Citroën Berlingo — June 2008

Date: Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Some vehicles seem destined to grow. Just as today's Volkswagen Golf is a bigger vehicle than the Mk 1 Golf launched all those years ago, Citroen's latest Berlingo is significantly larger than the previous offering which continues on sale under the Berlingo First banner and a lot more flexible.

Buyers are faced with an 11-model line-up that includes three different engines, two different load lengths on offer on the same 2,728mm wheelbase and two trim levels. What's more, the newcomer is up for grabs as either a two- or a three-seater a three-abreast set-up is unusual for this size of vehicle and as a platform cab.

Choice Engines

Most UK customers will make a bee-line for the 1.6-litre HDi common rail diesel at either 75hp or 90hp; the latter variant will soon be available with a particulate trap. Petrol heads, or anybody who want to convert their van to run on liquefied petroleum gas, are catered for by a 1.6-litre 90hp unleaded-burner.

CO2 emissions are 195g/km for the petrol engine and 153g/km for the diesels, no matter which version you select. Both diesel variants can be run on a mixture of up to 30 per cent biodiesel and look set to be frugal.

Fuel economy should be enhanced even further by the optional stop-start system that's in the pipeline. Allow the engine to idle for more than a few seconds and the system will kill it automatically, restarting it when the clutch is depressed.

A five-speed manual gearbox is standard across the range and ABS and disc brakes all-round feature on all models. So does hydraulically assisted power steering.

Load Area

With a 3.3m3 load area Berlingo L1, the smallest model in the line-up, comes with a load bed 1,800mm long. Cargo space can be increased to 3.7m3 if you order the Extenso three-seat option because the outer passenger seat folds away.

Choose the bigger Berlingo L2 and again you can make use of 3.7m3 of carrying capacity, expanding to 4.1m3 if you've chosen Extenso. With a 248mm-longer rear overhang than its stablemate, L2 boasts a cargo bed that's 2,050mm in length. Extenso boosts load length by 1,200mm on both models.

Asymmetric twin rear doors split 60/40 come as standard. They're can be pushed through nearly 180 and are unglazed; glazing is offered as an option.

Single and twin sliding side loading doors are optional too. So is a rear roof flap quaintly referred to in France as a girafon that allows over-length items, including your pet giraffe's long neck, to be poked through rather than left to stick out of the back doors.

A ladder frame bulkhead mounted behind the driver forms part of the basic specification and various optional bulkheads are available. They include a static or removable half-height one made from steel that can be topped off in either case with a full-height mesh grille. Other load area features include a 12v power point.

Internal cargo area height is 1,250mm across the range, as is the width; 1,620mm narrowing to 1,229mm between the wheel boxes. Rear loading height ranges from 584mm to 612mm depending on which model you pick.

Other vital statistics include the dimensions of the rear door aperture. It is 1,038mm wide and 1,148mm high. The figures for the side door, where fitted, are 640mm and 1,192mm respectively.

Payload capacities are 625kg (L1), 750kg (L2) or 850kg (L1) while gross weights are 1,960kg (which means the vehicle is not subject to the lower speed limits that apply to vans over 2,000kg gross), 2,130kg or 2,185kg respectively, again depending on which variant you pick.

Well-Specced

Standard equipment includes a driver's airbag and height-adjustable seat, a stereo radio/CD player, electric front windows, central locking, door mirrors that can be adjusted from within the cab and a trip computer. Upgrade to LX trim and you additionally benefit from remote central locking, electrically adjustable and heated exterior mirrors and an external temperature sensor.

Tyre pressure sensors are on the extra-cost options list, as is air conditioning and Electronic Stability Programme complete with a hill start package. It allows you to pull away on a 5 gradient fully-laden without the worry that you'll roll backwards.

Anybody who has to make periodic forays off-road in conditions that don't really justify acquiring a 4x4 is likely to be interested in the optional All-Road pack. It includes additional protection beneath the vehicle to make damage less likely if you wallop the odd boulder, and bigger tyres.

Sat Nav

New Berlingo is debuting with Trafficmaster Smartnav satellite navigation and stolen vehicle tracking as standard on virtually all models. That's a first for a vehicle of its size and a welcome initiative given that some police forces appear to be treating vehicle crime as a pastime rather than an offence.

Three years worth of Active Traffic Management is included with the sat nav package. It automatically re-routes you if the road ahead is clogged and is without doubt a valuable asset; Citroen deserves high praise for making it available.

In mainland Europe Berlingo is being offered with a navigation system called My Way and with a telematics-based fleet management service that allows operators to monitor vehicle speed, fuel consumption and so on remotely. It will be coming to the UK in 2010, but at present its application appears to be limited solely to PSA Peugeot Citroen products, and not all of those products at that; a drawback if you run a multi-make fleet.

Peugeot and Citroen are of course sister companies and the former markets a vehicle that's virtually identical to Berlingo apart from the badges under the Partner banner.

The 1.6 diesel is on a 12,500 mile/two year service interval and the cam belt only needs swapping every 150,000 miles/10 years. The petrol lump has to be serviced once every 20,000 miles/two years.

On the Road

We went over to France and took to the highways just outside Paris to sample an L1 Berlingo powered by the higher output diesel and fitted with an Extenso package.

With lots of head, leg and shoulder room for the driver, the initial impression the cab creates is that of a pleasant working environment and there's ample space for all the oddments van users like to carry around with them.

Our van featured a small and a large bin in each door the bigger bin has a moulding that will hold a bottle of water a lidded glovebox and a lidded compartment built into the top of the dashboard in front of the steering wheel. In addition there was an open shelf on top of the facia in front of the outboard passenger plus shelves above the windscreen and round cubby holes on each side of the heating and ventilation controls.

There's even a curry hook so that you've got somewhere to hang a late night bag of curry and poppadums.

While the extra room that can be created by making use of Extenso has to be welcomed, and the outboard passenger seat is comfortable, we heartily loathed the middle seat.

It offers zero legroom and you sit way too close to both the driver and passenger for anybody's comfort. Matters aren't helped either by the way in which the gearstick emerges from a moulding that bulges out from the centre of the dashboard, stealing even more space from piggy-in-the-middle.

PSA Peugeot Citroen states that the seat is only really suitable for a short trip of no more than 20 minutes. If your boss thinks so little of you that he expects you to use it for 20 seconds, never mind minutes, then look for another job.

It's a perch with a saving grace, however. Fold the back flat and you can use it as a desk so that you can complete paperwork. The seat has a further advantage in that it hides a roomy storage bin. That's a good idea because it allows you to conceal from the light-fingered items you'd rather didn't vanish.

In a two-seater Berlingo the passenger seat can be folded flat to create a desk complete with a pair of cup-holders.

When we flipped open our van's back doors we were greeted by half-a-dozen load tie-down points and a compartment that contains a removable, rechargeable, torch.

Providing users with an easily accessible torch that doubles as an extra load area light must have seemed like a great wheeze in the design studio. In theory it is, but in practice it's likely to be lost, damaged or stolen within the first six months of the van's ownership. Fortunately a fixed cargo bay light is provided too.

To prevent minor dents and scrapes causing damage, the cargo box is protected by panelling up to the waist rail. Externally it's good to see deep side rubbing strips defending the paintwork.

On the road the 90hp diesel is no slouch not with a modest 200kg load in the back anyway and we had no trouble whatsoever with the gearchange. Though a little on the soft side Berlingo's suspension seemed more than capable of dealing with any pot holes or ridges we encountered; not that there were all that many given that France's roads are so much better maintained than those in the UK.

Berlingo rolled slightly on corners and the steering felt a little spongy at times. Otherwise the handling was competent and noise levels, aside from some droning from the tyres, were well suppressed.

Our Berlingo was equipped with air conditioning and we had both it and the booster fan turned right up on one of the first warm days of the year. Both were effective, but a minor annoyance was the way in which the dashboard air vents gradually closed during the course of the trip.

Citroen's latest offering seems well put together. Nothing rattled or creaked and overall the standard of fit and finish was good.

It seems a pity though that Citroen's new van isn't on offer with the 110hp 1.6-litre diesel that we sampled in the MPV version. Fitted with a particulate trap, it's without doubt one of the best engines of its size we've ever sat behind.

Flexible and responsive, it offers bags of performance. Marry it to a six-speed 'box and Berlingo really would be a van to be reckoned with.

It seems a pity too that the new Berlingo cannot be specified with an automated manual gearbox given that one is on offer under the SensoDrive banner in Nemo, its baby brother. Such a 'box could be added to the line-up in the future, however, says Citroen.

While some operators will welcome the ability of Berlingo van's HDi engines to run on B30 biodiesel, the fuel's environmental credentials have come under heavy fire in recent months. Aware of the need to offer other alternative fuel solutions, the manufacturer has been working with a Continental converter to produce Berlingos that will run on compressed natural gas, although there is some doubt as to whether they will appear in the UK.

VERDICT

Slotting above Nemo and Berlingo First, but beneath Dispatch, Citroen's new Berlingo is a worthy addition to the range. Go check it out, but don't forget that your local Peugeot dealer offers virtually the same model. Play the one dealer off against the other and you could walk away with a bargain.



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