The PSA partnership has colonised Vauxhall to create a light van force to be reckoned with in 2019. George Barrow looks at the car versions of the Berlingo, Partner and Combo to see what’s in store.
The Citroen Berlingo and Peugeot Partner vans have been sharing a platform for more than 20 years, producing two generations together and selling more than two million units worldwide.
On 2 January 2019 the third generation of PSA Peugeot-Citroen’s light van will launch in the UK, but the latest model will also bring a third member to the partnership.
Vauxhall will join the collective, and for the first time the UK-based manufacturer will be able to offer its Combo van as a passenger carrier.
For all three brands the ability to offer a well-packaged and compelling passenger version in September – giving an insight into what the van models will be like when they arrive early next year – is important as the additional sales from the retail sector can help significantly with shifting production volumes.
People-moving versions of the Citroen Berlingo Van will simply be called the Citroen Berlingo, the Peugeot Partner van is renamed the Peugeot Rifter, while the Vauxhall Combo van becomes the Vauxhall Combo Life.
Like the vans, each of the brands has its own interpretation of what it sees as the ideal model to represent its core values.
That means there are some subtle and some major differences between the models. Each has a radically different front end, virtually making them indistinguishable as joint-venture products, but there are also large changes to the inside with different specifications, layout and features across the three.
A similar undertaking has been made with the vans, but it’s more evident in the passenger car versions, and even extends to changes under the skin – something the light commercial vehicles will not get.
As with the vans, the cars will be available in two sizes, adding 350mm to the length of the vehicle.
Citroen, curiously, calls them M and XL, Peugeot Standard and Long, while Vauxhall simply refers to the larger one as XL. The increase comes in the shape of a wheelbase extension and a larger rear overhang and results in an additional two seats in the back of the car.
The smaller vehicle has space for five, with three individual rear seats, while the XLs add another two into a third row that can be moved forward or backward or removed altogether while the middle row can be folded into the floor. As a family car, access to the middle seats is particularly important. Here, the vans’ sliding side doors make a decent aperture while the hinged tailgate provides rear access. There’s also the option of an opening rear window in the tailgate for even quicker access.
A noticeable difference between van and passenger car is the availability of a rooftop storage tray that adds up to 92 litres of space to the interior. The transparent rib runs from front to back and not only allows light from the panoramic roof into the cabin, but provides convenient overhead stowage.
In the vans the large 8in touchscreen isn’t a standard feature, but for the cars it’s only the base-level Peugeot Rifter Active that does without. For all other trims, which include the Berlingo Feel and Flair, Rifter Allure and GT Line, and Combo Life Design and Energy, the tablet-like screen is included.
There are certain brand-specific changes made to the interiors – for example, the Berlingo includes a head-up display first seen on the Citroen Dispatch mid-sized van. This will now be available on Flair model people-movers and as an option on all but the base-level vans.