Two weeks ago we took a look at the progenitor of all modern European-style compact vans—the Citroen Berlingo and Peugeot Partner. Today’s machine was right on the heels of that iconic pair: Renault’s Kangoo, released only a year after PSA’s two vans. While Renault may have been fudging a bit to come up with a response to the remarkably successful PSA vans, the end result was anything but half-assed; in fact, the Kangoo might even have had more character than the Berlingo and Partner!
That the Kangoo was from the same generation of Renault design that brought us the original Twingo likely helped its charming nature from the get-go. The indicator-under-headlamp aesthetic brought a cheerful grin to the entirety of the Renault range in the mid to late ‘90s that wouldn’t stop until the Megane and Laguna’s avant-garde split grilles.
The Kangoo’s success was seemingly unhampered by the fact that the PSA brothers preceded it; in fact, the Kangoo sold 2.2 million examples in the first generation to 1.2 million Berlingos, though whether those figures include the Partner is anyone’s guess.
The fact that the sliding door opens on this Majorette is perhaps a sneaky nod to the fact that the Kangoo, when it came out in ’97, was equipped with a sliding door on cargo versions—something the Berlingo would not have until ’99, thus also probably affecting sales.
A decade after the Kangoo first dropped in ’97, the second generation van was released in 2007. Lacking a bit of the style and character of the original, the second was nevertheless still an excellent machine and offered an electric version as of 2011, though PSA had theirs in the works since 1998.
Right after that, though, Mercedes suddenly decided that it needed a small van and, instead of doing what everyone else would have done and basing it off the A-Class like the old Vaneo, went to Renault and took their Kangoo as the Citan.
That seemingly backfired on Mercedes in 2013 when the Citan was crash tested and received three stars (though it was a six year old Renault so I’m not sure what the expected result was). The Citan has since received “safety updates”, though it seems that its three star score remains.
I suppose that’s what happens when you try to copy off another person’s work—the Kangoo is by no means a bad van, but it is certainly a very French van. To try and pass it off as a no-nonsense, German workhorse is a bit of a misnomer as it’s more of a cobblestone path, baguette delivering push cart. Ok, ok, I kid, but the truth is that the Citan’s price is five thousand pounds dearer than that of the Kangoo in the UK and that’s a tough pill to swallow for a three-pointed star where a diamond should be.
That said, I quite love the Kangoo itself, both new and old, and it really is just another cornerstone in the twisted and confusing wonderland that is the French auto industry. Thanks for looking, and Vive la Kangoo!