The Relay large van has long been a strong performer for Citroen – both in an extensive range of panel vans and under the equally comprehensive Ready to Run conversion programme, which set the template for others to copy.
Citroen replaced the old 2.2-litre engine with a 2.0-litre turbodiesel Blue HDi unit with outputs of 110hp, 130hp and 160hp when it went Euro6 two years ago.
The panel van is available in four lengths, three wheelbases and three heights – with load volumes ranging from 8.0m3 to 17.0m3.
Having last undergone a facelift in the last quarter of 2014, the Relay is facing stiff competition from more youthful rivals – most notably the Ford Transit, Volkswagen Crafter and soon-to-be-launched Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
To see whether the Relay could still hold its own in such company, we tested a 35 L3H2 Enterprise model with the most powerful 160hp drivetrain, having previously driven the core 130hp version.
A grab handle and a step help you clamber up into the driver’s seat, and once installed you are faced with a cabin and dashboard that are certainly less sophisticated than those offered by the class leaders, but that nevertheless do not lack functionality.
Citroen should be commended for fitting its Teletrac Navman satellite navigation system and DAB digital radio with steering wheel-mounted controls as standard across the range, and Enterprise customers also benefit from a five-inch colour touchscreen, MP3 CD Player and Bluetooth with audio streaming and SMS functions.
The quality of the vehicle’s dashboard plastic leaves much to be desired but is fashioned to provide a multitude of storage options, some more useful than others, such as a generous overhead shelf.
There is a clipboard integrated into the top of the dashboard to keep documents under control and two shelves above the glovebox.
Another shelf is found in the console that sticks out from the middle of the dashboard, which also houses a couple of cup-holders. Unfortunately, this console severely restricts the legroom of a passenger occupying the middle section of the bench seat.
Fold down the back of the middle passenger seat and it turns into a desk with a pen tray, a clip to keep your paperwork tidy and two more cup-holders – one big, one small.
Each of the doors contains two bins, the lower of which is particularly deep – handy for stowing bits and pieces out of the way but difficult to reach from the driver’s or the outboard passenger’s seat. Yet another tray resides under the driver’s seat.
The position of the handbrake to the right of the driver’s seat can best be described as ‘quirky’. It took me three days of driving the Relay before I stopped instinctively reaching my left hand down to where it is found in most vans.
The driver’s seat is adjustable for height and lumbar and the Enterprise trim offers air-conditioning and cruise control with speed limiter for a more relaxing and potentially law-abiding drive.
The steering wheel adjusts on a single diagonal track for height and reach but the driving position is a good deal less car-like than the likes of the Ford Transit, VW Crafter or Renault Master.
The six-speed manual gearbox is slick, however, and low gearing offers plenty of pull when driving around town. Out on the open road the 160hp engine comes into its own, making it the ideal choice for intercity assignments, and for a big van the Relay takes corners confidently even when pushed hard.
The L3H2 model has an impressive payload of 1,525kg, which can be accommodated within a load box of 13.5m3. The Renault Master LH35 Business, by comparison, offers a payload of 1,445kg but a slightly more spacious load bay of 14.8m3.
The fully ply-lined load area is accessed via a sliding door on the nearside and twin rear doors that can be swung through to 180°.
The floor is rubber-lined and hosts six tie-down points to secure loads while a shelf sits above the cab area in the full bulkhead.
Our van came with options, including: metallic paint (£400); Look Pack (£250), which consists of LED daytime running lights, front fog lights and wheel trims; Safety Pack (£460) adding a lane departure warning – a useful feature for a motorway slogger – passenger airbag and tyre pressure sensors; and the City Pack (£300), which includes a reversing camera and electrically folding door mirrors. All prices exclude VAT.
Citroen Relay 35 L3H2 Enterprise HDi 160
Price (ex VAT) £29,895
Price range (ex VAT) £21,510-£31,141
Service intervals 32,000mls
Load length 3,705mm
Load width (min/max) 1,422/1,870mm
Load bay height 1,932mm
Load volume 13.5m3
Gross payload 1,525kg
Engine size/power 1,997cc/160hp
Combined fuel economy 45.6mpg
The Relay is not as sophisticated as some rivals but is eminently fit for purpose as a competent and practical working van.