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Tim Robson road tests and reviews the new Citroen Berlingo with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
The words 'unusual' and 'delivery van' aren't usually found together in the same sentence, but with Citroen's quirky Berlingo you can have your cake and deliver it too.
Up until quite recently, the idea of looking after the driver and the passenger in a delivery vehicle was quite a foreign one. Creature comforts were secondary when it came to maximising the practicality of a typical delivery van.
If you're a small business looking for something that's off the beaten track when it comes to a utility vehicle, the Berlingo has a number of advantages.
A car designer is pretty hamstrung when it comes to designing a small van. After all, it's essentially a large box, usually painted white, and it needs two to three large doors on it.
The French company's small van range comes in short (L1) and long (L2) wheelbase versions, and is a size down from the ubiquitous Toyota Hiace. Its engine is placed in front of the cab, which allows for much easier service access and a safer occupant zone.
Its main concession to good looks is its rounded, almost cute, snub nose, while the rest of the van is reasonably plain and unassuming. The side trims do, however, echo other cars in Citroen's range, like the Cactus.
In terms of functionality, the longer L2 Berlingo tested here comes with a sliding door on each side of the car as well as 60-40 split barn doors on the rear that can be opened extra wide. A canvas see-through curtain that's fitted as standard divides the cargo area and the cabin, and the floor is covered with hard plastic protection.
The cargo area can take a load up to 2050mm long, which can extend out to 3250mm when the front passenger seat is folded up, and it's 1230mm wide. It's 248mm longer than the L1, by the way.
There are no rear wheel wells to intrude on load space and there are metal tie down hooks located on the floor. There aren't, however, any tie down hooks located on the sides of the van, although there are perforations in the body shell to allow for straps to be used.
Its load capacity is rated at 750kg.
The seating position is probably the most unusual feature of the Berlingo.
At 1148mm millimetres high the Berlingo is surprisingly tall, though the rear beam over the loading doors can impede on loading when it comes to tall boxes.
It stands to reason that the driver's compartment should be comfortable; after all, the Berlingo and vans like it are designed to be used all day, every day.
The seating position is probably the most unusual feature of the Berlingo. The seats are quite tall and the pedals are quite low and hinged from the floor, which gives the impression that you're standing on top of the pedals rather than leaning into them.
The seats themselves are cloth covered and quite comfortable on even longer runs but extra tall drivers may find it hard to get the seat far enough back to get comfortable. The steering wheel is adjustable for rake and reach which is a great feature in a commercial van.
The 2017 version of the Berlingo has been updated with a new multimedia touchscreen system, Bluetooth, and a reversing camera. It also features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto via a USB port under the dash, and there's also a 12 volt power socket, as well as an auxiliary inline for stereos.
There's a deep central bin with a roller cover as well as a fold down armrest for the driver. Even though there are five cup holders in the Berlingo, not one single one of them can hold a regulation sized can of soft drink or cup of coffee. It seems the French like their espressos or their Red Bulls. However, there are slots for large bottles in both of the front doors.
There's also a shelf above the driver's head that runs the width of the cabin that might be suitable for jackets or softer items, but you really don't want anything harder flying back at you under acceleration.
Other creature comforts include electric windows, air conditioning, and switch operated locks. Speaking of the locks, the Berlingo has a unusually annoying habit of requiring the rear doors to be double unlocked before they can be used, which is a pain until you get used to it.
The Berlingo L2 is listed at $30.990 in semi-automatic gearbox form.
Because it's a commercial van, it isn't stacked with the latest multimedia gizmos. It does, however, have a couple of useful touches that make it easier to live with.
The headlights, for example, are not automatic but will switch off when the car is turned off. It also comes with an unpainted front bumper and naked steel rims for the ultimate in courier and delivery practicality.
It takes quite a lot of fiddling and thought process to access reverse gear in a hurry.
A multimedia touchscreen offers Bluetooth, audio streaming and vehicle adjustment settings.
It comes with the option of a three-seat rear bench, and it's offered in five colours.
The primary controls for the auto are actually mounted on a rotary dial located on the dashboard. It features a manual override that can be used via steering column mounted shifter paddles.
The gearbox has an unusual pause in between changes. It's certainly not seamless and in fact can be quite jerky until you get used to it. The best way to control it is to actually lift off the throttle in between gear changes, and the easiest way to do that is to use the manual paddles.
It takes quite a lot of fiddling and thought process to access reverse gear in a hurry because you're not used to looking on the dashboard for reverse!
In fact, it's the pause in the transmission that may put potential buyers off when they first try the car. Our recommendation is to stick with it and give it a go, because the engine itself is a real peach. With an economy figure in the low to mid sixes, over a longer run, it's quiet, it's torquey and it's strong, even with a load on board. It's also available with a manual gearbox.
Citroen claims the Berlingo returns 5.0L/L100km on the combined cycle. Over 980km of testing that included city and highway driving, and carrying approximately 120kg of cargo, we saw a dash-indicated figure of 6.2L/100km, and achieved 800km of range from its 60-litre diesel tank.
As a commercial vehicle, the Berlingo misses out on higher level safety tech like auto emergency braking, though we'd hope that companies trickle down this important technology to commercial users.
While it's not going to win a Grand Prix any time soon, it is more than good enough to handle the cut and thrust of busy day-to-day traffic.
The single most impressive feature of the Berlingo is its ride quality. The way the suspension is set up will embarrass a lot of modern hatchbacks on the market today.
It has incredibly sophisticated damping, perfectly set up springing, and it rides well both with and without a load. The steering too is very passenger car-like in its responses and, while it's not going to win a Grand Prix any time soon, it is more than good enough to handle the cut and thrust of busy day-to-day traffic, as well as a longer commute or delivery run.
We tested the car over almost a thousand kilometres of driving in country and urban areas and came away thoroughly impressed with the Berlingo's package of handling, economy, and power delivery.
Citroen offers a three-year 100,000km warranty with roadside assistance.
|L1||1.6L, PULP, 5 SP MAN||$11,600 – 17,050||2017 Citroen Berlingo 2017 L1 Pricing and Specs|
|1.6 HDi ETG Long||1.6L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$17,000 – 23,650||2017 Citroen Berlingo 2017 1.6 HDi ETG Long Pricing and Specs|
|1.6 Short||1.6L, ULP, 5 SP MAN||$11,100 – 16,280||2017 Citroen Berlingo 2017 1.6 Short Pricing and Specs|
|1.6 HDi Long||1.6L, Diesel, 5 SP MAN||$14,200 – 20,020||2017 Citroen Berlingo 2017 1.6 HDi Long Pricing and Specs|
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