinion on the inside. The design is simple and the materials robust but storage could be more generous. Space is adequate for driver and passenger but larger occupants might find it a little confined during a long day at the wheel.

The Nemo measures just 3,860mm in length but uses its interior space to full effect in offering a 2.5 cubic metre load volume and a 610kg maximum payload. The space itself is usefully square and a ladder frame bulkhead protects the rear of the driver's seat. Choose the optional Extenso folding passenger seat and that load volume can be increased to 2.8 cubic metres with the load length increased from 1,520mm to 2.5mm; ideal for pipes, planks of wood or other long items.

In truth, this model didn't need too much doing to it for it to retain its strong market position. While it didn't at first fit in with the conventional structure of the light commercial vehicle market, times have changed and demand has remained strong, even in a testing financial climate. With more traffic and heavier tax burdens, this little LCV is becoming ever more relevant.

The smaller end of the Citroen van range offers plenty of choice thanks to this Nemo. Its pleasantly chunky styling, nimble driving experience and surprisingly generous capacities will all help to persuade any doubters. By beefing up this model's diesel engine, Citroen has merely given the opposition even more to contend with. Underestimate the Nemo at your cost.

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Peugeot Bipper Van

Peugeot Bipper Van

Bigger than the car-derived vans but not quite as big as the compact vans, the Peugeot Bipper is an intriguing proposition in the UK van market. If its carrying capacity suits, operators will find a sharp handling, practical small van that's refreshingly affordable to run.

The Bipper's compact design and resultant modest carrying capacity allows it to get away with a small, economical engine. The sole diesel HDi option on offer is 1.3-litres in capacity and it's a proven common-rail fuel injection unit. This 80bhp engine makes its maximum torque of 200Nm at 1,750rpm and keeps the majority of it on stream up to 2,750rpm for strong acceleration when laden.

The Bipper has a highly user-friendly element to its character out on the road. The steering is an electro-hydraulic set-up that keeps you thoroughly abreast of what the front wheels are doing and is light enough to make parking exercises a breeze. The stubby dash-mounted gear shifter is similarly pleasant to get to grips with, ideally positioned and positive in its action. The Bipper also affords good visibility for the driver, with its truncated nose helping with the tight turning circle that can make the lives of urban drivers so much easier.

It really is remarkable just how much carrying capacity a vehicle with such a small footprint can offer. In the Bipper's case, the reasons have much to do with the way that the wheels are pushed to the corners of the vehicle to maximise both interior space and manoeuvrability. Equally sensible is the front-end design, its huge wraparound bumper protecting against parking knocks while siting expensive components like the headlamps, bonnet and radiator well back to lessen the chance of them coming to harm.

The interior of the Bipper may feel a little confined to those familiar with full size compact vans but there's reasonable space for driver and passenger. The driving position is upright and affords a good view of your surroundings with the seat and the steering wheel offering a good range of adjustability. Cab stowage space for oddments is less generous than in models from the next class up but with 12 compartments to choose from, there should be room for most of the essentials.

I can imagine that an awful lot of British business people currently running around in LCVs that are Peugeot Partner, Citroen Berlingo or Renault Kangoo-sized would be much better served by something like this Bipper. After all, companies with models like these have traditionally had no more than around 3.0 cubic metres of load space to play with, a figure that this Peugeot can all but match if you exercise all its loading options.

That it can do this whilst being significantly to run and more manoeuvrable to drive is impressive and it says much that this Bipper's main competition comes from the Fiat and Citroen models that share its design. Against these, the considerable scale of Peugeot's dealer network may offer an advantage. After all, size matters. Or does it?

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Ford Fiesta Van

Ford Fiesta Van

The much-improved Ford Fiesta Van gets off to a great start in life in being based on the brand's seventh generation Fiesta supermini. The carrying capacity isn't huge but its driving experience, design and build quality set new standards for the sector.

On the road, if you're familiar with the previous generation Fiesta van, your experience should be that this model has a more solid feel. There's more of an emphasis on petrol power this time round with a choice of two petrol engines - 1.1-litre 3-cylinder with 85PS, and 1.0-litre EcoBoost with 125PS. If you must have a diesel, here's a 1.5-litre TDCi unit in a choice of 85PS and 120PS outputs

Variations on the Fiesta Van theme may come and go but before driving this little LCV, there's one thing you almost always know for certain: that it'll be a great steer. This new generation model is 15% stiffer and both front and rear track measurements are wider. The engineers tell us that the chassis now offers 10% more cornering grip, supported by Electronic Torque Vectoring Control, which enhances the driving experience by applying a small amount of braking to inside wheels to assist traction and stability when cornering. Braking distances at 62mph are reduced by more than 8%. There are freshly developed five and six-speed manual gearboxes. And rear disc brakes feature on models with engines developing more than 100PS.

Once upon a time, the small van market was completely made up of supermini-derived models like this one but in recent times, most buyers have been drawn towards purpose-designed small vans that aren't constricted by passenger car styling and so can offer much larger carrying capacities without taking up any more road space. Ford's own Transit Courier model is a good example of this approach and if you really need carrying capacity, models like that one are indeed a better bet - but then, if you really need that, should you really be considering a very small van in the first place? If having considered that, you conclude that your needs are less cubic capacity-orientated, then this Fiesta van might prove to be a very effective choice.

The styling of this commercial Fiesta may win it many admirers and operators looking for a compact van that will cut a dash on the city streets will like the wedge-shaped front end as well as the curvy rear. The cabin is similarly avant-garde in its design, with a clever choice of quality materials. It also incorporates the latest interior technologies, including Ford's SYNC 3 communications and entertainment system.

Ford knows exactly how to build a class-leading supermini-derived van - but then, with a passenger car product as good as the Fiesta to base it on, you'd think that the van version's designers had very little to do to complete an excellent product.

Perhaps the best part about this commercial vehicle is that it doesn't look like one. All the style that marks out the Fiesta car has been transferred over intact - and that should make it a good advert for the kind of small businesses (florists, gardeners and so on) likely to want a vehicle of this kind. Imagining your company logo on the doors? Then you'll know what to do....

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