SUVs MAY STILL be the most popular style of car but they aren’t suited to all families.
Sometimes you just need more space to transport bikes or buggies or golf bags or the dogs or the five-a-side team. Some families need space to fit three children in child seats and room for all the paraphernalia and extra baggage that goes with them.
So while SUVs may be all the rage what do you do if you need something more commodious? Enter the new Citroen Berlingo (formally the Berlingo Multispace), the car that started the Leisure Activity Vehicle (LAV ) segment way back in 1996.
The formula of boxy van-based-car that prioritises function over form has been a successful one for Citroen, so much so that this is just the third iteration in 22 years.
If it ain’t broke and all that… But this time round Citroen has paid a lot more attention to the car’s form as well as improving on its function making the Berlingo more stylish, more user-friendly, more high-tech and better to drive than ever before.
This new Berlingo is also available in two sizes; ‘M’ (4.40 metres long) and ‘XL’ (4.75 metres long) and both of these can be had with five or seven seats.
On the outside, the Berlingo is styled similar to other members of the Citroen family and we can see it has a similar face to that of the new C3 and C4 Cactus. There are the striking double-decker lights, a black A-pillar and distinctive ‘Airbumps’ along the side of the car.
On the inside, the cabin gets funky upholstery, with bright pops of colour that really liven the place up. There is a decent mix of soft-touch material, leather and more durable hard plastics. There is also a slick looking eight-inch touchscreen and the dashboard has some lovely design flourishes making this van-based MPV feel every inch like a regular car, albeit one with 186 litres of hidden storage. Yup, there are 28 storage areas in the cabin for stashing an awful lot of items. This helps keep the cabin very neat and tidy.
But the main thing you notice about the cabin is just how much room there is all around. You can get three ISOFIX child seats across the rear seats. There is ample legroom so the kids will have a hard time kicking the backs of the seats. I mean, they’ll find a way, it will just take a bit more effort.
To make even more space, the rear seats are all individually adjustable and can be folded to create a flat loading area. The front passenger seat can also be folded to create additional room and allow easy loading of items up to 2.7 metres in length in the M version – or 3.05 metres in the XL model.
If you opt for the M version with five seats the boot can hold 775 to 1,414 litres or the M version with seven seats can hold 65 litres with all seats in place.
If you opt for the XL version with five seats the boot can hold 1,050 to 1,672 litres or the XL version with seven seats can hold 209 to 322 litres with all seven seats in place.
Out on the road, there is great visibility and the driving position is raised so you have a good view of the road ahead. The large wing mirrors and flat rear end make parking a breeze and even though the A-pillars are a little thick the large side windows make up for any blind spots. There is a fantastic amount of seat and steering column adjustment to ensure that even the shortest and tallest of drivers can find a comfortable and safe driving position.
Those big, wide seats are comfortable but there isn’t much bolstering in them so they don’t hold you in place much and this can be felt when taking sharp corners.
The Berlingo’s cabin is nice and quiet and Citroen has done a great job of suppressing wind, road and engine noise. It helps that the engines are so refined, and that goes for the diesel too. I was very impressed with the relaxing feel to the drive.
As mentioned, this is based on the Berlingo van and the rear end of the car still uses the old RG5 platform, however, the front end is built on the ‘EMP2′ platform which is the same as found in the Peugeot 3008 and 5008 and the Citroen C4 Cactus. This translates out on the road to a car that is easy to manoeuvre and has nicely weighted and accurate steering.
There is a decent amount of grip too, plus the option of Grip Control to cover driving on rougher surfaces. The suspension is tuned for comfort but it also does a good job of soaking up lumps and bumps. However, there is some body lean and roll, although not as much as you would expect from a tall vehicle like this.
Speaking of engines, I tested the 110hp 1.2-litre petrol unit, which is a perky, flexible unit with a nice bit of mid-range torque that also pulls well from low revs. It was paired with a six-speed manual gearbox which feels well suited to the engine, although the shifts can feel a little clunky at times.
However, if you will be regularly carrying a load of passengers and cargo you may be better opting for the 130hp diesel model, which has a bit more grunt. It also comes with the new eight-speed automatic transmission, which is slick, quick and smooth in operation. Final engine line-up and prices are yet to be confirmed for Ireland.
Overall, the new Citroen Berlingo is a flexible vehicle and a good choice for those with active lifestyles or a growing family who need practicality space but don’t want to compromise on style or comfort.
READ: Spend a lot of time on the road? These 8 items will make your journey that little bit easier >