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It’s a smart thing, and I love all the plastic strips – saves a fortune if you bash it

I RECENTLY got a chance to drive the Citroen Relay e-HDI 130 L1H1.

It’s the latest fuel-saving van from Citroen, the same as Colin has reviewed here.

I thought I’d jot down some of my thoughts, partly while I’m sitting in it – just like a little office inside, complete with fold-down desk in the back of the middle seat, a pop-up A4 document clip on top of the dash, plus various other cubby holes and an overhead parcel shelf.

There is also a double 12-volt take-off in the dash, which means you can plug two things in at once.

Eco? You can hardly step out of your front door nowadays without bumping into a new van with “eco” stamped on it.

Useful things to know about the Citroen Relay

  • Load length/width/height: 2670/1870/1422mm
  • GVW: 3000kg
  • Payload: 1140kg
  • Load volume: 8 cubic metres
  • Power/torque: 130bhp/236lb-ft
  • Economy: 39.2mpg (combined cycle)
  • Emissions: 189g/km
  • Price: £19,860

All the van manufacturers are doing their best to make sure that you squeeze every last drop out of each litre of fuel by tweaking and twiddling their engines for max fuel economy.

So this Citroen Relay is the latest eco-kid on the block. It promises a tad under 40mpg on the combined fuel economy cycle by adding a stop-start system as standard.

The Relay comes off the same Italian production line as the Peugeot Boxer and Fiat Ducato, although Fiat’s models have different engines.

Mine is the smallest in the Relay range, and comes with ABS brakes, driver’s airbag, a ladder frame bulkhead behind the driver’s seat, electric windows and an MP3 compatible CD player.

It also had the Enterprise pack which adds air-conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, rear parking sensors and a full steel bulkhead to the standard specification. All up it costs just under 20 grand, without VAT of course.

Electronic Stability Program (ESP), which helps prevent sideways skids, is sadly still on the options list, and if you’ll let me digress for a minute, this just shouldn’t be.

It’s standard on the rivals Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Volkswagen Crafter, Iveco Daily and Ford Transit – and Fiat has just added it as standard on Ducato too.

It is reckoned to have saved thousands of lives over the years and is going to be a legal requirement on all new vans after October 2014, so we reckon it’s about time Citroen showed its safety colours and followed Fiat’s example – after all it is the same vehicle, engines apart.

Makes a great little office, and the seats are as good as it gets in a van

What did I like?

Well, as it’s an eco model, let’s talk about fuel economy first.

It wasn’t so long ago that vans like this did around 20mpg so we’ve come a long way since then.

The stop-start system works smoothly and calmly and you’ll soon grow to love it, especially if your work is around town.

You’ll also come to love that all four corners of the van and the sides are swathed in black plastic, which means that if you scrape it, or rather when you scrape it, you won’t have to pay to have expensive colour-coded bumpers resprayed.

Another love is the the cab in this van!

It’s a big step up, so I could see above all the cars and smaller vans in front. Better still, I reckon the driver’s seat is best in class. It hugs the figure from neck to knees and has loads of lumbar support for comfort on those long journeys. And don’t forget all the office conveniences that are making this blog possible.

Really professional ply-lining – vital to stop those reverse knocks where the cargo pushes out a bump from the inside

Behind me, this van’s got full ply-lining which we reckon is a must if you want to keep it looking spick and span at selling time. (Don’t underestimate the problem of reverse “dings” where loose cargo pushes out the metal from the inside. They are impossible to fix cost-effectively and will knock hundreds of pounds off the value of your van when you come to sell it.)

The natty new Trafficmaster unit is another big plus.

It’s in full colour now, unlike previous versions, and it is not only a sat nav unit but a stolen vehicle tracking device too (if you want to know how valuable this can be, read this.) And if you want to know where the nearest McDonalds is, or even something less serious, there’s a little telephone icon which, when pressed, puts you straight through to a very nice (and knowledgeable) lady at Trafficmaster HQ in Oxfordshire.

On the road, I feared “eco” would mean dull and lifeless. Far from it!

And it goes too. On the road, I feared “eco” would mean dull and lifeless. Far from it!

This van has 130bhp on offer and is a bit of a flyer to be honest. Mind you, a heavy right foot will soon cancel out any fuel savings you might make from technology so be warned – this is not a fit-and-forget option.

You have to help make that improved fuel economy happen and even then remember that official fuel economy figures are calibrated in a shed on a rolling road with no wind resistance and no cargo aboard, so if you load you van to the gills and drive at high speeds up and down the mountains in Scotland, you are highly unlikely to get anywhere near 40mpg.


And what didn’t I like…

Well the single coffee cup holder is on the wrong side of the dash to start with, so I had to reach across to use it. Hopeless.

There are two more in the fold-down desk but you have to twist round to use them, which isn’t too clever if you happen to be doing 70mph in heavy traffic on the M6 at the time.

Another inconvenience is that the handbrake is between the driver’s seat and the door (remember those) which means that if you yank it up smartly and jump out enthusiastically, you run the risk of leaving your undercarriage dangling on the end of the lever.

Neither of which comes close to ESP being on the options list rather than standard.

But sitting here after a decent trip, and even though I have to stretch to get my coffee, I like it. It’s a comfortable and pleasant place to be, it’s been pretty economical, and got a certain style too.


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