".we've been impressed with the performance of the Berlingo"
We've been getting a really good feel for the Berlingo over the course of a long term test. The van's spent more time in the office car park that it would if it were working full time for a living doing deliveries for a courier firm or transporting tools and materials for a trades person but getting behind the wheel on a regular daily basis has given a clear insight into the product in a way that it's impossible to replicate over the course of a brief road test. By and large the Berlingo has impressed. This used to be the smallest van in the Citroen line-up but with the Nemo slotted in below it, the latest Berlingo was given scope to grow. It's a compact van but with a 2,728mm wheelbase and a 4,380mm total length, it isn't what you would call dinky. Anyone familiar with the previous generation Berlingo will be intrigued to learn that this model is 243mm longer with 350mm extra in the wheelbase department.
That's a lot of carrying capacity and we like to think we've put it to good use, especially since the loading area was fully ply-lined to prevent dents. Camera equipment, garden waste, old furnature, the proceeds of a few Sunday afternoon trips to the local retail park, you name it, it's been crammed into the back of the not so little Citroen. It's tough to fault the design of the load bay which suffers from minimal wheelarch intrusion and has a very low loading lip which is perfect when hoisting bulky items inside. Payloads range from 625kg on the model we've been testing to a significant 850kg that could make some operators question the need for a full-size panel van. The Berlingo's cabin is the place where drivers working with the vehicle day-in day-out will spend the majority of their time. Not just driving but taking phone calls (hands free, of course), completing paperwork and even eating lunch. Citroen's design team were obviously only too aware of this and they've taken a series of measures to make the space user-friendly. Has it worked? Well, there's an abundance of storage space and numerous clever solutions ready to swallow up all the paraphernalia of your working day. The door pockets prove particularly useful and the large dash area often ends up doubling up as a shelf for casually chucked bits of paper. These tend to slide off if you accelerate too sharply, a reminder that they shouldn't really have been there in the first place. The materials are tough, and anyone looking for the soft-touch plastics or shiny finishes you get in modern cars will be disappointed, but build quality is good and there's a durable feel throughout which does much to inspire confidence. So we come to the actual driving experience of the Berlingo and that centres around the 1.6-litre 90bhp HDi diesel engine that's fitted to our model and will be a popular choice with buyers too. There's a useful 215Nm of torque on tap, so as long as you're swift enough with the gearbox, you shouldn't be left floundering with a big load on board when a steep incline presents itself. This larger Berlingo feels less agile and immediate in its responses than the original but most operators will accept a slight loss there, and in terms of cornering body control, because the van's ride comfort and refinement are both very impressive. Road and engine noise are well contained, making sure that big distances fly by and the steering is light, combining with the tight 11m turning circle to aid manoeuvring. Our only real gripe is that the five-speed manual gearbox is something of a let down with its sloppy long throw action. The Berlingo has a high specification for a van, with features like air conditioning and ESP stability control reminding us just how far commercial vehicles have come on in recent years. Tight pricing and Citroen retailers' legendary willingness to 'to a deal' means that you're probably more likely to end up with extra features like this than you would do in a comparable rival. Citroen sees it as part of the process of looking after its most important end-user - the driver. It's a commitment that has been rewarded by businesses across Europe where one in seven Citroen products sold is a commercial vehicle. When it all boils down to it, the primary role of light commercial vehicles like the Berlingo is to make daily life easier for their drivers. There are additional concerns, of course, such as running costs, whole life costs, residual values and all the other factors that keep the number crunchers at head office busy but a happy driver is a productive driver. In general, we've been impressed with the performance of the Berlingo. Its carrying capacity is a particular boon but the fuel economy we've been getting and the comfortable ride served up also figure highly in the plus column. We'd all rather experience a short working week than a long one, even if they are the same length, and the Citroen Berlingo could be just the van to help.
Facts at a Glance
Facts At A Glance MANUFACTURER: Citroen MODEL: Berlingo BHP: 75bhp - 90bhp PAYLOAD CAPACITY: 625kg - 850kg LOAD VOLUME: 3.3m3 - 3.7m3 GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT: 1,960kg - 2,185kg LENGTH: 4,380mm - 4,628mm WIDTH: 1,810mm HEIGHT: 1,812mm-1,840mm