Citroen Nemo review

Citroen's Nemo has proven to be one of the best selling compact vans and the latest versions aim to keep things that way. Jonathan Crouch reports.

Ten Second Review

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.

Background

The idea of a small van might at first seem somewhat counterintuitive, as the reason for a van's existence is to get more gear in it more of the time than a passenger vehicle. Citroen has clearly demonstrated that there's a booming market for tiny vans, satisfied since 2008 by this model, the Nemo. Since then, this van has been continually improved, most recently with the addition of Euro 6 engine tweaks. It shares its basic design with two ivals, Peugeot's Bipper and Fiat's Fiorino.

Driving Experience

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.

Design and Build

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 signwritten vehicle that projects a certain corporate image and the Nemo looks cheeky and unthreatening. The bumpers, the wheelarches 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.

Market and Model

The Citroen Nemo is offered in three trim levels. The entry-level X model features an MP3-compatible CD stereo, a trip computer, ABS brakes, a driver's airbag and pre-tensioner seatbelts. The LX adds the sliding side door on the nearside, electric front windows, remote central locking, the folding passenger seat and heated electric mirrors. Air-conditioning is an option, as are a Bluetooth hands-free kit and rear parking sensors. At the top of the Nemo range is the Enterprise model which is fitted with air conditioning, parking sensors and a dual-function Connecting Box, which includes Bluetooth and a USB socket. This equipment replaces the previous solus Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity feature on this model. The Connecting Box is also available as an option on Nemo LX vans.

Practicalities and Costs

The load bay is accessed via the Nemo's asymmetrically-hinged rear doors that open to 180 degrees. The resulting aperture is respectably broad and tall with a low loading height to help when hauling heavy items inside. There's a lip between the bumper and the load floor which can make heaving cargo in slightly problematic and the sliding side doors are fairly narrow but lashing eyes and the uniform shape of the compartment count in the plus column. Given its size, the Nemo is an extremely practical proposition. The Citroen Nemo HDi LX with the EGS gearbox and standard Stop & Start system provides even better fuel economy and lower emission figures than those achieved by the Nemo HDi vans with five-speed manual transmission. CO2 emissions for the EGS model are reduced by 3.54% to just 109g/km from the manual transmission model's 113g/km. Its exceptional fuel economy figures are also even better than those of the manual transmission van with 60.1mpg Urban (+7.82%), 74.3mpg Extra Urban (unchanged) and 68.9mpg Combined (+4.64%). All of the Nemo's engines are Euro5 complaint.

Summary

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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