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First look: Mercedes takes aim at VW Caddy with Citan

Little load lugger: Mercedes-Benz has revealed images of its forthcoming Citan small van.

New city van developed with Renault set to round-out Mercedes van range in Oz

17 Apr 2012

THE first fruits of a model-development partnership between Daimler and Renault-Nissan have appeared in Europe in the shape of the Mercedes-Benz Citan small van that the Stuttgart company says completes its load-lugger range.

Sharing technology with the Renault Kangoo, the Citan – the name combines ‘city’ and ‘titan’ – has been confirmed for Australia, where it will go head-to-head with the likes of Volkswagen’s Caddy, Holden Combo, Peugeot Partner and Renault’s own Kangoo from the middle of next year.

Although the van will not be formally released until September when it will be shown at the IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover, Mercedes took the liberty of pulling the wraps off the Citan in Amsterdam overnight, saying it hoped to sell more than 400,000 a year by 2015.

As well as a model-sharing deal for Citan-Kangoo, the two automotive conglomerates are set to co-develop their next-generation Renault Twingo and Smart models from a common platform.

Nissan’s luxury Infiniti brand is also expected to dip into Daimler’s model bin for its first small car.

The front-drive Mercedes Citan van will sit below the Vito and Sprinter in the Benz commercial vehicle range, coming in three lengths for Europe (3.94 metres, 4.32 metres and 4.71 metres) and three styles – panel van, five-seat passenger van (called Citan Mixto) and a ‘crew bus’.

4 center imageMercedes-Benz Australia confirmed that the Citan would be sold Down Under, where the company last year sold 1163 Vitos and 2294 Sprinters.

It also confirmed that Australia will get one diesel engine and one petrol engine, both armed with torque approaching 200Nm – high in this end of the market.

However, how many of the three lengths and three models listed in Europe would make it to Australia is undecided, although the standard panel van version seems certain.

Mercedes-Benz Vans general manager for Australia, Diane Tarr, said the Citan would fill a gap in the local Mercedes product range – a gap that customers had been asking the company to fill.

“We are excited by the opportunities and choices that the Citan offers our van customers,” she said.

The Citan will mark the introduction of an intriguing all-new 1.2-litre supercharged petrol engine alongside a choice of three small and fuel-efficient diesel engines in Europe.

The “nippy” blown petrol engine is said to develop 84kW and is bound to appear in other future Mercedes models – and possibly Renault and Nissan vehicles.

In Citan, the petrol engine is equipped with Mercedes’ fuel-saving BlueEfficiency measures, including idle-stop, battery and generator management, and low-rolling-resistance tyres. These features are optional on the diesel variants.

The turbo-diesel engines come with outputs ranging from 55kW to 81kW, although no torque figures, engine capacities or fuel-efficiency figures were revealed.

A choice of five-speed or six-speed transmissions are offered and, while the media release on the Citan does not say if they are manual, automatic or both, it says the gears are shifted via a “joystick gearstick within easy reach of the centre console”.

Depending on the model, the Citan comes with rear ‘barn doors’ or a single tailgate.

The five-seat Citan Mixto has a folding rear seat bench, a wire-mesh partition separating the load compartment and two sliding side doors.

The Citan crewbus is also a five-seater, but built on a long wheelbase, while the panel van has a full partition wall to separate the passenger compartment from the load area.

The new Mercedes baby van is set to become the safest city delivery van on the market, equipped with a suite of Mercedes’ electronic safety systems such as adaptive ESC, acceleration skid control, and drive and torque braking control. Six airbags are standard.

In Europe, Mercedes is already the market leader in mid-size and large vans with its Vito and Sprinter, and, judging by the volume aspirations for Citan, is set to threaten Renault’s overall van market leadership, which is largely driven by Kangoo.

In Australia, most of these entry-level vans have a starting price between $22,000 and $25,000, with the top-selling VW Caddy opening at $21,990 for the 1.2-litre TSI.

Last year, the Caddy racked up 1842 sales, putting it well ahead of the Holden Combo (404), Suzuki APV (299), Renault Kangoo (294), Citroen Berlingo (193) and Peugeot Partner (138).

The overall van market, led by the Hyundai iLoad, accounted for 21,033 sales out of a 2011 vehicle market total of more than one million vehicles.

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