New Mercedes Citan van suits up as impressive micro-camper
The Sprinter and Vito/V-Class have long been the "Mercedes" of van life, underpinning countless camper vans and motorhomes, from monstrous off-roaders to large luxury retreats. After introducing the new Citan, Mercedes is eager to get its smallest van in on the action. It recently turned to two camper equipment specialists for help in turning the tiny van into a modular micro-camper ready to tackle both weekend leisure time and daily driving.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Mercedes-Benz was as on top of global RV and mini-camper trends as any automaker in the industry, updating the most recent Sprinter with market-leading motorhome-specific features and launching the retro-inspired pop-up camper van the US has been lusting after for nearly two decades.
The Sprinter and Vito/V-Class/Metris have the large and midsize markets fully covered for the three-pointed star, and now Mercedes looks to reach out to those buyers who want something even smaller and more affordable. It says that so-called "micro-campers" are in high demand owing to their flexibility in working as both campers and everyday minivans, their comparatively light, maneuverable footprints, and their affordability
While Mercedes did occasionally explore the possibility of a light camper based on the first-generation Citan, it appears much more serious about appealing to van lifers with the new second-gen Citan. It was touting the new van's camper-friendly dimensions well before it had even debuted the van, and the first show to which it took the Citan was the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon, not an auto or commercial vehicle show.
At the Caravan Salon, Mercedes showed the first possibility for a Citan Tourer micro-camper, a two-sleeper developed with VanEssa Mobilcamping, which we've previously seen putting out Oktoberfest-worthy tailgater pickups and modular Sprinter camper vans. Tweaked from its first-generation Citan kits, the new VanEssa Citan II kitchen and bed modules deliver the camper/commuter flexibility Mercedes seems to have in mind for the Citan, allowing the van to transform back and forth in a few simple steps.
The VanEssa kitchenette includes a series of drawers and slide-outs with a single-burner stove, available 31-L compressor fridge, and a sink plumbed to a 13-L fresh water tank. The separate fold-out sleeping module uses the kitchen block as part of its structural support, creating a 45 x 74-in (115 x 189-cm) bed for two. During travel, it folds up and stores completely atop the kitchen, allowing the rear Citan seats to be used.
Mercedes identified the VanEssa-equipped show van as a prototype at the time of the Caravan Salon, but VanEssa now has the second-gen Citan kit up for sale, offering the kitchenette for €1,945 and the sleeping kit for €1,045. Add in the €26,481+ price of the Citan Tourer, and you have a cozy micro-camper-cum-family minivan for under €30,000 (€29,471, or approximately US$33,250, to get exact), something VW Caddy California shoppers might consider comparison-shopping.
In shifting from the Düsseldorf show to the Swiss Caravan Salon that wrapped up earlier this month, Mercedes worked with Sortimo Switzerland on another Citan micro-camper. Sortimo specializes in all manners of van upfitting for life and work, and its S-Camper lineup includes modular camper components similar to those from VanEssa.
For the Citan show camper, Sortimo installed its Multifunction Box, which is based on the Egoé Nestbox. The multi-piece kit functions much like VanEssa's kitchen/sleeper setup, carrying a folding sleeping platform and mattress atop a tailgate kitchen. Instead of the stack of drawers that VanEssa uses, the Multifunction Box has a single slide-out that provides access to the available fridge and the inset dual-burner stove. A countertop holding an expandable sink basin flips up from the face of the slide-out to finish the outdoor cooking space.
The Multifunction Box bed provides a generous queen-like (59 x 80-in) 151 x 202-cm sleeping surface, according to Mercedes. Mercedes and Sortimo turned this particular Citan micro-home into a family-ready four-sleeper by mounting a fold-out rooftop tent to the roof rails, creating an upstairs/downstairs 2+2 layout.
Sortimo Switzerland offers the full kitchen/sleeper Multifunction kit for CHF4,787 ($5,150) and sells two rooftop tents from Australia's TJM, starting at CHF1,760 ($1,900).
Given how preoccupied Mercedes has been with campers during the new Citan's release, we've been wondering if it ultimately plans an official Marco Polo-family micro-camper based on the new small van, a more integrated compact van camper that could grab some of the pie Volkswagen enjoys with the Caddy California. So far, it's stuck to the simpler route of aftermarket off-the-shelf kits, but it's almost 2022, and January's CMT show will kick off a new year of camper vans. Mercedes has a history of attending CMT and highlighting new camper products and show vehicles.