19 April 1996

CRUISE AWAY IN COMFORT

In this months Country Car

Andrew Faulkner goes Gallic with a drive in Citroëns MPV, the Synergie, while

David Cousins takes a ride in the Germanic Audi A4. We also compare two pick-ups with a difference – Doublecabs from

Toyota and Vauxhall

HARMONY, togetherness, pulling as one – all synonyms for synergy, but hardly remarks associated with family motoring.

Not so, says Citroën, which uses the "S" word to badge its offering in the multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) sector. The firm insists the Synergie, as the French spell it, is all about stress-free motoring en famille – the key to current interest in MPVs.

Middle member of a clan of three, the Citroën people carrier is the result of a Citroën/Peugeot/Fiat joint venture in which all three makers build their respective models in the same French factory. Engine options, 2-litre petrol and 1.9-litre turbodiesel, are also shared.

Only obvious differences between the Franco-Italian trio are in name and spec: Peugeots 806 tops the price list, Fiat sells the lower cost Ulysse, while Citroën slips its version into the centre ground with prices ranging from £16,200 for the entry level two-litre petrol to £23,090 for the 1.9-litre VSX turbodiesel flagship. Parting with extra cash gets extra equipment including better seats, better stereo, alloy wheels, ABS and auto air conditioning.

Now to the living accommodation which, after all, is what MPVs are about.

All Synergies come with double sliding doors for both sides access into a cabin which accommodates either two or three rows of seats, depending on spec.

Cabin leg room is good as long as every occupant isnt over 6ft. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of headroom which deteriorates the further back you sit; rear seating is definitely for children and short people only.

Driving position is typical MPV – high with a van-like view over a stubby snout. And then there is that much talked about, gearshift. Sprouting appendage-like from the dashboard, it gives good cross-cabin access, but its conventional H-gate means gears one, three and five can be a long forward stretch. Not a problem for this long armed/stumpy-legged driver. However, you might be normal!

That leaves performance – a factor almost secondary in a vehicle class more about passenger cabin layout, comfort, and safety than driver appeal.

Just as well because the VSXs 1.9-litre turbodiesel, so lively in the 405 and Xantia, struggles, albeit gamely, to coax the 1.5t MPV onto its toes. Long distance cruising, rather than mid-range punch, is this vehicles forte.

The verdict: As with most Citroëns, the Synergie is a thoroughly pleasant package and deserves to do well. Its success largely depends on how the overall MPV market develops and whether it can grab a chunk of sales from the high-riding Peugeot stable.


Model: Citroën Synergie 1.9TD VSX.

Price: £23,090 (six-seater).

Engine: 1.9-litre turbo-diesel.

Top speed: 99mph.

0-60mph: 14.5secs.

Test fuel consumption: 31.8mpg.

Insurance group: 12.


CITROEN DATA

Too much "carpet n cash" for a contractors support vehicle, but MPVs

can make sense for the farming family. This Citroën Synergie offers

5/6/7-seater options, elevated view for youngsters, and cruising in comfort.