New Citroen Berlingo widens appeal

There’s nothing new about basing a passenger vehicle on a van. Sixty years ago, the original Ford Escort was a van with rear windows and seats.

But, the Citroen Berlingo has to be one of the most popular van-based passenger vehicles. Since, the first Berlingo was launched 22 years ago, this practical motor has enjoyed an almost cult following. The motoring equivalent of sensible shoes, people have just loved the Berlingo’s value, practicality and versatility.

Citroen Berlingo

Unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show last year this is latest version of the Berlingo is still based on the Berlingo van, but feels more like an MPV. To add to the versatility, this it is now available in two versions with either five, or seven, seats. The range starts at £19,430.

Cheekily borrowing from clothing sizes the five-seater is the M, while the seven-seater is the XL. As well as the extra two seats the XL makes use of the 35cm extra length to add significantly to the load space for an extra £1,700. We’ve put both M and XL specifications at the end of this review.

Whereas previous Berlingos have looked neat and easy-on-the-eye, this latest one has clearly spent more time with the stylist. It exhibits the latest Citroen design cues – the air intake on the front with the now characteristic Citroen narrow slit grille high up, with the Citroen chevrons. There’s even a hint of the air pockets from the Citroen Cactus at the bottom of the front doors.

But practicality still abounds. When you get in the first thing you are likely to notice is the cathedral-like headroom. You could easily offer the Member of Parliament for the 19th century, Jacob Rees-Mogg a lift to his stately home, even while he was still wearing his top hat!

Space in the back is equally generous and, with sliding rear doors, access is great. This is a huge boon, not just for children but for adults. It makes it so easy to opening doors wide in tight car parks.

As you might expect for a van-based vehicle, there is a huge load area round the back. This space is all the more practical because of the notably low load floor. The M version will swallow 770 litres of load, while the XL ups that to 1050 litres. With the rear seats folded you get 3000 litres of luggage space on the M, and 3500 litres with the middle row of seats folded on the XL.

Citroen Berlingo interior

Space for oddments is extensive. Indeed, this is not a car for forgetful people. There are so many places to stow stuff. It seems like Citroen has found a way to make just about any vacant space into a storage area.

I was three days into my time with the Berlingo before I found that the dead roof space above the load floor had a clever, spacious removable storage unit slung from the roof. It can be accessed from the back door, or from the rear seats.

The generosity of space is why cars of this type are so popular as taxis. On which note, you may notice late night reveller’s arms twitching if you drive downtown in the Berlingo as they try to hail you, not noticing the lack of a taxi sign on the roof.

Considering its van heritage, there are more surprises.

The Berlingo is not not only generous in space, it is also quite generous in equipment. The Flair model, which I tested, comes with an eight-inch touch screen, climate control, manoeuvring camera, interactive navigation, various connectivity options, wireless smartphone charging, a panoramic sunroof and automatic headlights.

In a touch of frivolity, Citroen has given you the ability to play with interior lighting around that sunroof, to suit your mood.

Rather like the MG ZS I recently drove, the Berlingo had the misfortune of arriving in the teeth of a spring gale which (predictably) was blowing across my route on an exposed dual carriageway.

In these extreme conditions, the Berlingo felt a bit fussy about its steering. But, as the wind moderated it made for a much happier driving experience.

Citroen Berlingo

Refinement also impressed. The 1500cc diesel is so remarkably subdued that I found myself double checking that this was indeed a diesel. You won’t find it particularly rapid – but that is not really something that Berlingo owners will be seeking. At 12.4 and 12.6 seconds, the acceleration 0-62 mph will allow you to keep up with most traffic.

It continues to pull strongly on the open road and on motorways, although the gearbox has just five speeds.

People don’t buy the Citroen Berlingo for its sporty style. The suspension is designed to be comfortable, so it is quite soft, but considering its loftiness the body control is good. The steering could do with a little more feel around the centre, but is it precise and quite nicely balanced between lightness and weight.

The other controls are good. The gear-lever is a little bit of a stretch, but not excessively so, if you sit well back from the pedals. The only other issue I found is the brakes are a little over-eager, initially. But, familiarity would probably get you to moderate the heft of your right foot.

The new Citroen Berlingo should please existing Berlingo lovers. More importantly, for Citroen, it should entice new aficionados into the club.

Citroen Berlingo Flair Blue HDI M
Price £22,430
CO2 emissions: 113 g/km
Combined fuel economy 65.7 mpg
Top speed: 106 mph
0-62: 12.3 secs
Power 102 bhp
Engine size 1499cc diesel
Boot capacity 775/3000 (back seats up/folded)

Citroen Berlingo Flair Blue HDI XL
Price £24,130
CO2 emissions: 115 g/km
Combined fuel economy 66.7 mpg
Top speed: 106 mph
0-62: 12.6 secs
Power 102 bhp
Engine size 1499cc diesel
Boot capacity 1050/3500 (back seats up/folded)
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