Mercedes’ new Citan car-derived van is based upon a Renault – but if you think that this has caused buyers to move over to the more prestigious German badge you’re wrong.
Commercial vehicle operators are not vain like car users and Mercedes is finding it tough to break into this price-concious market. Renault’s second-generation Kangoo, on the other hand, has notched up almost half a million sales since its 2008 launch.
Mercedes helped in the re-engineering and restyling of this popular van and now Renault is ready to take advantage of the improvements with its facelifted Kangoo. There’s the choice of a standard model or the larger Maxi with two engine tunes (75bhp and 90bhp) from a 1.5-litre diesel.
There’s also an automatic, albeit in 1.6-litre petrol form only, and the ZE electric version. On the diesels there’s also an Eco Mode function that’s identified by a green section on the rev counter. Along with a “change gear now” indicator, it results in a 10 per cent gain in economy, says Renault.
We tried the Sport in 90bhp Eco Mode tune and, from the outset, it’s obvious that the Germans’ influence on build quality and fit and finish has really paid off; it feels a much classier than the previous Kangoo and very smart sitting on its standard alloy wheels.
The benefits continue inside with a more comfortable driver environment although we wish Renault would drop its silly L-shaped handbrake lever which serves no purpose at all.
On the other hand, the clever mesh bulkhead is a brilliant design because, as a £225 option, it can be swivelled 90 degrees and, in conjunction with a passenger seat that folds flat, liberates a useful added 0.5 cubic metres of cargo space.
Other handy options include a rear roof flap for longer loads, at £220, and £50 for a commodious lidded centre storage box in the cab. A passenger airbag is priced at £185 and reversing sensors to protect the smart new look are good value at £200. As standard, the Sport comes with air con, TomTom, USB port and Bluetooth – a good spec we feel.
Mercedes told us, at the Citan’s launch, that it specifically tuned the suspension for its type of buyers whereas Renault, in contrast, added that it majored on comfort for the new Kangoo and this is the most marked difference between the pair on the road. That said, you would have thought that a “Sport” van was entitled to a firmer suspension?
Apart from this, there are few complaints about how the Renault Sport drives. Power from the 90bhp engine is sufficient even with a load and the ride is comfortable yet not roly-poly. Overall, it’s smart, well equipped and very economical.
A bonus of the tie-up with Mercedes has been a bit of rivalry to see who can come up with the best warranty deal. Mercedes offers a 36-month, unlimited mileage package, but Renault offers a four-year, 100,000-mile deal and service intervals of every 25,000 miles.
Van Renault Kangoo dci 90 Sport
Warranty 4 yrs/100,000 miles
l/w/h 1476/1464/1251 mm
Payload 650 kg
Economy 65.7 mpg