Compact commercial vans have limousine-like comfort, economy and performance nowadays, combined with very interesting transport volumes and payloads. The Citroen Berlingo is a case in point.
Recently, we were able to test the long wheelbase version with the 1,6 litre 90 HP Diesel engine and 5 speed manual transmission, just read on to find out more…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Pleasing to the eye...
Our test car came in the long version, and even as such, the proportions of the Berlingo were quite good. The car looks quite elegant from any angle, being an asset for many small business owners who see their van also as a way to promote their business.
The Berlingo is also quite practical with easy access to the rear with double doors which have very good arrests so they stay open easily even when the car stands on an incline. There is of course also a sliding door, to give you ample access to the loading space.
Overall finish of the Berlingo is quite good, and the car gives a solid quality feel. Seats are firm, dashboard materials are well chosen for the job, and instrument layout is excellent. Instrument dial buffs as we are, we were especially fond of the classic looking round dials for rev counter and speedometer, which would not be out of place on a classic car...
Getting in and out of the car is quite easy, as it should, as the Berlingo will often be called for duty as a urban frequent delivery van...
Excellent GPS and road info...
Our test car bears "GPS" in its version name, and this for vey good reason: it comes with a truly excellent map screen info,
very complete, dead accurate and very easy and intuitive to use. On our trip over many French "Départementales" we appreciated the precise indications, and, as said, using it was truly a breeze.
The same can be said for the excellent and well laid out radio commands and station finder, and the sensitivity and reception quality of the unit left nothing to be desired.
Of course, an "aux" inlet is built in for your media player(s), so you will hardly be bored. A bluetooth connection is also provided of course.
Smooth and easy performer
Of course, a business instrument like this van should be fit for the toughest of jobs, like hours on end on the “autoroutes” and also hours long pottering in the tightest and busiest urban traffic.
In both disciplines, the 90 Hp HDI Diesel engined Berlingo truly excels. The engine is smooth, and above all very, very docile. It develops its maximum power at 4000 rpm, and has a maximum torque of 215 Nm at merely 1750 rpm.
Thanks to the progressive and smooth clutch, crawling along in traffic jams and congestions is no pain at all. The Berlingo is also able to drive very slow in first gear, with the engine being completely untemperamental, and this adds to a relaxed, restful driving style, which you really can enjoy in the Berlingo. The gears are also well chosen, and even city speeds of around 30 kph can be driven with effortless smoothness in third gear, greatly enhancing economy in city driving. The engine has more than enough torque to pull away with ease from these speeds onward, without having to change down to achieve quite decent acceleration, even when laden.
Like we said, the engine is an example of docility combined with very good low rev pulling power. Even when driven with verve, it is hardly necessary to leave the rev range below 3000 rpm.
The gearbox also changes smoothly, and using it is really no pain. The gearlever is also very well placed and rests good in your hand.
On the open road, unerring straight line stability is enjoyed, low wind noise, but of course, in our commercial version, some road roll roar from the tyres could be noticed, without it ever becoming obtrusive however.
The Berlingo will cruise easily at speeds around 120-130 kph, and will tackle motorway hills with no effort in fifth gear at these cruising speeds, even when laden, thanks to the good power and above all the excellent torque of the engine. At these speeds, consumption is also quite reasonable, we stayed in the 6-7 litre range quite easily, and we mostly drove with load.
Of course, as a good van befits, there is plenty of "living" room for the driver and its passenger, with lots of storage spaces and bins, in the doors, above the window, in the cente console.
The seating position is excellent, and one does not become tired even on very long stretches behind the wheel, thanks of course to the van-typical rather upright seating position, which we happen to like very much.
The suspension is also very well set up, striking a very good balance between comfort, road holding and agility and behaviour under load. Here the vast experience of the manufacturer truly tells, and this "savoir faire" also enhances the driving pleasure this van provides.
This being said, we truly like the driving behaviour of vans when it comes to driving or touring in a leasurely manner, and this says of course also a lot of the joys which can be had when driving a passenger or non commercial version of the Berlingo...
Of course, braking is very good, and the car feels surefooted, even when driven with verve, as well in the dry as in the wet, and even - or should we say - especially - on uneven road surfaces...
The Citroen Berlingo has been the best sold van of the year in 2013, and this for good reason, if you ask us. After this test, we came to appreciate very much its practicality, the smooth, endearing way it performed and drove, its altogether rather pleasing styling. It proved a very good companion to do (transport) business with, and it certainly merits a good look and test drive when you are considering the purchase of this van, be it for business or pleasure... Talking about pleasure, we certainly look forward to a test of the passenger version of the Berlingo. Just continue too look at these columns....
Hans Knol ten Bensel