The most recent facelifted version of Citroen’s best-selling model, the Berlingo light van, made its debut at the Commercial Vehicle Show in April before arriving in showrooms in July.
It’s fair to say the Berlingo is Citroen’s key light commercial model in the UK: last year it notched up 15,349 sales, almost three times as many as the 5879 registered by the brand’s next biggest seller, the Relay, and was the UK’s seventh most popular van overall, according to the SMMT.
The Berlingo vies for top spot in the light van sector with the Peugeot Partner, with which it shares a platform. In 2014 the Partner was the bigger seller – a reverse of the positions the previous year.
Citroen previously updated the Berlingo, with aerodynamic and styling tweaks, in 2012. The second generation model appeared four years prior to this, a dozen years after Citroen launched the van in the first place.
Notwithstanding further tweaks along the way, this vintage of the Berlingo, which boasts a redesigned grille and front bumper, is set to continue until 2018 when the new generation model, together with the Partner from Citroen’s PSA stablemate Peugeot, will also provide the blueprint for a new version of the Opel/Vauxhall Combo, which currently shares a platform with Fiat Professional’s Doblo Cargo.
Prices for the current model, excluding VAT, range from £12,515 to £15,015. Initially there will be a choice of Euro5 HDi 75 and 90hp diesel engines as well as Euro6 VTi 95 petrol and Blue HDi 100 and 120hp diesel powertrains but the Euro5 units, will be phased out in May 2016.
Citroen claims the Berlingo offers the widest range of factory variants in its class and the revised model is available in two panel van lengths, three trim levels (X, LX, Enterprise), with XTR+ enhanced traction, as an electric van, a crew van and a platform cab. It is also up for grabs with stop&start, manual five and six-speed gearboxes and Citroen’s ETG6 semi-auto transmission.
The greenest version is the BlueHDi 100 S&S ETG6 L1 625 LX model with official combined cycle fuel consumption of 68.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 109g/km.
This betters the most economical pre-facelift Berlingo, which returned 62.8mpg and 118g/km CO2.
These figures, shared with the Partner, are extremely competitive with the most frugal models in the sector. The best the Combo can manage is 56.5mpg and 133g/km CO2 but Vauxhall declined to take on the upgrades Fiat Professional gave its doner model, the Doblo Cargo, which now posts fuel consumption of 64.2mpg and CO2 of 115g/km for the 1.3-litre Ecojet version.
The fourth generation of VW’s Caddy claims official fuel consumption of 65.7mpg with CO2 output of 114g/km for the Bluemotion model, figures which are slightly less frugal than those of the Econetic version of the Ford Transit Connect’s 67.3mpg and 109g/km CO2.
Until Euro6 technology becomes mandatory on new vans in 2016, requiring periodical top ups of Ad Blue solution to reduce NOX emissions, Euro5 derivatives are likely to remain the most popular.
We tested the Euro5 Berlingo HDi 75 manual L1 in the top of the range Enterprise trim. New to this flagship specification, together with the LX below it, are cruise control and a programmable speed limiter. Citroen has also enhanced the Enterprise specification with a seven-inch touchscreen and an audio system featuring DAB radio and has added a security alarm as standard as well.
All new Berlingo vans now get Teletrac Smartnav sat nav and Trackstar stolen vehicle tracking as standard.
The L1 derivative has a load volume of 3.3m3, which can be extended to 3.7m3 with the passenger seat folded. This means it offers more space than the SWB Connect (2.9m3 with passenger seats in use) and the Caddy (3.2m3). The Vauxhall Combo, however, provides loadspace of 3.4m3 in the L1H1 shape, as does Fiat Professional’s Doblo Cargo.
But the Berlingo L1 is a versatile load lugger: the 1800mm load deck length is extendable to 3000mm with the outer passenger seat folded down. Alternatively this seat can be raised vertically against the seat back to create space for taller items – the height in the load compartment is 1250mm.
The load box is reached through asymmetric rear doors and a nearside side loading door.
The 641kg payload capacity of the Berlingo 75 L1 falls a long way short of the 750kg cited by Vauxhall and Fiat for the nearest equivalent Combo and Doblo Cargo vans, however.
VW offers payloads of up to 735kg on its Caddy but in SWB format, Ford’s Transit Connect goes up to a modest 625kg. Opt for a MWB Connect though and you can get a weight capacity of more than 1000kg. If you want more payload in the Berlingo, the HDi 90 L1 offers 896kg in both LX and Enterprise trims.
Our test van had a price tag of £14,395, all prices listed exclude VAT, but on top of this it had metallic paint for an extra £320, making the side rubbing strips more important, a front passenger airbag for £120, a shame it’s not standard, a rear camera for £200, which is helpful and provides an excellent view, but is arguably not necessary considering Enterprise spec comes with reversing sensors as standard, a £190 Visibility Pack including automatic windscreen wipers, automatic headlights with a delayed “Guide me home” switch off function and front fog lights with a cornering function.
We also got the £240 Look Pack, providing body colour front and rear bumpers, door mirrors and door handles, the aforementioned side rubbing strips, chrome chevrons on the grille, LED daytime running lights and 15-inch wheel covers. A £20 cigar lighter was thrown in too.
Once behind the wheel of the Berlingo you become quickly aware that you are driving a van – car-like it is not and the drive and handling are light years away from the slickness of the Transit Connect, VW Caddy or revised Fiat Doblo Cargo.
The steering column is adjustable for both rake and reach, which is helpful for driver comfort and also hosts audio controls, but the steering itself is a little slack compared to the precision available elsewhere in the sector.
Likewise the five-speed manual gearbox in our van was notchy with long throws between changes. A curiously tiny arrow on the dash notifies the driver of the most economical moment to change gear. What’s more the casing for the gear shaft gets in the way of the two cup holders, which are themselves positioned awkwardly low, making it tricky to pick up your cup of coffee – not recommended while on the move.
The glove box does not seem to have been designed with practicality in mind either, it consists of small compartments, none of which are big enough to fit the handbook into. The middle seat in the 75 L1 is redundant in terms of providing enough space for anyone to actually be able to sit on it due to the lack of legroom but it does house useful, discreet stowage space underneath and the back pulls down to provide a clipboard table.
A shelf running across the top of the windscreen provides another handy storage option for paperwork or laptops.
In our van a split bulkhead with a mesh top protected the driver from any items deciding to invade the cab from the load area but passengers have to take their chances.
Despite the lack of insulation that would come from a full bulkhead, we did not find road or wind noise intruded upon either conversation or the sound from the very decent audio system. The load bay itself is well protected against damage by full ply-lining.
Citroen Berlingo 75 L1 625 Enterprise
Price (ex VAT) £14,395
Price range (ex VAT) £12,515 - £15,015
Insurance group 3E
Service intervals 16,000mls
Load length 1800mm
Load width (min/max) 1230mm/1620mm
Load bay height 1250mm
Gross payload 641kg
Load volume 3.3m3
Engine size/power 1560cc/75hp
On sale July 2015
Combined fuel economy 56.5mpg
Not the most refined light van available but economical