Verdict: Refined, comfortable, smart looks and cheap to run
What is it?
THE arrival of the new Ford Transit has certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons in the heavy van sector.
The new Transit is such a quantum leap forward in terms of build quality, ride and handling and fuel efficiency that the others are in danger of getting left behind in the race for sales as the UK economy picks up and more people buy light commercial vehicles.
Of course you can’t just produce a new van out of thin air – it takes years of design work and usually hundreds of millions of pounds of R&D costs.
But this year has seen a tsunami of face-lifts and upgrades in the heavy van sector as the various manufacturers scramble to effect their various damage limitation exercises.
There’s a face-lift for the Vauxhall Movano and its twin brother the Renault Master and there’s a flurry of upgrades for the van on test here, the Citroen Relay.
As you probably already know, the Relay is basically the same van as the Peugeot Boxer and Fiat Ducato, but there are several differences. The front ends, for starters , are distinctive, while Fiat has its own set of engines. Citroen too offers a natty Teletrac sat-nav and stolen tracking unit for free – more of which later.
You’ll see from the pictures that this van looks different from its predecessor – and very stylish it is too in our opinion.
There’s a new grille, daytime running lamps as standard with LEDs as an option, different bumpers and two circular recesses for the front fog lamps. There’s also a new steering wheel and the dashboard gets an upmarket makeover.
Underneath, there have been a series of improvements which promise to raise body rigidity, improve durability and lower noise levels. Also some of the high stress items such as sliding side doors have been strengthened to improve their quality.
Under the bonnet goes a 2.2-litre turbodiesel power plant offering the choice of110bhp, 130bhp or 150bhp versions. With a 3.0-litre unit taking the power right up to 180bhp. These units have been tweaked to give up to 15% better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions.
Electronic Stability Control (ESC) which helps prevent sideways skids, now comes as standard and there are several other safety systems on offer such as anti-slip regulation, a Lane Departure Warning System, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control and curtain airbags.
Our test model is the long wheelbase high roof model which offers a load volume of 13 cubic feet and a power output of 130bhp and weighs in at £26,005 ex-VAT.