Pre-dating Tony Blair's tenure as Prime Minister, Citroën's sturdy little Berlingo seems to have been around forever. Not that the Berlingo of today is exactly the same as the one that was in service when John Major (remember him?) occupied Number 10. While it looks pretty much identical so far as its exterior styling is concerned, it's received a series of updates to keep it competitive.
One of the most significant has been the replacement of the old 71hp 1.9D and 90hp 2.0HDi diesels by a new 1.6HDi diesel at either 75hp or 90hp.
Capable of running on up to 30 per cent biodiesel without modification, the newcomer complies with the latest Euro-4 exhaust emission regulations. The older engines only met Euro-3.
We sampled the more powerful of the two 1.6HDis. Top output kicks in at 4,000rpm, while peak torque of 215Nm makes its presence felt at 1,750rpm.
Common rail fuel injection is fitted to the four-cylinder lump and the engine is married to a five-speed manual gearbox that relies on a dry, single-plate clutch.
Independent suspension featuring MacPherson struts is to be found at the front, while trailing arms, transverse torsion bar springs and horizontal dampers help support the rear. Anti-roll bars are fitted front and back and Berlingo sits on 14in steel wheels shod with Michelin Agilis 51 175/65 R14 tyres.
Berlingo's power steering offers variable assistance, 3.3 turns lock-to-lock and an 11.7m wall-to-wall turning circle.
Ventilated disc brakes are installed at the front, while drums are deployed at the rear.
Because it was in Enterprise trim our test van featured ABS and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. In our view both should be fitted as standard across the range.
Grossing at 1,730kg and thus subject to car speed limits rather than the more restrictive commercial vehicle limits that kick in above 2,000kg, our van could handle a gross payload of 600kg. Maximum towing weight, assuming you're using a braked trailer, is 1,100kg.
Capable of being latched open at 90° and of being swung through 180° if the stays are released, Berlingo's twin rear doors — glazed in this case but without window heaters or a wash/wipe system — swing open to reveal a 3.0m3 cargo bay. It can also be accessed via a sliding nearside door.
Loads can be lashed to six tie-down points. A lip on the edge of the cargo bed should help stop unsecured items sliding forwards and finishing up in the cab, with a tubular steel frame mounted behind the driver's seat providing the occupant with some defence should anything heavy hurtle forwards.
A tailored rubber mat covers the floor, but there's no protection for the sides or the wheel boxes, although the doors are defended by hardboard panels to half their height.
Maximum load length is 1,700mm, extendible to 2,100mm if you flip down the back of the passenger seat. Maximum height is 1,246mm while maximum width is 1,600mm, narrowing to 1,190mm between the wheel boxes. Rear loading height is 567mm.
The rear door aperture is 1,155mm high and 1,270mm wide while the side door's dimensions are 1,120mm and 570mm respectively.
One of Berlingo's big plus points has always been ease of access to its well-equipped and in several respects cleverly designed cab.
The driver's seat is set at just the right height for anybody on multi-drop delivery work who has to hop in and out of the vehicle umpteen times a day. That's just as well given that while the height of the steering column can be altered, the height of the seat can't be.
Most people will find that the driving position is comfortable, however, with plenty of head and shoulder room. Deep windows give good vision ahead and to either side.
Oddment storage space includes a bin in each door with a moulding to accommodate a soft drink can, a rather small glovebox with a shelf above it and a cubby-hole at the bottom of the dashboard with mouldings to hold a couple of cups. Look up and you'll see a shelf that runs the full width of the cab positioned just above the windscreen.
Fold the passenger seat all the way forwards and you'll find a hidden compartment that's big enough to conceal a laptop computer. Simply flip the seat back down and you create an instant desk that can be used to complete paperwork.
Electric windows, a driver's airbag, a 12v power socket and an RDS stereo radio/CD player with remote controls on the steering column all come as standard.
Both the exterior mirrors are heated and the one on the passenger side is electrically adjustable. The one on the driver's side adjusts manually, but from within the cab.
Optional extras included air conditioning for a further £480 (all prices quoted here exclude VAT). Good to see such a prominent button for the hazard warning lights.
Our demonstrator came with Trafficmaster SmartNav satellite navigation and a Trackstar stolen vehicle location system. Standard on Dispatch and Relay, the total package was being offered free on Berlingo at the time of our vehicle loan as part of a national promotion and is certainly worth having if you don't have to pay for it.
It may be worth investing in anyway because it beeps a comforting warning every time you go anywhere near a fixed speed camera.
Make sure yours has a removable screen, however, to frustrate thieves. Ours didn't, even though the screens in Relay and Dispatch can be taken out.
An eager little engine from the word go, the new 1.6-litre offers ample performance both around town and on the motorway. Nor will it cost you a packet at the pumps; we averaged a, very creditable, 51mpg.
A user-friendly gearchange aids progress and Berlingo's wheel-at-each-corner stance benefits both the ride and the handling, with remarkably little bodyroll.
With a slight, but annoying, whistle from the engine's turbocharger plus an excessive amount of wind noise and road roar emanating from the rear, there's too much in-cab racket. While low speed manoeuvring is a doddle, at speed the steering can feel lifeless at times, offering the driver insufficient feedback.
Our Citroën was finished in Arctic Steel metallic paint for an additional £235, with deep side rubbing strips protecting it from minor damage.
On the security front remote central locking comes as standard and when you're in the van you can lock all the doors by hitting a button on the dashboard. The doors all lock automatically once you're in motion.
With service intervals set at 12,500 miles, Berlingo comes with a praiseworthy three year/100,000 mile warranty, with no mileage limit in the first two years.
Citroën's long-serving Berlingo has been rejuvenated by the introduction of the 1.6HDi diesel. In 90hp guise it proves to be a peppy little engine that wins high marks for fuel economy as well as for performance. A user-friendly gearbox helps and the van's suspension seems more than capable of coping with the pot-holes and ridges found all over Britain's disintegrating road network. On the downside the steering feels lifeless at times and the combination of a whistling turbocharger plus too much wind noise and road roar can prove irritating. Berlingo nonetheless emerges as a useful, well-designed workhorse that's stood the test of time.