THE fortunes of Citroën appear to have been on something of an upward curve. This most French of French carmakers has been churning out distinctive and successful models for a while now.
Virtually every model in their current range, from the little C1 town car right up to the big limousines and MPVs, seems to have won over critics and customers alike and helped bury memories of dodgy reliability that accompanied the marque for a while.
The excellent C4 Picasso, indeed, has just been shortlisted for the 2007 Car of the Year title, and if you factor in the amazingly competitive deals to be had, plus the cutting-edge technology and zappy marketing, it’s clear that Citroën is on something of a roll.
Now even Citroën’s vans are making headlines, at least in the motoring press, after a C2 Enterprise (no, I had never heard of it either) proclaimed itself as the nation’s most economical van.
In an independently conducted fuel consumption test, the Enterprise, even without Captain Kirk at the helm, was driven around 362 miles of West Country roads and returned the astonishing average figure of 83 miles per gallon.
It beat all the other light commercial vehicles hands down over a route that took in every type of road and traffic conditions, from the heavy urban traffic that chokes up Bristol, through fast motorway driving, to winding B roads in darkest Cornwall.
Not surprisingly, Citroën UK were not slow in using the success to trumpet the merits of the C2 Enterprise and its advanced diesel engine, pointing out such benefits as its cheap-as-chips insurance, its terrific warranty cover, and its price tag of £7,695 plus tax.
Business is booming for French carmakers across the board, with Renaults and Peugeots also vying for space on British roads. They have clearly capitalised on the demise of the UK’s native species, while many people are seeing their flagship models as a realistic option to the big German cars that dominate the market summit across Europe.
Technologically brilliant though Mercedes, BMW and Audi most certainly are, there’s a little bit of smugness about their image, while some of their dealerships have not been as good as they should have been.
The French opposition perhaps present a friendlier face; the top Japanese manufacturers can hold their own in every aspect, and what they may lack in prestige, they make up for in value for money.
The German giants certainly have no room for complacency – and they don’t even make a van that can do 83 miles on a gallon of fuel.