Citroën Berlingo & Nemo — May 2008

Date: Monday, May 05, 2008

Making its global debut at the recent Commercial Vehicle Show at Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre, Citroën's new Berlingo is bigger than its predecessor and much more versatile. What's more, it's being launched with Trafficmaster Smartnav satellite navigation and stolen vehicle tracking as standard on almost all models — a first for a vehicle of its size and a welcome initiative.

The sat nav package includes three years Active Traffic Management which automatically re-routes you if you're at risk of getting tangled up in road congestion. It's well worth having.

Model Range

Customers can pick from two different load lengths offered on the same 2,728mm wheelbase, two trim levels and three different engines in an 11-model range. As well as in van guise the newcomer — it goes on sale in the UK on 5 June — is available as a platform cab and as either a two- or a three-seater.

Buyers can opt for a 90hp 1.6-litre petrol engine or a 1.6-litre HDi common rail diesel at either 75hp or 90hp. CO2 emissions are 195g/km for the petrol engine and 153g/km for the diesel, no matter which power output you pick.

A five-speed manual gearbox with a dashboard-mounted lever is standard across the range — seems a pity no six-speed is available — and the diesels can be operated on up to 30 per cent biodiesel. That is of course assuming that anybody would wish to, given the fuel's growing lack of credibility.

Good to see that the newcomer has hydraulically, rather than electrically, assisted power steering. The latter type of assistance usually gives the driver zero feedback.

Disc brakes all-round and ABS are fitted to all models. Berlingo can also be purchased with an All-Road pack for an extra charge. Designed for users who sometimes have to cross uneven ground but don't really need four-wheel drive, it includes bigger tyres and additional protection beneath the vehicle against damage.

Load Area

With a load bed 1,800mm long, the Berlingo L1 comes with a 3.3m3 cargo box. Capacity can be boosted to 3.7m3 if you specify the Extenso three-seat option because the outer passenger seat folds away.

Opt for Berlingo L2 with its 2,050mm cargo bed and 248mm-longer rear overhang and again you enjoy 3.7m3 of carrying capacity, rising to 4.1m3 if you've opted for Extenso. On both models Extenso boosts load length by 1,200mm.

Load width is 1,620mm in both cases narrowing to 1,229mm between the wheel boxes while load height is 1,250mm. Rear loading height ranges from 584mm to 612mm depending on the model specified.

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.

Unglazed asymmetric twin rear doors with a 60/40 split come as standard; glazing is an option. Single and twin sliding side loading doors are optional too, as is a rear roof flap that allows ladders, planks and other over-length items to be poked through rather than allowed to stick out of the door aperture.

The back doors can be swung through almost 180°. The rear door aperture is 1,038mm wide and 1,148mm high. The side door (where fitted) aperture's dimensions are 640mm and 1,192mm respectively.

Good to see that the cargo bay is panelled to the waist rail to prevent minor scratches and scrapes causing damage. A removable rechargeable torch doubles as the load area light — a clever idea in theory, but how long before it goes walkabout never to return? — and a 12v power point plus a ladder frame bulkhead mounted behind the driver are both included in the deal.

Various optional bulkheads are available, including a static or removable half-height one made from steel that can be topped off in either case with a full-height mesh grille.

Cab Comfort

Standard equipment includes a driver's airbag and height-adjustable seat, a stereo radio/CD player, a trip computer, central locking, electric front windows and door mirrors that can be adjusted from inside the cab. Opt for LX trim and you also get remote central locking — it really should be standard on all Berlingos, Citroën — electrically adjustable and heated exterior mirrors and an external temperature sensor.

Electronic Stability Programme is on the options list as are tyre pressure sensors and air-conditioning,

Three Seats

Offering a three-seater cab on a vehicle of this size is unusual and a lack of legroom means that even What Van?'s resident dwarves wouldn't care to be the middle passenger for any distance.

Citroën argues that the configuration is ideal for drivers who need to drop young children off at school before they start work. Aside from the fact that many van drivers get going long before the school gates open, we're not sure how easy it would be to fit a child's booster seat to the centre perch, referred to by Citroën as an occasional seat.

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

With Extenso the middle seat can be turned into a desk too, and conceals a capacious storage bin. That's a good idea because it gives you somewhere to stow items you'd rather not lose away from prying eyes.

The 1.6 diesel is on a 12,500 mile/two year service interval which in mileage terms seems a little on the short side to us these days. The cam belt, however, only needs changing every 150,000 miles/10 years, which has to be welcomed. The petrol engine is on a more generous 20,000 mile/two year interval.

First Berlingo

Van lovers getting ready to mourn the demise of the existing Berlingo needn't worry. Aimed at the budget conscious, it's continuing in production — albeit with a restricted model range — under the 'Berlingo First' banner. Two models are up for grabs and both can handle a 600kg payload.

With a 75hp petrol engine, the 1.4i will set you back £9,065 — all prices quoted here exclude VAT. Its 75hp 1.6HDi stablemate comes in at £10,115. New Berlingo prices range from £10,395 to £12,465.

Don't forget that Citroën is Peugeot's sister company and that new Berlingo is virtually the same as new Partner — which also made its worldwide premiere at the CV Show – apart from the badges. Peugeot is retaining the old Partner in its line-up and its version of Nemo is known (oh dear) as the Bipper.

Citroën Nemo

Citroën is also launching its Nemo sub-compact van in Britain. With a 2.5m3 load bay and able to cope with a 610kg payload, it can be specified with either a 70hp 1.4HDi diesel or a 75hp 1.4i petrol engine and goes on sale in May.

Both versions are marketed in X trim (includes radio/CD player) while the diesel is on offer in higher-specification LX trim too. For an aditional £720 you get a number of extra features including a nearside sliding side load door, electric windows, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, remote central locking and a height-adjustable driver's seat. The last two features should be standard on all models in our opinion.

Diesel Nemo can also be ordered with SensoDrive, Citroën's automated manual transmission, and with an Extenso fold-down single passenger seat. It boosts load cube to 2.8m3 and load bed length by 970mm, up from a standard 1,520mm. Prices range from £7,995 to £9,915.

VERDICT

Citroën's line-up is getting stronger by the day and all three of the vehicles mentioned here are worth a closer look. Don't forget though that they're all available from other dealerships with different badges on — Fiat's take on Nemo and Bipper is called the Fiorino — so make sure you shop around for the best deal.



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