While bodybuilders seem to be increasingly moving towards standardised dropsides, tippers and Lutons, panel van makers appear to be heading in the opposite direction. These days vans are available that can be specified to meet pretty much each and every need.
If a 5.0m3 load area is too small for you, then don’t worry; you’ll be able to avail yourself of a model with a 6.0m3 load box instead. If that’s too big, then there’s no cause to make a fuss; a 4.0m3 variant is up for grabs too. It’s a trend that’s reflected in the design of the latest Berlingo. While the old model — which as it happens is still on sale as the First — was marketed with just one load cube, its successor is on offer with the choice of two; 3.3m3 or 3.7m3. The rest of Citroën’s range covers virtually all the other light commercial bases.
We elected to sample Berlingo L2, the larger member of the duo, in LX trim on journeys that took us to destinations a far apart as Manchester and Cirencester.
Power comes courtesy of a 1.6-litre HDi common rail diesel producing maximum power of 90hp at 4,000rpm. Peak torque of 215Nm bites at 1,750rpm and the four-cylinder eight-valve engine is married to a five-speed manual gearbox.
Independent suspension with MacPherson struts is fitted at the front while at the back you’ll find an independent trailing arm set-up with a twisting transverse beam and dampers set at an angle. Anti-roll bars are installed front and rear and our demonstrator rode on 15in steel wheels shod with Michelin Energy Saver 195/65 R15 tyres; a slightly unusual fitment that’s probably more familiar on people-carriers.
Disc brakes — ventilated at the front — are fitted all round and ABS comes as standard. We additionally benefited from Electronic Stability Programme (why not fit it as standard too?) for an extra £350, including traction control, Hill Start Assist and a passenger airbag; all prices quoted here exclude VAT. With 2.89 turns lock-to-lock, the power-assisted steering contributes to a 11.0m kerb-to-kerb turning circle.
Grossing at 2,150kg and boasting a 749kg gross payload our L2 could tow a trailer grossing at 950kg.
We can’t get away from the feeling that L2’s 248mm-long rear extension doesn’t look quite right. It does, however, have the advantage of providing owners with a bit more space.
Access to the cargo box is by means of opaque asymmetric twin rear doors plus a sliding door on each side of the body. Six load-tie rings are provided while a £90 half-height steel bulkhead with a full-height mesh upper section was there to prevent disaster should anything unsecured hurtle towards the cab.
A tailored mat protects the load bed from scratches and scrapes while plastic panels protect the doors and sides to half their height, excluding the wheel boxes. An unusual feature is a removable torch which acts as an extra load bay light when it sits in its holder close to the back doors. Great idea, but how long before it is lost, damaged or stolen?
Maximum load length is 2,050mm, but can be extended to 3,250mm by folding down the outboard section of the Extenso dual passenger seat — standard on LX — and the section of bulkhead behind it.
Maximum load width is 1,620mm narrowing to 1,229mm between the wheel boxes, while maximum height is 1,250mm. Rear loading height is 584mm. The back door aperture is 1,200mm high and 1,250mm wide while the dimensions for the side door apertures are 1,100mm and 737mm respectively.
Few L2 drivers will moan about an absence of in-cab storage space. For your money you get a full width shelf that sits above the windscreen, bins in each door with a moulding that will accommodate a soft drink can and a glovebox with cup and pen holders on the inside of the lid. There are two more cup-holders on the floor by the middle seat, one of which plays host to a removable ashtray.
In addition the cab is kitted out with a lidded compartment on the facia above the instrument panel, a shelf on top of the dashboard on the passenger side and a cubby-hole on each side of the heating and ventilation controls. Look under the driver’s seat and you’ll find a tray. If all the foregoing weren’t enough you’re also provided with a dashboard hook on which to hang your Friday night bag of curry.
It’s unusual for a van of this size to be able to accommodate three abreast, but don’t get too excited. With no legroom and restricted shoulder room, the lot of the middle passenger is not a happy one. The presence of a moulding that bulges out from the middle of the dashboard and plays host to the gearstick doesn’t help. It also hampers cross-cab movement.
At least all the cab’s occupants are held in place by lap-and-diagonal safety belts and at least the middle seat has one useful function. Flip the back down and it turns into a desk with a strap to keep paperwork in place.
Other useful features include an MP3-compatible RDS stereo radio/CD player with remote controls on the steering column, a driver’s airbag, a height-adjustable steering wheel, a 12v power point, electric windows and big heated electric mirrors that could do with a wide-angle section. In addition our test van was equipped with Trafficmaster Smartnav satellite navigation with a demountable screen and Trackstar stolen vehicle tracking as standard.
Air-conditioning with a heat-reflecting windscreen (£600), cruise control (£150) and Bluetooth (£150) were among the options fitted.
While performance isn’t a problem, our test vehicle would definitely have benefited from a six-speed ’box, especially on long motorway runs.
We had no quarrels with the gearchange or the ride, but L2 tends to wallow on corners and there isn’t enough feedback from the steering. Noise levels could stand to be lower too.
During the test period the L2 returned an average fuel consumption of 46mpg.
Remote central locking is included in the deal. There’s a button on the dashboard you can hit to lock the doors when you’re in the cab and all the doors lock automatically anyway while the van is in motion. The load area doors can be locked and unlocked separately.
With a service interval set at 12,500 miles, Berlingo L2 is protected by a three-year/100,000-mile warranty. Our demonstrator was fitted with front fog lights — £190 in a pack that includes automatic rain-sensitive windscreen wipers — plus metallic paint for an additional £295. Good to see that the paintwork is protected by side rubbing strips and rear door protection strips, not to mention rear parking sensors for £190; worth having if your back doors are unglazed.
By no means lacking in performance, Citroën’s 90hp 1.6HDi Berlingo 750 L2 LX rides well and offers a more-than-competent gearchange. With ample storage space for oddments, the roomy, well-equipped cab is likely to appeal to most users and the cargo area is sensibly designed too. Operators are likely to find that the extra carrying capacity provided by the Extenso arrangement comes in handy from time to time. On the downside we missed the presence of a six-speed gearbox, felt the handling lacked precision and at times wished the level of noise was better suppressed. Nor are we impressed by the lack of space provided for the middle passenger. On balance though, Berlingo L2 is a welcome addition to the manufacturer’s remarkably comprehensive range.