Want a 7-seat People Carrier? Don't settle for a merely large one. June Neary looks at the huge Citroen SpaceTourer.
Will It Suit Me?
Citroen has earned an enviable reputation for its People Carriers and the SpaceTourer sits at the top of that family tree. Though based on the brand's medium-sized Dispatch van, it also shares its EMP2 platform with the French maker's C4 Picasso MPV and that, along with sophisticated suspension, should mean a class-leading standard of ride. This model's running cost efficiency also claims to set a fresh class standard and there's a wider variety of seating permutations than most of rivals can offer. Tick the right boxes and your SpaceTourer could take as many as nine people. It all sounds quite promising, so I thought I'd try one.
Look at the class leaders in the super-large van-based MPV segment and it's clear that a lot of effort has been put in to distance the designs in question from their LCV underpinnings. Which is why Citroen has put so much work in here to create the smart - and in some ways actually quite attractive - silhouette of this SpaceTourer model. The 1.9m height of the long flat roof is important - it means this model can fit under normal carpark height restrictions. And the length is critical too. Don't automatically assume that a super-large MPV like this has to be super-long from bonnet to rear bumper. One of the bodystyle options with this model is a relatively compact 4.6m-long 'XS' bodyshape that actually measures in at around 250mm shorter than car-derived MPVs like Ford's Galaxy or Volkswagen's Sharan. Most SpaceTourer buyers though, will want the extra interior room of the 4.95m-long 'M' version I tried, plus there's also a 5.3m-long 'XL' option if you really want to super-size things. Move to the back and, as you'd expect, the vertically stacked lights flank a tailgate rather than the twin side-hinged rear doors you'd get on a Dispatch van. The space you get here with all three rows of seats in place obviously varies depending on the bodystyle you've chosen. With the mid-range 'M' bodyshape I tried, there's 627mm of length from the back of the third seating row to the tailgate, which means you get 640-litres of cargo space up to the level of the loadbay cover - or as much as 900-litres if you were to load to the roof. For most of the time during my test though, I was using this Citroen with only five seats in place, which on my 'M' model test vehicle meant that with the third row backrests folded onto the seat base, loading capacity was increased to 1,100-litres - or 1,950-litres loading up to roof height. With only two seats in use in the vehicle, I'd have had up to 2,000-litres of space up to parcel shelf level and 3,000-litres up to roof height. Or 1,200-litres more than that with all the 2nd and third row seats completely taken out. It's very impressive. Enough on luggage space: what's this Citroen like for people? It's very car-like up-front, while in the second row, you get ample knee, shoulder and head room. On a 'Feel' model, the seats are mounted on rails so can slide backwards and forwards - though not individually: the middle seat is joined to one of the outer ones. And in the optional third row seats? Well, once you're in, you'll be reminded just why medium-sized vans make such a great starting point for a properly large family-sized MPV. Instead of being crammed in cattle-class, as you would be in even the largest car-based People Carriers, there's more than enough space here for arms, legs and heads.
Behind the Wheel
I'm usually quite daunted by the thought of driving a van-based super-large MPV, something like a Volkswagen Caravelle or a Mercedes V-Class. I found this Citroen though, much easier to thread through gaps in the traffic and to manage on tight country lanes. The SpaceTourer is an MPV based on a van that's built on Citroen's 'EMP2' family car platform. As a result, this large People Carrier rides over poor road surfaces with a calm and composure that most of its commercial vehicle-derived rivals can't match. Helping in this regard is a suspension design using adaptive shock absorbers that provide excellent control, no matter how many people are on-board. At higher speeds, you get some wind and road noise but through the bends, the handling is surprisingly stable and there's plenty of grip. Another benefit of using a passenger car base lies in the way that the SpaceTourer feels more nimble and compact than rivals when you're threading through city streets or making your way along country lanes. Light steering and a tight turning circle contribute here too. Under the bonnet, there's a choice of four BlueHDi diesel engines, with optional clutch-less gearboxes available both at the bottom and the top of the range. Customers are given the choice of either a 1.6-litre unit with either 95 or 115bhp. Or the 2.0-litre powerplant I tried, available in either 150 or 180bhp guises. Go for this 150bhp unit and you can expect 53.3mpg on the combined cycle and 139g/km of CO2.
Value For Money
So, can this Citroen SpaceTourer really give you more than the German contenders in the super-large MPV segment while costing thousands less? Well let's see. There's a price span ranging in the £28,000 to £35,000 bracket and within it, you get a choice of three body lengths - the compact 'XS' size, the mid-range 'M' bodystyle I tried and the 'XL' variant. There are two trim levels - 'Feel' aimed at private buyers and 'Business' aimed at commercial customers. In both cases, you'll be offered the option of a third row of seats. And Business'-spec customers get the further option of a bench-like seating row at the front. With this in place and the extra third row specified, your SpaceTourer could take up to 9 passengers - something I actually tried as part of my test. It was a little bit of a squash but we managed OK. Bear in mind that if you go for 'Business' trim, you don't save much and you lose out on quite a lot of equipment, like 2nd row tray tables and window blinds. Plus the 2nd and third row seats are fixed, rather than sliding back on runners as they do on a 'Feel' model.
Could I Live With One?
The Citroen SpaceTourer is a welcome addition to the largest segment of the MPV market. Its good looks and smart interior give it instant appeal, while the versatility of choosing from five, six, seven, eight or nine-seat configurations across three different body lengths give this French model more options than most rivals can offer. The problems with this MPV, such as they are, tend to be things that also apply to rivals in this segment. You'll get plenty of bodyroll if you're running late and start throwing this Citroen around. And if you want to take the rear seats out, you'll need to be strong of back if you can't enlist someone else to help you. Otherwise, this Citroen's main issue probably lies in the fact that much the same package at much the same price is available badged as either a Peugeot Traveller or a Toyota Proace Verso. Which means that if you like the design of this People Carrier - and we can see why you might - then a decision to go for this Citroen version will probably be heavily influenced by the kind of deal being offered. Value though, continues to be a brand strongpoint. Just like MPV design in fact. Some things never change.