Making an MPV out of a commercial vehicle is a common practice in the modern car market and why not? MPVs need space and vans do tend to have it in abundance.
They’re usually toughly built too which is handy in a vehicle that owners are going to let their kids loose in. Some vans are obviously more suited to the people carrying role than others and Citroën’s Nemo doesn’t immediately strike you as being ripe for a refit. It’s one of the smallest purpose-built vans on the market but that didn’t stop Citroën using it as a basis for the family-friendly Nemo Multispace MPV.
The Nemo van was developed to sit below the big selling Berlingo van in Citroën’s light commercial vehicle range. The first generation Berlingo just happens to be the vehicle that did most to popularise the van based MPV concept in the UK market with its Berlingo Multispace derivative. Since then, Citroën has never really looked back, bringing us low cost people carrying versions of its second generation Berlingo and the larger Dispatch van. It always looked likely that the diminutive Nemo would get the same treatment.
The engines on offer are predictably small and economical. Both have 1.4-litre capacities so the choice boils down to petrol verses diesel. The 1.4-litre petrol develops 75bhp, giving it a 5bhp advantage over the diesel but its maximum torque of 118Nm at 2,600rpm is bettered by the 160Nm that the diesel delivers nearly 1,000rpm lower in its rev range. In all honesty, both engines produce lacklustre performance in the Nemo Multispace but going quickly isn’t the point here. The 18 second 0-60mph performance of the diesel is very slow but it’s unlikely to prove a major hindrance on the school run on in the supermarket car park.
"The qualities that manufacturers routinely build into their commercial vehicles translate very well to the bottom end of the MPV market"
The Nemo has a slightly more elevated driving position than you’ll find in most small MPV products and the same wide range of visibility thanks to its big windscreen and side windows. The stubby bonnet, flat back end and large rear screen also help when parking, as does a turning circle of under ten meters, but the way the rear side windows taper upwards towards the tail does limit what you can see when looking over your shoulder. The suspension is quite soft and bouncy but ride comfort is generally quite good, you wouldn’t obviously mark this down as van in disguise.
If you thought a van-based people carrier would be a utilitarian thing in look and feel, the Nemo Multispace should exceed your expectations. The chunky exterior styling has more than a hint of 4x4 about it with those large protruding bumpers and flared wheelarches. The bumpers and the side rubbing strips also serve as useful protection for the kind of parking knocks that vans and MPVs have a habit of picking up. The front and rear light clusters are also mounted high up out of harm’s way and the Nemo Multispace benefits from the Nemo van’s convenient access points.
A larger tailgate opens up the whole rear of the vehicle revealing a 360-litre boot with a very low loading lip, and that’s below the parcel shelf. Stack your goods to the ceiling and there’s lots more capacity but the Nemo really shows its commercial vehicle origins when you fold the rear seats and there’s 890-litres to play with. The back seats can be lifted out too, returning the vehicle to something approaching its original cargo-carrying state but most of the time, buyers will have that rear bench occupied by passengers. Access to it is through the twin sliding side doors and although the aperture isn’t particularly wide, the sliding design does stop your offspring re-sculpting the bodywork of adjacent cars when they exit.
There’s a single trim level available with the Nemo Multispace but it includes a CD Stereo, a trip computer, a multi-adjustable driving position, electric front windows and electric heated wing mirrors. Both engines come with manual gearboxes as standard. The petrol is two seconds faster but it’s the fact of its £1,000 lower list price that will give it the edge. The diesel engine is available with a Sensodrive automatic gearbox that improves performance by a fraction and has no effect on economy. For £800 more, its labour saving attributes make it a tempting option on a car like the Nemo.
Those wanting to push the boat out when specifying their Nemo Multispace can add niceties like rear parking sensors and air-conditioning. The Citroën boot light that doubles as a detachable torch comes as standard. In terms of safety kit, there’s ABS brakes, plus twin front and lateral airbags but no ESP. The key rivals for the Nemo Multispace are conventional car-based models like Vauxhall’s Meriva and Renault’s Modus but also the Fiat Qubo. The Qubo is virtually identical to the Nemo having also emerged from the LCV partnership between Citroën, Peugeot and Fiat.
The diesel model carries the Citroën Airdream badge that the manufacturer applies to all its cleanest vehicles. It certainly is efficient with a 62.8mpg combined economy figure and emissions of 119g/km. Thanks to a 9.9 gallon fuel tank, this diesel model has a theoretical 620-mile range so there’s every chance that owners will forget what a filling station looks like. The 42mpg and 165g/km of the petrol version looks mediocre by comparison but remember the oil-burner is £1,000 more expensive. It will still take diesel owners some time to recoup that premium if they’re covering small annual mileages.
With insurance in group 2E and a commercial vehicle design that prioritises low repair and maintenance costs, the Nemo Multispace should prove a refreshingly cost effective ownership proposition. Service intervals for both engines are every 20,000 miles which is a lot of trips to Asda.
The qualities that manufacturers routinely build into their commercial vehicles translate very well to the bottom end of the MPV market. Citroën appreciates this better than most with a long history of fitting seats and windows to its vans. The Nemo Multispace is the smallest such model that the marque has attempted yet. The interior space isn’t massive as a result but if your requirements run to carrying a family of four and a good amount of luggage, it’s well up to the job. The funky 4x4-style looks will also count in its favour, meaning that if you don’t tell anyone it’s a van, they’ll never know.