By Andy Enright
It's something of a French tradition to transport the family around in a vehicle of commercial origins, and while the Citroen Nemo shifts big numbers as a light panel van, its people carrying version, the Nemo Multispace, takes an old theme and gives it a modern twist. It's an inherently good idea. Van-based MPVs are built tough so kids can't do too much damage, there's acres of space inside yet they're easy to see out of and park. Here's what to look for when shopping for a used one.
The Nemo van was developed to sit below the big selling Berlingo van in Citroen'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, Citroen 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. Launched in 2009 with either a 75bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine or a 70bhp 1.4-litre diesel, the Nemo Multispace lasted a year before it received major underbonnet surgery. In September 2010 the 1.4-litre units were replaced by a far more efficient 1.3-litre diesel good for 75bhp. Where the 1.4-litre car was available with a Sensodrive automatic gearbox as an option, the 1.3-litre successor gets a choice of manual or sequential EGS transmissions.
What You Get
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.
What to Look For
The Nemo Multispace hasn't experienced any significant reported problems to date. The only controversial aspect is a Which? Report which highlights a rollover risk if the vehicle is subjected to an aggressive lane change manoeuvre, or 'elk test'. Given that most high-sided vehicles without electronic stability control would fare about as well as the Nemo Multispace when given this sort of treatment, it's not a vehicle specific issue. The Nemo's reliability record is very good with some owners complaining of a weak heater that struggles to clear the large windscreen in winter.
(approx based on a 2009 Citroen Nemo Multispace 1.4) Spares for the Nemo Multispace might come as a bit of a rude awakening if you were bedding in nicely with the discount motoring vibe. A replacement alternator will be around £170 while a new headlamp bulb is £13. Tyres are £140 a corner and a 20,000 mile service will weigh in at around £200.
On the Road
Although there is an improved 1.3-litre 75bhp engine on sale at the moment, by far the biggest array of used stock is accounted for by the 1.4-litre engines, so I'll concentrate on them here. 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 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 metres, 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.
The Citroen Nemo Multispace makes a great used buy if you can track down a car that hasn't been too badly ravaged in the supermarket car park and which has been serviced on the nose. With a small stock of used cars to choose from, you might well have to travel or compromise when choosing. The best car in the line up is the new 1.3-litre EGS model but the best buy lies at the other end of the used price range, namely the 1.4-litre petrol model.