From clay models, through to very early previews of design prototypes, What Van? has been tracking the development of the Citroen Berlingo, and its Peugeot Partner and Vauxhall Combo siblings, for a long time
The relationship between the three brands started more than four years ago when the K9 project, as it is known internally, began. Now, just months away from its January 2019 UK arrival, we’re finally able to drive it.
Based on the EMP2 (Efficient Modular Platform) used across the Citroen and Peugeot car ranges, the three K9 vans are actually a hybrid of this new modular chassis and the existing rear end. That means the loadspace remains the same while the front of the vehicle is able to be dramatically altered. The front overhang has been shortened, electric power steering has been introduced to facilitate new safety features, and high-strength steels and aluminium have been used to ensure large weight savings.
Two wheelbase lengths will be available – short (L1) and long (L2) – in all three vans with a 350mm increase between the two sizes, while the total length for the L1 van is 4.4m and 4.7m for the L2. The 350mm wheelbase difference comes from a 190mm increase in the wheelbase length and a 160mm increase in the rear overhang.
Despite the rear platform being identical to the existing van, exact sizes, along with payload and load volumes, were not released to us. However, expect gross payloads of around 900kg and load volumes approaching 4.0m3.
Power for all three vans will come from a slightly confusing choice of two diesel engines.
Due to emissions regulations, a 1.6-litre Euro6.1 engine will be on sale in some markets, including the UK, for the first nine months of production – however, a more powerful but smaller-capacity 1.5-litre BlueHDi Euro6.2-compliant engine will also be available at launch with a 130hp output.
The newer engine will eventually supersede the 1.6 and still be available with the same 75hp and 100hp outputs. A 1.2-litre Puretech petrol engine with 110hp and 130hp outputs can also be specified, with the higher-powered engine getting the new EAT8 auto transmission. This gearbox is also available on the 130hp diesel model and incorporates a stop function with the adaptive cruise control that allows the vehicle to slow to a standstill and then resume the cruise when in traffic.
A five-speed manual transmission is fitted as standard on both 1.6-litre models, while the 1.5-litre unit gets a six-speed manual.
As a compact van, it is likely to spend a high proportion of its time in the city where a quiet, capable engine pays dividends. The Euro6.2 1.5-litre unit certainly delivers on this. There’s plenty of sound deadening to mute its four-cylinder patter, but even from the outside it sings a discreet song. Vibrations through the cabin and steering wheel are minimal too.
It’s a sophisticated unit that matches the rest of the improvements. Even the slightly larger 1.6-litre Euro6.1 unit is a credible powertrain for the van.
Sadly, it’s not all good news as the matching gearboxes aren’t quite as well rounded. The five-speed manual in the 1.6-litre vehicles is a direct carry-over from the previous-generation vans. It feels notchy, coarse and unsophisticated in comparison to competitors.
The six-speed manual mated to the 1.5-litre unit is not much better, although an improvement of sorts. The extra ratio is definitely needed on higher outputs, but differences to the action of the five-speed are limited.
Modern city driving regularly involves a lot of stop-start traffic and pleasingly the auto transmission is the true gem of the range. While only available on the 130hp output models, it’s fast and pleasingly smooth. After driving the whole range it is this model that we’d recommend as it truly typifies the progress and sophistication the Citroen Berlingo and its joint-venture vans have made.