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Road Test Berlingo's French connection


Its $15,990 price tag makes it the cheapest little guy in the one-tonne bonneted market and it can carry 800kg, giving it the biggest payload in its class.

The Berlingo bounced into Australia five years ago and by 2003 had pushed the Holden Combo off pole position. It was a newer product at the time compared to the older-model Combo. However, Holden launched a fightback with a newer, bigger model and this year is back at No.1 with 373 sales, compared to Berlingo's 186 for the first four months of 2005.

In the all-important price war, the cute-looking French van is still winning. However, the $15,990 tag, a $2000 price cut which has remained for more than a year, does not include the sliding door, which costs an extra $750.

The side sliding door gives delivery people quick access to the front of the loading area. The back doors can swing open 180 degrees to allow a forklift to load a pallet. Citroen has given the van a 1.4-litre engine, single overhead-cam four, which pushes out 57kW of power at 5500rpm and 111Nm of torque at 3400rpm.

This is plenty of get-up-and-go for city deliveries. Citroen says the Berlingo is one of the few vans designed purely as a van.

"This was purpose-built for a van and isn't just a box added to a passenger vehicle," a spokesman says. "The seating is much higher."

The small cabin in the Berlingo required a little time getting used to and I had difficulty finding the small, button-like pedals.

The smooth soles of my boots slipped off the small pedal and it took a while finding the right pedal because they are positioned closer together than other van pedals.

However, when I swapped work boots for runners this wasn't a problem. Although it is designed as a van, its car-like styling gives the vehicle loads of comfort and it handles well in city traffic.

The load area is large for its size, measuring 1.8m in height, with a total 3cum.

One of the nice hi-tech touches is how the radio adjusts its volume according to how fast you are going. The wipers are also speed sensitive and move faster when you put your foot down.