In the recent years we’ve had the occasion to see the big panel van segment making a big step forward in terms of design and technology.
The older models however, were far from offering the comfort and performances found at today’s vans and the Citroen Relay made no exception.
Its rugged exterior lines were a solid statement about its highly utilitarian character, but the interior wasn’t as bad as expected and for its time it was in fact a pretty attractive environment.
Yet, the Relay was a fairly capable partner and despite its faults it was able to get the job done with dignity.
Similarly with the current generation, the old Relay shares the same underpinnings with the Peugeot Boxer and Fiat Ducato and had a very competitive price, with the cheapest version starring from under $12.000.
Ten years ago the big panel vans segment was filled with boring designs that weren’t able to make you raise any eye brows.
Up front there is a heavily raked windscreen which follows the same angle of the bonnet. The hood has a clean design and didn’t receive any crease to break up the monotony.
The chunky radiator grille is traversed by a thin strip and bares the company badge in its center. Underneath it there is a rugged plastic bumper which hosts two circular fog lamps and a big air intake split in three sections.
The massive rectangular headlights are fitted with clear lenses and offer proper road visibility during night trips.
The Relay is offered with short, medium or long wheel bases which can be combined with standard, high, and extra high roof configurations. The vehicle’s load volume ranges from 7.5 to 12 cubic meters with payload capacitates of 1055 kg to 1645 kg.
The old generation Citroen Relay offers easy aces into the cab thanks to its relatively low ground clearance and the convenient grab handles. Once inside you are welcomed by an airy cab and acres of head room. Leg groom is also part of the first class and up front there is room for up to three people.
Compared to the Ford Transit, the Relay has a more ergonomic design ant it’s dashboard looks slightly better and aged nicely.
As it was expected, the Citroen Relay had also received the hard plastic treatment and a relatively poor build quality.
The instrument cluster is pretty well designed and has an intuitive layout being also easy to read without problems on both night and day.
The steering wheel isn’t something to rave about and we find it a bit thin for our tastes, without having the potential to inspire confidence when it’s holed. The good part is that it can be adjusted for height, thus helping you to get a proper driving position.
Talking about driving position, the seats are pretty comfortable and won’t leave you with back pains even after a longer journey. The road visibility is adequate and we especially like the panoramic windscreen and the relatively thin A pillars.
The Citroen Relay was also slightly ahead of its time when it comes to ergonomy as its fitted with a dash mounted gear knob that is much easier to use than a conventional floor mounted unit and also leaves the floor clean permitting you to move easier through the cabin.
The Citroen Relay is offered with a choice of two diesel engines with a capacity of 2.2 liters and 2.8 liters which develop 100 hp and 127 hp, respectively.
The 104 hp units was a bit sluggish and wasn’t too punchy when it needed to deal with big payloads. Around town however was a good performer and even if it wasn’t a speed demon it was still able to serve the needs of commercial applications with dignity.
The 2.8 unit churns out its 127 hp at 3600 rpm, while the peak torque is rated at 300 Nm being available from as low as 1800 rpm. As it was expected, this engine is better suited for bigger payloads than its weaker siblings and can blow in three digit speeds easier feeling more relaxed. It offers a good balance between performance and fuel consumption as it won’t break the bank when it comes to fuel consumption.
Both engines are also pretty smooth and refined which is pretty impressive given their age.
Citroen Relay Engine Specifications
|Engine||Hp @ rpm||Nm @ rpm|
|2.2||104 @ 4000||240 @ 1900|
|2.8||127 @ 3600||300 @ 1800|
Ride and handling
The vehicle rides pretty well as it features a smart suspension configuration which offers a good balance between comfort and stability. The handling is also better than expected and it’s pretty close to what you’ll get from the Mercedes Sprinter which is the segment leader.
We aren’t talking about race cars here, so body roll is present, but it is well kept in check and given its size and shape, the vehicle sits pretty well planted on its wheels.
You won’t have any complains about the power steering either, as it’s nicely weighted allowing you to get a proper feedback from the road at both low and high speeds.
Usually if you’ll decide to buy a big panel van, it will be hard to make the wrong decision as most of the vehicles in this class offer a good mix between practicality, performances and reliability. The previous generation of the Citroen Relay was also a good product and had anything it needed to be treated with respect.
Thanks to its wide range of body styles it was easy to find the perfect choice for your job and the interior was slightly more comfortable than some of its rivals. The plastics and build quality were at par with competition and the ride and handling were also surprisingly good.
The entry level engine however was a bit sluggish and needed more patience, but the 2.8 liter unit was definitely up to the task, rewarding you with good performances regardless of what load was carried at the back.