Citroen's Berlingo MPV offers a lot of space and flexibility for the money, thinks June Neary
Will It Suit Me?
I must be honest and say that the 'van with windows' formula has never been one that has much appealed to me. However, you have to say that it's a cut-price way of providing many of the benefits of one of those Scenic-like family MPVs without the prohibitive cost. Whilst a Renault Scenic costs from nearly £22,000, the Citroen Berlingo MPV featured here can be yours from only around £19,000 - quite a difference if you're buying on a family budget.
When this car first arrived in the UK badged as the 'Berlingo Multispace', it was a very basic thing indeed, but the launch of the second generation version in 2008 ratcheted up the quality factor quite a few notches. In the Summer of 2018, this third generation version was introduced, with smarter looks, more efficient engines and a nicer cabin. This demanded re-evaluation of the car on my part and in general, I came away impressed.
The first thing you notice about this Citroen after living with it for a little is its versatility. Here's an example: we used it for a picnic and it started to rain, whereupon we were able to take shelter beneath the raised tailgate. At over 4ft wide, this doubles up as a large umbrella and raises high enough for party of six footers to stand beneath it. As before, there are two wide sliding side doors and they feature electric windows. There are two body styles - 'M' and 'XL'. And buyers choose between 5 or 7-seat variants.
Another advantage of the LCV-inspired shape is that the van design's high roofline means enough headroom for the most vertically challenged passengers (up to 6ft 6in). It also, not surprisingly for a vehicle of this type, means a huge amount of luggage space - more indeed than you'd find in a large executive estate car. So yes, mountain bikes, scuba gear and surfboards can all be accommodated with ease. Loading heavy items in is aided by a reinforced rear bumper which can withstand up to 150kgs.
Citroen claims even more interior versatility this time round, with three individual seats in the rear that can be folded down with a simple movement using the 'Magic Flat' controls in the boot. Combined with a folding front passenger seat, this feature provides a perfectly flat floor and a load length of up to 2.70m for the standard 'M' version and 3.05m for the lengthier 'XL' model. That class-leading boot volume I mentioned has been increased by 100-litres to 775-litres for the 'M' version. The boot is easily accessible thanks to the opening rear window in the tailgate and two different height positions for the luggage cover. Around the cabin, there are 28 large and ingenious storage spaces such as the new-generation Modutop multi-function roof that also lets more light into the interior. The 'Top Box' glove box is unique to the segment thanks to the 'Airbag in Roof' system.
Neat touches abound around the cabin, with no fewer than 15 different storage areas that can accommodate anything from large bottles to small change. Above the front seats, a massive full-width overhead shelf is designed for maps and newspapers, whilst expandable pockets above and below the rear seat side windows provide handy storage for odds and ends. In addition, there are twin gloveboxes, incorporating cup and penholders. The dashboard looks a lot classier on the latest car than in early models with a large multi function display letting you know what's going on.
Behind the Wheel
Bearing in mind this car's commercial ancestry, I was expecting a less than exhilarating driving experience - but it wasn't too bad. Engine-wise, you get to choose between a 1.2-litre three cylinder Puretech petrol unit (with 110 or 130hp) or a 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesel (with 75, 100 or 130hp). For auto transmission, you'll need one of the 130hp variants.
All models feature compliant rear suspension to make them feel less like the van this car is based on. The result isn't something you'll be finding excuses to drive, but a vehicle that doesn't handle too badly either, with surprisingly little roll considering the height of the vehicle.
Value For Money
Prices start at around £19,000, rising to around £26,000 for the top 1.5-litre BlueHDi XL Flair model. That flagship 'Flair' variant is very generously equipped, including features like an 8.0in central infotainment screen, dual-zone climate control, a head-up instrument display, a 360-degree manoeuvring camera, a top-spec interactive navigation system, sophisticated connectivity on four different levels and a so-called Modutop system consisting of panoramic glass roof panels as well as all manner of shelves, gadget compartments and an ambient lighting show above occupants' heads. Citroen is also including its latest camera-driven safety tech too.
Could I Live With One?
Yes. To be honest, I'd want to take a careful look at one of these kinds of vehicles before investing so much in a mid-sized MPV like a Scenic or a Vauxhall Zafira Tourer. Van-based mid-sized People Carriers like this Citroen make that much sense.