The Citroen Berlingo Flair is that rare thing in the UK marketplace: a van-derived car.
So, while it may not qualify as an LCV for tax purposes, meaning you have to pay the VAT, its DNA is from the van side, albeit from the sophisticated ‘car-like’ end of the spectrum.
The Berlingo, like its Peugeot Partner, Vauxhall Combo and forthcoming Toyota Proace City siblings, is based on the EMP2 (Efficient Modular Platform) also used across the Citroen and Peugeot car ranges.
These types of vehicles are far more popular on the continent than in the UK, largely because of the aforementioned tax arrangements, and with the versatility they offer, it’s easy to see why.
As a dual-purpose vehicle for a tradesperson with a family they’re an attractive proposition, providing five seats and a generous amount of load space, which can be increased further by folding down the rear seats when they are not required.
With the 1.6-litre Euro6.1 diesel withdrawn having served its stint of just under a year, the Berlingo line-up is now powered by the superior 1.5 Euro6.2 diesel with outputs of 75hp, 110hp and 130hp, which is the one driven here and the only one paired with the EAT8 transmission. It is a quiet and refined engine with 300Nm of torque that offers ample performance, particularly on long journeys.
One of the main reasons we were keen to drive this Berlingo derivative was to try out the EAT8 auto transmission, which will eventually be available across all bodystyles in top trim diesel and petrol models, having already sampled the six-speed manual in the Berlingo panel van.
While the manual gearbox is impressively slick, the automatic system is the real jewel in the crown. It is fast and seamless and incorporates a stop function with the adaptive cruise control (as part of the Drive Assist Pack) that allows the van to slow to a standstill and then resume the cruise when in traffic.
The adaptive cruise control is also a boon when travelling on dual-carriageways and motorways, automatically slowing the vehicle to keep a safe distance behind the traffic in front. A choice of distances can be selected by using controls mounted on the steering column, taking the strain out of long trips and meaning the cruise control does not have to be frequently reset, as is the case with non-adaptive versions on the UK’s invariably busy highways. Back in the city, an efficient stop/start system saves fuel by cutting off the engine when you brake to a stop at traffic lights and junctions before re-firing when you pull off.
On a variety of routes covering motorways, A and B roads as well as a lot of inner-city driving we averaged about 48mpg, which is respectable but falls short of the NEDC combined cycle of 64.2mpg the manufacturer claims for 130hp panel vans with manual transmission. (Figures for the EAT8 auto were not available at the time of writing.)
Standard safety kit on the Flair is generous. Particularly impressive are the hill-start assist and the lane-departure warning, which exerts a gentle but insistent tug on the steering wheel if the driver crosses lanes without indicating.
Useful but more irritating is the speed-limit recognition that emits loud ‘ding-dong’ chimes whenever the vehicle enters a new restricted-speed zone.
There is ample storage in the cabin, including a lidded glove box, an upper shelf on the dash, a full-width front overhead shelf, bottle holders in the front doors, and pockets in the front seat backs. An 8.0in touchscreen houses satnav, Bluetooth telephone pairing and DAB radio as well as the display for the rear parking sensors.
Options on our vehicle included metallic paint (£545), Advanced Grip Control (£650), Drive Assist Pack (£200), Keyless entry and start (£250), and the futuristically styled glass Modutop roof (£750).
Citroen Berlingo M Flair Blue HDi 130 S&S EAT8 auto
Price (inc VAT) £24,950
Price range (inc VAT) £19,430-£26,650
Service intervals 12 months/20,000mls
Load length 1,817mm (est.)
Load width (min/max) 1,243/1,550mm (est.)
Load bay height n/a
Gross payload n/a
Load volume 3.0m3
Engine size/power 1,499cc/130hp
Combined fuel economy 64.2mpg (est.)
The Berlingo Flair is a refined people carrier, and the superb EAT8 automatic transmission is the one to go for.