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LEARNING THE BER-LINGO
Published on Wednesday 19 June 2013 11:17
Ten Second Review
Citroen's 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. The smooth diesel engines produce even stronger fuel economy figures and pricing is competitive. The driving experience isn't 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 with the final demise of the original model, must go it alone in its offering to compact van buyers who need something larger than Citroen's little Nemo.
So, there are lower running costs with efficient e-HDi technology, a smarter look and even the option of Grip Control for slippery roads. 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 Berlingo is offered with one petrol and four diesel powertrains. With improved efficiency and environmental performance, the HDi 75 now emits 133g/km of CO2 - down from 136g/km - thanks to changes including the new aerodynamic upgrades. The HDi 90 now emits 138g/km - down from 140g/km.
The e-HDi 90 Airdream EGS6, which features e-HDi micro-hybrid technology with Stop & Start and a six-speed automated manual gearbox, delivers even lower CO2 emissions of just 123g/km. On top of the economic and environmental benefits, this powertrain provides the benefits of two-pedal driving. To select auto, neutral, reverse or manual, the driver uses a fascia-mounted dial. There are then steering-mounted paddles for use in the manual mode.
For even greater safety on the road, this Citroen is available with Grip Control to increase traction, incorporating hill-start assist. HDi and e-HDi 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.
This Berlingo actually shares its basic platform with the Citroen C4 Picasso MPV. It uses independent front suspension and a transverse beam with angled shock absorbers at the rear with anti-roll bars featuring at both ends. On the road, 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.
Design and Build
The look of the Berlingo van remains recognisable but the vehicle gains a wider, more defined grille, a restyled chevron badge rising up to the headlights and a sleeker headlight arrangement. The wider air intake on the front bumper gives the vehicle a more powerful stance on the road and the door mirrors gain a more aerodynamic design to help reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.
Internally, the Citroen Berlingo is an impressive piece of work with good quality materials and neat design. The storage space is 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.
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
Whether you choose the standard length model or the longer L2 version, standard equipment includes ABS brakes, a trip computer, a CD stereo, central locking, electric front windows and internally adjustable door mirrors. The LX adds remote central locking, heated electric wing mirrors and an external temperature sensor. There's also the considerable pulling power of a standard Trafficmaster Smartnav satellite navigation and vehicle tracking system.
It's would be understandable if people who maintain a close eye on the light commercial vehicle market were mildly flummoxed by the Citroen Berlingo. The various small van contenders used to fit into convenient market sectors but Citroen has branched out in offering this larger Berlingo model along with the smaller Nemo which sits below. The Berlingo is tasked with pinching sales from the smaller models in the panel van sector as well as doing battle with direct competitors like Ford's long wheelbase Transit Connect and the Volkswagen Caddy Maxi.
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. 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.
The space in the Berlingo's cabin is immediately noticeable. It's wide with plenty of room for driver and passenger. Problems start to arise when you specify the three-seat model, a highly unusual inclusion on a van of this size. The protruding dash mounted gear lever makes the middle berth tight though, for all but small children. The real advantage of the Extenso cabin, as the three-seater layout is known, is the ability to fold the outer passenger seat down to increase the load length available. You can also flip the seat cushion up to make a handy storage area on the cab floor.
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 large payload capacity 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.