Renault & Mercedes-Benz compete in every sector of the UK's van marketplace with small, medium & large vans available from both manufacturers. But did you know that their Mercedes-Benz Citan & Renault Kangoo are two small vans that share the same platform? That's why we asked resident Van Expert Tom Roberts to break them down & decide once & for all which of these small vans is the best.
I've been looking forward to writing this article - a comparison of two small vans that share so much (platform, engines, loading bays, etc) that they're basically the same vehicle. I'll be blunt: the Mercedes-Benz Citan & Renault Kangoo are brother vans so noticeably similar that you're most likely assuming this article will be a dead heat.
Well, that's where you're wrong, I believe there is a clear winner because of this major spoiler… the Citan is the copycat van. That's right, the Mercedes-Benz Citan is a Renault Kangoo in different clothes. When you're finished gasping loudly, let's crack on with the article & you'll see what I mean.
Under The Bonnet
Mercedes-Benz Citan: Crack open the Citan's bonnet & you'll find either a 1.5-litre turbodiesel engines or a 1.2-litre petrol turbo engine. Here's the kicker… all of these engines are Renault engines. On the diesels, the 90hp/200Nm 109 CDI is now the least powerful engine on offer with a more powerful 111 CDI diesel engine generating 110hp of power also available. In petrol, you get a clearly badged engine called "Citan 112" which offers drivers 114hp. I hate to be 'that guy', but the Citan is more Renault than Mercedes-Benz. The engines are great, but they're Renault engines.
Renault Kangoo: As you'd expect, under the bonnet of the Kangoo vans are a choice of three 1.5-litre dCi turbodiesel engines, now available in 80hp, 95hp & 115hp versions. In a good move from Renault, the Kangoos are all fitted with a 6-speed manual gearbox, which is not something you usually see on small vans. Most competitors only offer 5-speed boxes on lower-powered vehicles - not Renault though. Don't forget that the Renault Kangoo is also available in a fully-electric ZE version which was the UK's first proper electric van on the market.
Tom's Winner: The Renault Kangoo has to win this category purely because both vehicles are powered by the same Renault engines. Never has there been a more easy-to-pick winner.
On The Outside
Mercedes-Benz Citan: At first glance, you wouldn't think that the Citan is just a Kangoo with the Mercedes-Benz badge on it. It does look different to the Kangoo, but put them together & you'd spot all the similarities. Admittedly, the lines of the Citan look smoother but there's not a lot in it - the Kangoo's wheel arches are hard to miss & the external black plastic body bumpers are just a little bit thicker. Overall, Mercedes-Benz has - in my opinion - only made changes to the front end with the badge & grille being the only differences of any note.
Renault Kangoo: Some people think the Kangoo looks a bit squat & frumpy, but I like how it makes no apologies for looking functional. A van is a van in my book & the Kangoo looks like a hard-working commercial vehicle should. The only place you'll spot major differences are at the front end where the low-profile Renault badge & grille add to the no-nonsense look that Kangoo drivers love. In the ZE version, the charging port is hidden behind the badge - just like on the Renault Zoe van & car models - which I really like.
Tom's Winner: Too close to call. One has the killer Mercedes-Benz style, the other has Renault's no-nonsense commercial van looks. I like both.
In The Cabin
Mercedes-Benz Citan: Luxury interiors are hard to get right, but Mercedes-Benz have such a huge wealth of experience in this area it was going to be hard for them to get it wrong. Their commercial vehicle interiors are just as nice as their car counterparts, but toned down to fit the need for durability & comfort. They were really helped by the Kangoo's already spacious cabin, but they've really made it their own with a great blend of infotainment technology & detailing.
Renault Kangoo: Compared to the Citan's cabin, the Kangoo's cabin feels dated, even in the ZE version. There's a bit of technology, some hard-wearing black plastic & good storage, but the Citain just feels more refined. Look, the Kangoo has been around for a long time, it's not going to be the most modern vehicle you'll ever sit in, but I would have expected some new updates in the last year or so.
Tom's Winner: It's got to be the Mercedes-Benz Citan, but only because Mercedes-Benz could take any cabin on the planet & make it amazing. Both vans still feature the same sweeping dashboard & spacious cabin… Mercedes just made more of it.
In The Loading Bay
Mercedes-Benz Citan: I'm a big fan of the Kangoo platform's loading bay - for a small van to make so much of the space it has available is excellent. The Citan benefits from this by being able to offer loading bay volumes of up to 3.8 cubic metres & payloads of up to 810kg while being able to fit a Euro pallet between the arches. Simply brilliant in the small van sector.
Renault Kangoo: And yet, the Kangoo offers driver loading bay volumes of up to 4.6 cubic metres & payloads of up to 800kg while also being able to fit a Euro pallet between the arches. It's a clear case of a well thought out platform that makes great use of the space. No matter which van you choose, you're getting a class-leading loading bay, but it's only thanks to Renault.
Tom's Winner: How can it not be the Renault Kangoo? It's the Kangoo loading bay in both vans. True, Mercedes-Benz have squeezed 10kg of extra payload out of somewhere, but without the Kangoo platform they'd never have been able to do that.
Mercedes-Benz Citan Vs Renault Kangoo: In Conclusion
While I was looking forward to writing this article, I found it harder than in the other comparisons I've completed to stay objective. Everything good about both vans flows from just one of them - the Renault Kangoo. Without the Kangoo's excellent platform, the Citan would not be as good a van as it clearly is.
Platform sharing often gets criticised for blunting innovation, but Mercedes-Benz have shown with the Citan that platform sharing is often the best way to compete in all sectors of the van market. I'm sure there are some of you out there who think the Citan looks better, but everything it relies on to make it a good van (the engines, the loading bay, the platform) is Renault's brainchild.
In the end, you'll pick the one you want based on the looks & the cabin because there's nothing in it on the engines & loading bays… unless you want a petrol engine (in which case you'll go for the Citan) or an electric van (in which case you'll go for the Kangoo ZE). Sounds simple, right? That's because it is!
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