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Punching above its weight

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The Euro-5 version of the Citroën Nemo is greener, more powerful and has greater loadspace than its previous iterations. Even the weather couldn't dampen our enthusiasm for this test vehicle. In fact, torrential rain and gale force winds made jumping into the petite Citroën Nemo more enjoyable than expected.

This Nemo is a new model in the range, sporting a Euro-5 engine and offering the holy trinity of increased power, higher payload and lower emission. Two-and-a-half years ago, when we last tested the Nemo, we speculated that creating an entirely new category of van at 1,700kg GVW with 2.5m3 loadspace was a brave move, but the resulting products from Citroën, Peugeot and Fiat have all flourished in the market place.

Visually, this Nemo is no different from the original, but changes have led to an increased payload capacity of 660kg; up from 610kg. The Nemo keeps the same two engines (1.4 petrol and 1.3 diesel); both providing 75hp.

Pictured here is the Enterprise model, but the Nemo also comes in X and LX trim. Enterprise models get air conditioning, Bluetooth and rear parking sensors over the LX trim's remote central locking, electric windows and mirrors, and adjustable driver's seat. However, the biggest change, aside from the engine, and one that adds considerable length to the loadspace, is the Extenso folding passenger seat that is now standard on all models.

Driveline

While a 1.4-litre petrol engine remains in the range, it is only the improved diesel model that benefits from the weight change. The new engine produces more power, 5hp more to be precise, and its Euro-5 status means it has also become more environmentally friendly, emitting 113g/km of CO2 — 6g less than the Euro-4 model.

While the two engines are neck and neck when it comes to power (75hp); the 190Nm of torque supplied by the 1.3mJet is miles ahead of its petrol counterpart at 118Nm.

Fewer emissions also means better economy, and a new Stop & Start system has helped boost claimed combined fuel consumption from 62.8mpg to 65.6mpg.

Productivity

A key expectation of greener engines is a reduction in fuel usage. For the Euro-5 Nemo to improve, it would have to beat the extremely impressive results set by its predecessor. Our test of the Euro-4 Nemo returned 59.3mpg in the unladen run, and 50.3mpg laden. The results of the Euro-5 model are equally impressive, but for slightly different reasons.

Traffic on our usual Kent route during the laden portion of the test helped improve the Nemo's fuel economy, no doubt due to the new Stop & Start system that turns off the engine when the vehicle is at a standstill and in neutral.

This helped the Nemo achieve 52.6mpg when empty and 48.9mpg when laden, still considerably down on the previous model and the claimed figures but attributable in part to the youth of our 500-mile-old engine.

Load area remains the same at 2.5m3. However, the addition of the Extenso folding passenger seat increases volume to 2.8m3 and maximum load space length to 2,491mm, but more on that later.

Offset rear doors that open to 180 degrees provide adequate access to loadspace, while the twin sliding doors help optimise loading as they open impressively wide for such a small van. Additional rear storage is limited to just two small trays above the left wheel arch, but the Nemo does come with six lashing points as standard.

Model Wheelbase Length Width Height Loadspace Length Loadspace Width Loadspace Height Volume Payload
L1H1 2513 3864 1684 1721 1523 1473

(1046)

1205 2.5 610-660

Cab Comfort

It's not just emissions the Euro-5 engine has improved, it is also quieter. Pounding rain on the roof of the hollow loadspace gave us, at times, the sensation of being in a moveable tin shed, but that didn't adversely affect the Nemo's sound performance. It recorded a 2dB drop at the top end of the scale.

The cabin remains the same with the exception of the folding seat, which now comes as standard. That means the Nemo is well-appointed with a number of convenient storage points, and we were pleased to see that the sensibly large glovebox, dash-mounted clipboard and driver's seat armrest are still there.

The van's party piece is undoubtedly the Extenso seat, which works by folding the passenger seat forward, then pushing the entire unit down to meet the level of the load compartment floor.

This allows the split wire bulkhead to fold out into the cabin, protecting the driver from the load, and increasing load deck length by 970mm. Even with the bulkhead folded out, the cab is a comfortable place to be.

The seats are firm and supportive, and can be adjusted in a number of different ways. There's even a driver's footrest that helps make the Nemo more comfortable than many of the larger panel vans.

On The Road

Looking at the changes made to improve the Nemo, it's hard not to wonder if Citroën couldn't have squeezed out more than an extra 5hp. While the power increase is certainly welcome, our test three years ago revealed that the 70hp unit wasn't quite up to the task of hauling the 610kg payload around comfortably.

That doesn't bode well for the new model as the extra five horsepower represents a 7% increase in power versus an 8% increase in payload. So, however you look at it, the new Euro-5 Nemo's payload-to-weight ratio is inferior to that of the outgoing model.

Fortunately, that's not entirely the case, and we're happy to discard the sums and focus on the naked truths.

The power increase still isn't enough to make the Nemo feel comfortable hauling around a full load. The maximum 660kg payload on our test vehicle left it feeling sluggish, forcing us to hold onto the ratios longer than usual, and while that didn't help our economy, it did unearth a new dimension to the Euro-5 engine. Both fully loaded and unladen, the 1.3-litre unit benefits from staying in gear that little bit longer, keeping the engine firmly within the power between changes, allowing you to progress more smoothly and rapidly.

Revisions to our 0-50mph testing mean we're no longer just looking for the fastest outright sprint time, but adopting a new, more economical approach to our testing to better reflect the real-world uses of our test models.

The soaring price of diesel makes wheel spinning off the line less relevant, so we've introduced a more economical test where our subject is gently pushed to 50mph without exceeding 2,500rpm just enough for most diesel engines to reach maximum torque.

At this new economical pace, the Nemo excelled, with the job of achieving the most efficient 0-50mph "sprint" made easier by the gear-change indicator on the dash instructing us when a change was needed on the tight and short-throw five-speed transmission.

Changes are noticeable in the handling, and unladen the Nemo feels nimble, particularly in corners. The ride is smooth, with the suspension supple enough to soak up major bumps.

Even fully laden, the handling dynamics don't deteriorate, but the ride does suffer marginally as the extra mass hinders the rear from settling.

The Nemo features ventilated discs on the front wheels with ABS and drums on the rear.

Safety

ESC (Electronic Stability Control) and ESP (Electronic Stability Program) are optional options, although they are standard on Stop/Start and LX models respectively.

AEB (Autonomous Emergency Braking) is available as standard, although it was only enough to warrant the passenger version of the Nemo a three star rating in the NCAP safety tests. A half width, full height bulkhead is also standard.

Cost of Ownership

Servicing downtime is minimal thanks to recommended standard servicing of 20,000 miles or one year. The three year, 100,000 mile isn’t quite as good as the 120,000 miles offered by Fiat, but should be more than enough for a van of this size.

The 52.6mpg achieved on our real life test proves fuel costs shouldn’t cause users too much of a headache, although upcoming competitors like the Courier are expected to beat this. 

Summary

Once again the Nemo has impressed with its economy, handling and comfort. The chassis is set up so well, you'd believe you were driving a much lighter car, and while there's no mistaking you're in a commercial vehicle, the comfort of the cabin is one of the best.

The extra space afforded by the folding passenger seat improves the versatility of the Nemo, giving it an edge over its Fiat and Peugeot siblings that offer the same device as a cost option. However, with the maximum width between the arches just over 1m, you'll have to think long and hard about the goods you carry, particularly as the Nemo does struggle with payload capacity.

That payload improvement might seem like a benefit on paper, but on the open road the extra mass hasn't been offset by the additional power. Greater green credentials are a great selling point, but increased payload capacity is a double-edged sword for those who like to run at full weight as they'll struggle to realise the economy, benefits of the new Euro-5 engine.

The engine upgrade has improved the Nemo, but that small power increase will only benefit those who run light they'll find the Nemo a fun and capable compact van.

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