ORM eiS1) 11 A11/11) A workhorse, an old stager, a design classic..,
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or just a vehicle whose tooling has long since paid for itself? The Citroen C15 seems to have been around since Mitterand was a garcon, yet it manages to retain a healthy slice of the high cube carderived van market—a market that it arguably helped to create.
CM last tested the C15 765 six years ago, and the world has moved on: now practically every manufacturer in the light commercial field has a high cube in its line up. A notable exception is VW, soon to follow the trend with a rebadged Seat model based on the Ibiza.
But has the C15 moved on? It's acquired the Champ name, perhaps to exorcise any thought of the long-dead Visa. The seats are cloth-faced; the two-spoke steering wheel is more conventional (if less Citroen) than the previous single-spoke type; other additions include side rubbing strips, wheel trims, and a clock.
The C15 range remains the same: there are three variants,
each powered by the 1.8-litre XUD diesel (originally a 1.1-litre petrol variant was available). The C15D 600 van has a gross weight of 1,545kg and a payload (after allowing for a 75kg driver) of 525kg; the C15D 765 tested here is 165kg heavier, with a commensurate increase in payload, and now gets power steering as standard. The third model is on its own—and versatile: it's the Cl5D 765 platform cab, with the same weight rating as the heavier van; existing conversions include motor caravans and refrigerated models,
Prices increase relentlessly, but intense competition in this market sector means the Citroen's price advantage has all but disappeared. When we first tested the C15D in 1985 it was 20% cheaper than any of the competition: four years later the Fiat Fiorino undercut it by around 5%. The 765 is still undercut by the latest, larger Fiorino which costs £7.255 (exVAT), though the Citroen buyer can turn the tables by opting for the C15D 600 at £6,995. But the heavier Champ's price is matched by the Renault Extra 775, and manufacturers are offering more recently designed vehicles for little more: the Ford When CM first received this C15 for test we were dreadfully disappointed: its power was barely up to vintage standards (no Vin Rouge pun intended), and a laden M20 hill-climb time of 3 minutes 27 seconds threatened to set an unenviable record as the slowest of the '90s. Fortunately we smelled a rat, and established that there was a problem with the van's accelerator linkage—though we have heard of a similar loss of power being traced to the poor positioning of a rubber footwell mat...
Anyway, with the pedal problem rectified the Champ was a new van: it romped up the test hill 30 seconds quicker and kept up a respectable average speed around our Kent route of 68.6krn/h (42.6mph) despite roadworks. Fuel consumption was par for the group at 42.9mpg; the sleeker, slightly lighter Ford and Vauxhall can beat this figure by around 10%, but the Citroen's bigger payload keeps it on top as far as productivity goes.
Cl 5D 10 years ago. The Cl5D 765's pay load is only approached by the Renault Extra 775 and the Vauxhall Combo 775—in each case the nominal payload should have the driver's weight subtracted to give a practical figure (690kg for the Citroen).
As usual we have allowed 75kg, though our testers have been accused of being a touch portlier than that.
The Champ's load space can best be described as basic: just a cuboid box, broader than it is tall, with welded-on tie-down points, a steel half-bulkhead and double rear doors. But it's very practical and easy to load, and offers 2.66m3 of load volume; this was class-leading in 1989—now it's more than matched by the Vauxhall Combo and the cavernous Fiat Fiorino's 32m3.
The Citroen has independent suspension all round, with coil-sprung trailing arms to the rear.
Long-travel springing and a long wheelbase mean that it has a French vehicle's typically soft ride, though it tends to roll despite being fitted with stabiliser bars front and rear. Competitors with leaf-sprung rigid rear axles (the Florin() and Combo, for instance) seem to offer slightly more lateral control and grip, albeit at the expense of ride quality.
Power steering is a welcome addition for urban driving, and the system is smooth enough for relaxed motorway travel.
Unfortunately road and engine noise are too loud to sustain high speeds in real comfort; the Citroen's panels seem to "drum" all too easily. This leads on to one of the biggest subjective failings of the C15—its build quality Shut the driver's door, and it stops with a tinny clank; the inte
nor mouldings feel flimsy and somehow even more plastic than most. This is a shame, as it distances the Citroen from obviously well-made, better-equipped vehicles such as the Combo and the Nissan Sunny.
The Citroen's seats are OK— softly upholstered and small, in typical French style—but the bulkhead puts a limit on seat adjustment and the pedals are mounted too high. The gear lever is short and set too far forward for some drivers, although the change is pretty quick.
Stowage space in the cab is fair, but once again it's not up to the standards of the more modern competition. The Citroen shows that productivity alone is not enough these days: the high-cube sector is as competitive as any, so driver appeal is essential.
The Citroen is not short of performance or productivity, but it lacks the comfort, features and solidity of some of the newer competition—and it's no longer a bargain if you're paying the full retail price.
Certainly the platform cab model fills a real niche in the market, but the C15 van deserves a comprehensive revamp. It's no lemon, but Citroen has squeezed every last drop from this design. 11 by Toby Clark