Citroen's improved Berlingo van is bigger than you might expect but does size matter? Jonathan Crouch reports
Ten Second Review
Citroen's improved Berlingo is one of the larger compact vans on the UK market, offering a usefully large payload capacity and a maximum load volume of up to 4.1m3. It's now smarter looking than before and gets some extra hi-tech, but the main news lies beneath the bonnet with a range of fresh BlueHDi diesel engines. As before, the driving experience these units deliver might not be as perky as some would like but the comfort and refinement are both a match for the sector's best efforts.
The star turn in Citroen's LCV line-up has long been the Berlingo van. The original model was launched in the UK in 1996 and it proved extremely popular with its straightforward design and robust construction. In more recent years, the second generation version has offered a more sophisticated option and aims to please compact van buyers who need something larger than Citroen's little Nemo. So, in this improved version, as well as a smarter look, there's a range of efficient BlueHDi diesel engines and in the cabin, an infotainment screen to give the interior a little more of an up-to-date feel. As before, buyers can opt for a smooth automated gearbox, the option of Grip Control for slippery roads and even all-electric technology. It all represents a commitment to product improvement that has been rewarded by businesses across Europe, where one in seven Citroen products sold is a commercial vehicle.
The second generation Berlingo actually shares its basic platform with the old first generation version of Citroen's C4 Picasso MPV. As a result, it's not surprising to find that ride comfort has been prioritised. Road and engine noise are well contained too, making sure that big distances fly by and the steering is light, combining with the tight 11m turning circle to aid manoeuvring. A few might notice that around the twisty stuff, this spacious Berlingo feels a little less agile and immediate in its responses and rolls a tad more than the original but most operators will accept a slight loss there. The Berlingo is offered with three BlueHDi diesel powertrains, plus there's an all-electric version and a minority-interest VTi 95 petrol engine option. Nearly all sales will be of the BlueHDi variants, which deliver either 75, 100 or 120bhp. Go for a BlueHDi 100 model equipped with Citroen's occasionally jerky ETG6 automated manual transmission and you'll find optimised pedal mapping to adjust power effectively for smoother start-ups and acceleration. Gear change speeds are modulated more precisely, based on driver input, for improved performance and comfort, and its optimised gear shift patterns further improve efficiency. For even greater safety on the road, this Citroen is available with Grip Control to increase traction, incorporating hill-start assist. Some versions can now be specified with a fixed speed limiter enabling the operator to set a permanent maximum speed from a choice of four available limits.
Design and Build
The look of the Berlingo van has been updated with the bumper, radiator grille and daytime running lights all now being more carefully integrated to give the front a smarter appearance. The updated bumper and radiator design has been created to sit lower and wider as part of a look that Citroen hopes will underline the robust strength of the vehicle. Internally, the Berlingo remains an impressive piece of work with good quality materials and neat design. The main cabin change is the adoption of a full-width over-windscreen storage shelf with map reading lights on either side for driver and passenger. Other stowage space remains abundant and clever solutions abound ready to swallow up all the paraphernalia of your working day. In the two-seater Berlingo, the single passenger seat folds down to reveal a desk and cup holders. There's also an 'Extenso' extra middle seat option. As before, there are two Berlingo bodystyles to consider and both are on the large side of what we expect from a compact van. Both versions share a 2,728mm wheelbase but the longer L2 model has 248mm extra tagged on behind. It means that even the smaller L1 is 4,380mm in length, that's 243mm longer than the original Berlingo with 350mm extra in the wheelbase department. Payloads range from 625kg to 850kg in the L1 and 750kg in the L2 version, sizable carrying capacities that edge awfully close to that of some small panel vans at the top end.
Market and Model
The Berlingo van comes in either shorter L1 or longer L2 bodystyles and virtually all trim variants get the option of the useful 3-seater 'Extenso' multi-function folding passenger seat. There's also a 5-seat crew van, an enhanced traction version, an all-electric model and a platform cab for special bodywork conversions. As for equipment, well all models include ABS brakes, a trip computer, a CD stereo, central locking, electric front windows and internally adjustable door mirrors. All Berlingo vans specified with the hi-tech ETG6 auto gearbox also have Electronic Stability Control (ESC), traction control with Hill Start Assist, a passenger airbag, cruise control with driver-adjustable speed limiter and a new Gear Shift Indicator as standard. For greater efficiency, safety and reduced driver stress levels, all Berlingo panel vans are fitted, as standard, with Citroen's unique - and recently enhanced - Trafficmaster telematics platform, which includes Smartnav dynamic satellite navigation system and Trackstar stolen vehicle tracking. Other useful options include front and rear parking sensors and a reversing camera. There's also an optional 'Active City Brake' system which scans the road ahead as you drive at urban speeds for potential collision hazards. Inside the cab, the newly-introduced 7-inch infotainment screen can be specified with satellite navigation and various clever apps. It can also be specified with neat 'MirrorScreen' technology that duplicates the functionality of your smartphone.
Practicalities and Costs
With a maximum load capacity of 4.1 m3, sliding side doors and 60/40 rear doors opening to 180??, this Berlingo is able to carry two euro pallets easily and safely. The space in the rear is 1,800mm long in the L1 version and never less than 1,229mm wide. Sliding side doors are available as options as is a hinged roof flap through which long items can be poked. The loading lip at the rear is nice and low and the load bay gets excellent protection from its contents courtesy of panelling that extends halfway up the sides of the vehicle. Citroen has also completed a programme to optimise payloads, which has resulted in an increase for virtually every Berlingo van. As a result the Berlingo HDi 90 Manual L1 850 models now have a maximum available payload of 896kg. The standard bulkhead is a ladder frame behind the driver's seat only and an unusual touch is the load compartment light that can be detached and used as a torch. Running costs meanwhile, have been usefully reduced with the arrival of Euro6 BlueHDi technology. For the BlueHDi 120 S&S engine, the Berlingo at last gains a 6-speed manual gearbox for the first time, for greater driveability. This helps with this variant's 115g/km CO2 figure. Most buyers though, will be going for one of the lower-powered variant. The entry-level BlueHDi 75 variant manages 65.7mpg on the combined cycle and 113g./km of CO2. Go for the BlueHDi 100 model with stop and start and that figure falls to 109g/km. If you want to go further, there's the fully electric version to consider.
This improved sharper-looking second generation Citroen Berlingo van is large but not too large, very capable and certainly sophisticated. A key brief for this model is to try and tempt buyers down from their larger panel vans and thanks to a larger payload capacity, lower running costs and that potential 4.1m3 maximum load volume, we could see that happening. True, there are some capable alternative options going head to head with this Citroen but it's good enough to give any one of them a run for their money.