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Boxy, slightly quirky van-based car returns to top form in only third iteration in more than two decades
  • First Drive

    Citroen Berlingo 2018 review

    Boxy, slightly quirky van-based car returns to top form in only third iteration in more than two decades
Steve Cropley Autocar
19 June 2018

What is it?

A little over two decades and 1.7 million vehicles ago, Citroën invented a brand new class of affordable van-based MPV called Berlingo. It was compact, simple and flexible, designed to utilise plentiful small hatch components to control cost and complexity while having so much cabin space that it outshone all other forms of family car.

Pretty soon everyone had something like it, with two sliding rear doors, five spacious seats and a huge rectangular prism of carrying space in the rear capable of swallowing a mighty stash of family luggage and a kitchen sink as well. It became so successful that there have only been two iterations in 22 years.

Now, the third-generation Berlingo is upon us in two versions: a familiarly sized 4.4-metre, five-seat model and a new seven-seat version that's 35cm longer. Best news for Berlingo lovers is that, with this thoroughly modern product, Citroën has deliberately moved to recapture the look and spirit of the admired original, admitting in private that the second-gen car, while successful, wasn’t its best design work.

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What's it like?

Production of the new model is already in full swing in Spain and Portugal for first deliveries in August or September. A few days ago, hacks were allowed a first drive in left-handed versions of the car predicted to be the UK’s best seller: the five-seater Berlingo Flair, powered by a 109bhp version of PSA Group’s already-ubiquitous Puretech 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine, with a six-speed manual gearbox.

Also offered in the UK will be several versions of PSA’s new and efficient 1.5-litre four-pot diesel, the most enticing of which, the 128bhp option, we were also allowed briefly to drive, equipped with an eight-speed Aisin automatic 'box.

Equipment is impressively dense in any new UK Berlingo — even the Feel model that opens the UK range, starting at around £19,000 for the lowest-spec 75bhp diesel and reaching £25,000 for the best-equipped diesel auto. (The French, who buy poverty models more readily than we do, can get a stripped-out entry-level model called Touch).

The top-end Flair we drove — with options — had equipment almost worthy of a luxury saloon; an 8.0in central screen, dual-zone climate control, a head-up instrument display, a 360deg manoeuvring camera, top-spec interactive navigation, sophisticated connectivity on four different levels and a so-called Modutop system consisting of panoramic glass roof panels plus all manner of shelves, gadget compartments and a kind of light show above occupants’ heads.

Buyers are also offered an XTR styling pack on top of Flair spec, complete with bigger wheels, skid-plates, roof rails and some orange design touches on its frontal details.

The standard Berlingo interior has no fewer than 28 gadget compartments totalling 186 litres of storage. The boot swallows a mighty 775 litres of 'stuff' — 100 litres more than last time.

On the roof are rails reminiscent of the C4 Cactus that can carry all manner of holiday loads and there’s a vast, square-backed tailgate (which opens to reveal the usual ultra-low Berlingo loading lip) made just for bike racks.

Better still, the Berlingo has a huge people-carrying interior that is much bigger than its new, rather neat exterior seems to promise. With the front seats set for your tall and overfed humble servant, there is space — including vast head room — for another the same size behind. The boot behind that could swallow an armchair. The three rear seats can fold individually and the front passenger seat also jack-knifes forward on itself, allowing an owner to carry timber beams around three metres long.

The seven-seater has five decently spacious seats behind the front pair, yet still with enough room (but less than in the five-door) for a decent collection of bags.

On the road, the Berlingo impresses instantly by being quite different from the average saloon and all the better for it. It rides quietly and softly, assuming a 'strolling' motion reminiscent of the original model but far better controlled by its compliant dampers. It smooths ripples and copes brilliantly with high-frequency bumps.

The steering is accurate and the car is easy to manoeuvre, but there’s a mild feeling of 'stiction' around the straight ahead that it could do without. There’s a special, lighter parking setting for the steering at low speed that we could have done without. When driven briskly, the car understeers mildly but corners with surprisingly little roll given its tall body and soft suspension, and grips well, too.

The Puretech engine is brilliant; smooth even when pulling below 2000rpm in higher gears and surprisingly strong in the 3000-4000rpm range, although outright performance is nothing special and there’s little point in revving the meaty little turbo engine beyond 5500rpm. The diesel with the eight-speed auto seemed strong and smooth, but decent impressions will have to await a longer drive.

Should I buy one?

For sure, if you like the slightly eccentric Berlingo way of driving things.

This new model is versatile and roomy, but feels a bit strange in the way it combines strait-laced simplicity with luxury car equipment. You can even get top models with a manually configured traction system called Grip Control and a hill descent speed control system — something few owners are likely to need.

Mainly, this all-new 2018 edition feels and looks like a proper Berlingo, judged by the standards of the high-achieving original, and that — as the car’s creators acknowledge — is a major achievement.

Citroen Berlingo Flair 1.2 Puretech 110 specification

Where Paris, France Price £18,000 (est) On sale September Engine 4 cyls, 1199cc, turbo, petrol Power 109bhp at 5500rpm Torque 152lb ft at 1750rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1356kg Top speed 109mph 0-62mph 11.5sec Fuel economy 51.3mpg CO2 125g/km Rivals Ford Tourneo Connect, Vauxhall Combo

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Comments
11

19 June 2018

... is there to appeal to the SUV crazed masses, as is the XTR pack. Hopefully they manage to get a couple of those, as this is, as a car, far superior than most of the B/C SUV segment offerings. More spacious, more practical, higher ground clearance... And now it seems to be a decent drive? May be the consumate family car.

 

Only things missing are a petrol/auto combo and PHEV or pure EV models. 

 

 

19 June 2018

The much better value for money Dacia Duster.....Now if Dacia would make the Dokka in RHD...

Steam cars are due a revival.

19 June 2018

... to see such a positive review of a car that makes soo much more sense in so many ways than all those 'premium' SUVs out there. 

19 June 2018

the new Jimny; two utterly refreshing and welcome entrants onto the new car market this year. 

19 June 2018

Unfortunatley the styling of the Citroen version is, well, a bit of a mess and as with other cars Citroen has tried it on, those black A pillars just look stupid.

XXXX just went POP.

19 June 2018

Great car, but I wish Citroen would stop painting their A-pillars black.  It looks really awkward and poorly resolved, particularly where it meets the roof.

19 June 2018

You'd have thought Citroen might have got the hang of the black A-pillar business by now, they've had enough practice with various models, but it still doesn't work.  I can't really see this recapturing of the look of the first generation  - certainly from the rear it looks just like the second version. Useful vehicle though.

19 June 2018

Good update of the perennial Berlingo maybe the last truly French car not too much change outside and a bright appealing interior in this top of the range model. My only quibble is the orange fog light surround I mean sacre bleu how much Pernod had been consumed when this was signed off?

19 June 2018

really all the vehicle most of us would ever need, and if you dont like some elements of how it looks there will be a Vauxhall, and Peugeot version. I am very pleased to see it getting 4 and a half stars

19 June 2018

- because they have more sense than us - probably get the most appropriate version of this car, which in my opinion works best when focusing on practicality, simplicity and good value. But hey, when the manufacturers can convince a whole car-buying public to shell out for a bucket-load of unnecessary gadgetry, each item of which boosting purchase price and profit margins, then who can blame them? 

Wide cars in a world of narrow.

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