Do seven seats transform the Berlingo Multispace or merely make it a little bit better? Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
Ten Second Review
Paying around £800 to transform the five-seat Citroen Berlingo Multispace into a seven-seater will be a useful option for some budget MPV buyers with larger families. The car still makes most sense with five passengers and a massive boot but those who really need the extra capacity will find Citroen's offering one of the most cost-effective solutions out there.
You know what you're going to get with a Citroen Berlingo Multispace. This affordable car is famed for concealing enormous quantities of raw practicality beneath its compact and suspiciously van-shaped bodywork. It's a useful talent to have, especially at a time when car buyers are paying more attention than ever to the bottom line of their motoring expenditure with a view to cutting costs. The latest Berlingo is bigger than ever and it's correspondingly large interior has given designers scope to offer a seven-seat version. Is this the most practical Berlingo yet or has something been lost in the rush to accommodate more people. This seven seat Berlingo Multispace isn't even a model in its own right. Citroen is marketing it as a 'Family Pack' and it's comprised of a pair of extra seats situated in the massive boot area of the five-seat car. It's more of an optional extra really but if you happen to have more than five people who need moving, it's an optional extra that could bring the Berlingo into your considerations.
The Multispace drives far more like a car than a van these days, though it still isn't a vehicle designed to please car enthusiasts - nor should it be. The running gear is based on that of Citroen's C4 Picasso mini-MPV, which means that it handles quite competently, with far higher levels of comfort than its predecessor. As with the old Berlingo Multispace, all-round visibility is excellent, making this a great companion in congested urban areas. The more sophisticated suspension is a particular boon on B roads, removing the experience offered up by the old car of crashing from one pothole to another. The seven-seat configuration can be specified with the 100bhp 1.6-litre BlueHDi diesel engine which makes sixty from rest in around 14 seconds on the way to a maximum in the region of 100mph. The car has a pseudo MacPherson type front suspension and at the rear, a torsion beam with an anti-roll bar. The rear dampers are also inclined to reduce the size of the rear wheel arches and, therefore maximise the rear load area. Stopping-wise, there are four disc brakes and ABS, with electronic brake force distribution (EBFD), emergency brake assist (EBA) and automatic illumination of the hazard warning lights during emergency braking.
Design and Build
The seven-seat Berlingo Multispace is fitted with three individual, reclining, folding and removable seats in the second row. The third row is comprised of a pair of seats which can be folded down or removed completely when not in use. With all the seats occupied, the boot space is cut to just 100 litres but you can fold unused seats down or lift them out to open up progressively more of the car's exceptional carrying capacity. The basic configurations provide 470-litres with the rear seats folded down or 650-litres with the rear and middle rows folded. Because all of the seats can operate individually, however, there's a multitude of ways to set-up the Multispace's cabin. The specially shaped back of the central seat in the second row includes two cup holders and creates a table between the two outer seats when folded. There are also folding trays attached to the backs of the front passenger and driver's seats for further storage. Citroen hasn't skimped on using every trick in its armoury to improve day to day utility of the Berlingo and there are numerous features, both standard and optional, which increase practicality. There's an overhead storage 'galley' that can be used to house items such as skis, a removable central storage compartment, a separately opening tailgate window and a folding front passenger seat. The general feel of the cabin is quite utilitarian and the fancy soft touch plastics found in more expensive MPV products aren't really in evidence. There's little doubt, however, that the Berlingo Multispace can live with its bigger brothers on grounds of function and user-friendliness which is what its buyers tend to want.
Market and Model
The option of seven-seats should open up the possibility of Berlingo Multispace ownership to a whole new section of the motoring public. At £800 over and above the cost of a five-seater Feel model, the Family Pack is not exorbitantly expensive, especially when you consider the price of other seven-seater options. Citroen hasn't merely chucked a couple of additional berths in the boot either. The Family Pack includes lateral airbags to protect occupants of the third row, a special luggage cover and a 12V power socket for charging electronic gadgets. Since the Berlingo Multispace effectively created the budget MPV sector back in 1998, it has sold more than all of its rivals combined in a sector that has achieved sales of over 20,000 units per year. In the UK alone, the Berlingo Multispace sold over 50,000, whilst worldwide, sales of car versions of the Berlingo have exceeded a million. This is, in fact, even more sales than the Berlingo van versions ever managed to rack up. The latest car has a lot to live up to but the seven-seat option should certainly help.
Cost of Ownership
Day-to-day running costs are kept well in check, but they're not shown in their best light by the entry-level 1.6-litre petrol-engined model, a car that returns an unremarkable CO2 figure of 148g/km and a combined fuel economy reading of not much more than 40mpg. Most though, will want a diesel, where the news is much better. Equipped with a manual gearbox, all three of the volume 1.6-litre BlueHDi units - 75, 100 and 120bhp variants - manage well over 55mpg on the combined cycle. All are clean too. The CO2 figure for the BlueHDi 75 unit is 113g/km. That's a return duplicated by the BlueHDi 100 model and you can improve that to 109g/km if you for the same car fitted with the ETG6 auto gearbox. The BlueHDi 120 manages 115g/km.
If there's space, a seven-seat option makes sense for most MPVs and Citroen's Berlingo Multispace is no exception. It manages to accommodate a small pair of extra seats in the boot area as part of the optional Family Pack and they're reasonably well integrated with the rest of the Berlingo cabin. Most buyers will prefer the 'five seats and a huge boot' configuration on which the Berlingo Multispace built its name but for anyone with more personnel to carry, this is a useful option. The MK2 Berlingo Multispace is undoubtedly a more cultured vehicle than its more obviously van-based predecessor. It's also, on almost any objective grounds you could conjure, a better vehicle. The seven-seat option just provides an extra dimension to a functional, affordable and unassuming mode of transport.