Driven: Mercedes-Benz Citan Traveliner Extra-Long

It's no secret that the Citan - the smallest van in the Mercedes-Benz range - is based on the Renault Kangoo. You only have to look at the basic shape to realise both are the same van. Although that would be a little unfair on the Citan. Mercedes-Benz engineers took the Kangoo - a van which has been on sale since 2008 - and made signficant changes under the skin including changes to the suspension and body structure.

Along with the standard panel van, Mercedes-Benz launched a Traveliner version of the Citan. Available with seven seats if you go for the extra-long body, the Citan Traveliner is the cheapest way to get a people carrier with the three-pointed star on the bonnet (well grille) with prices starting at £18,666 including VAT for the five seat version. The cheapest B-Class is £21,500 on the road. The last time the brand had anything like this was when it launched the short-lived Vaneo.

It's very much in the mould of the original Renault Kangoo and Citroen Berlingo Multispace. In other words a practical, unpretentious and versatile mover that's not ashamed of its van-based origins. If anything the fact it is a van - and a Mercedes-Benz van - should give buyers plenty of confidence in the build quality and durability.

The looks are nothing to get excited about. In fact the Citan is quite ungainly, especially with the extra-long body as shown in our pictures. If it's style you're after it may be best to look elsewhere. To make it look a little nicer you'll need the optional £695 Appearance Pack which replaces the black plastic bumpers and steel wheels with body-coloured bumpers and mirrors plus 16-inch alloys.

Mercedes Citan Traveliner (2)

It's a similar story inside with a solid but drab cabin layout in the front. It's fairly utilitarian but also fuss-free, so while there are few bells and whistles, everything is incredible simple to use. The aftermarket-looking stereo is awful though with fiddly buttons. At least it offers good sound plus you can connect your iPod to it.

The problem is, the Citan interior feels dated and unsophisticated compared to rivals like the Ford Tourneo Connect and even the soon-to-be-replaced Volkswagen Caddy Maxi Life. Given the Mercedes-Benz image of quality and the price tag, it's a far cry from what you'd expect. Things like the air vents and that stereo feel cheap while the air conditioning controls are equally low rent. The odd handbrake is another annoyance - a case of don't try and redesign what's not broken.

What the Citan Traveliner does offer is practicality. And plenty of it.

What the Citan Traveliner does offer is practicality. And plenty of it. The sliding side doors on both sides are great if you have to fit child seats and make getting in and out of the back - especially the rearmost row - much easier. You'll also appreciate them when parked in tight supermarket car parks or multi-storeys. It's a shame then that they feel flimsy and don't slide especially smoothly. On the plus side they do have electric windows fitted.

The extra-long Citan Traveliner tested here comes with asymmetrical barn doors at the rear rather than the top-hinged tailgate that's available in the standard long wheelbase model. The barn doors make it easier to access the boot if you're parked in a tight space, but the tailgate can be handy as a shelter - for instance if kids are sat on the boot ledge changing out of muddy wellies.

Mercedes Citan Traveliner (23)

The middle row of seats is comfortable and offers plenty of headroom and reasonable legroom. It also comes with two Isofix child seat mounting points. Getting to the extra two rear seats is not so easy though - the middle seats only fold forward slightly so you have to clamber over them. Once there. there's reasonable room for children but older teenagers and adults will find it cramped for knee room. The middle row folds flat easily but annoyingly the rearmost seats have to be removed completely if you want to maximise load space - they're heavy and it's an awkward job.

The Traveliner is available with a petrol engine - a 1.2-litre turbocharged unit with 114PS - but not if you go for the extra-long model with seven seats. This limits you to the 109 CDI or 111 CDI models. Both are powered by the same 1.5-litre Renault-sourced diesel. The 109 CDI offers more than adequate power with 90PS and a decent 200Nm of torque, plus it's economical with a claimed 65.7mpg.

The CDI unit pulls smoothly and while it's no ball of fire, it's a relaxed and quiet enough engine, albeit it not as good as the TDCi in the Ford Transit Connect which has more power and better refinement. On the motorway the Citan Traveliner cruises along reasonably quietly while the ride is pretty good. It's a touch firm but the dampers are well set up so on poor quality roads the Citan doesn't get too unsettled or noisy.

It's difficult to make a case for the Mercedes-Benz Citan compared to the Caddy Maxi Life or Tourneo Connect. Both are better alternatives that are cheaper and come more generously equipped. While the Citan may carry the Mercedes badge, the truth is it feels too much like a Kangoo. It's dated inside and while the rear is practical, it's not as versatile or as user-friendly as the Ford. The van-based people carrier game has moved on. And it seems the Citan Traveliner may already have been left behind.

For the full review of the Mercedes-Benz Citan click here