Having grown up with a father in the building trade, I know a thing or two about work vans and trucks – including ‘small’ variants such as the Citroen Berlingo.
I’ve driven plenty, and I’ve also seen tradesmen and delivery guys (and girls) try to negotiate tight city streets in oversized commercial vehicles, so the current popularity of such sized vans is understandable.
Vans like the Citroen Berlingo are so damn practical – especially for anyone negotiating the inner city. Right out to the wider metro areas, parking, loading zones and streets are getting tighter, smaller and busier. The smaller your work van, the more nimble you can be day to day and that’s no bad thing.
Even in long-wheelbase (LWB) guise like our test model, the Berlingo makes a lot of sense. It’s big enough to be practical, but not too big to be handy for the congested confines of the city. An RRP of $24,990 is pretty handy, too, and it’s a price that should appeal to the small business owner.
Opt for the LWB model (or long-body model in Citroen-speak) and you get a spritely 1.6-litre turbo diesel engine that generates 66kW and 215Nm. Driving the front wheels, the little oiler uses an ADR claimed 5.8 litres/100km and is backed by a five-speed gearbox that is mounted high into the centre console, making regular ratio changes intuitive. You never feel like you need to stretch to the gear shifter.
The driver’s compartment is comfortable and spacious, with numerous positive features for the professional driver. First, seat adjustment is expansive enough to accommodate drivers of most heights, while still maintaining that comfortable, upright driving position.
Second there’s plenty of clever storage – most notably the central, rear-hinged bucket and the broad overhead shelf, both of which keep valuable items hidden from prying eyes, and third the major controls are all cleverly positioned and well within reach. We especially liked the positioning of the USB/Aux input, the 12V power sockets and the major audio and HVAC controls.
We appreciated features such as the tilt and reach adjustable steering wheel, Bluetooth phone connectivity, cruise control and heated exterior mirrors in what you might expect to be a stripped out work van. The Bluetooth phone connectivity worked well too, with callers at the other end of the line reporting a clear connection. Importantly, the front doors open almost square, meaning that climbing in and out is easy, no matter how tight the parking spot. Entry and egress is assisted by the cleverly positioned seats, which have a squab height that is ideal for hopping in and out.
Despite the windowless, sliding side doors fitted to our test vehicle, visibility (especially rearward) is also acceptable. Forward, the A-pillars aren’t too thick, and they never obscure any important details when negotiating city streets. Rearward, the large mirrors – both internal and external – are a cinch to set up for optimal visibility and the rear, side-swinging doors are fitted with windows so large they fill most of the doorframe.
The cargo space is both expansive and easily accessible. The Berlingo will swallow two full-sized pallets and its payload is an impressive 750kg. Sliding side doors ensure that cargo that is packed toward the cabin up front is easy to remove even if the back is loaded right up. And it’s easy to climb across from one side of the Berlingo to the other too. At the back, the side hinging doors open wide (and stay there) to make getting in and out as easy as it can be.
Our test example was fitted with a full-length rubber floor mat, which along with a cargo barrier up front, is a must have addition to the standard vehicle for any budding delivery driver. There are numerous sturdy tie-down points throughout the cargo area too.
At highway speed, there is some road noise and drumming from the cargo area, but the Berlingo is designed to haul a load, not be an empty void. Add some gear in the back and the road noise is ratcheted down a little. A cabin divider would help here too of course. The ride remains composed whether the Berlingo is laden or unladen, with the simple live rear axle set up doing a decent job of ironing out Sydney’s awful road network.
ABS is standard, but ESC isn’t – it’s an optional extra ($500.00). Likewise the second airbag, with only the driver’s standard, but three additional airbags are also available as an option ($500.00). The Berlingo has numerous strong points, but these are two definite weak points. The Visibility Pack (which also costs $500.00) adds rain-sensing wipers, auto headlights, a heat-reflecting windscreen and fog lights with static cornering function.
A week behind the wheel of the 2014 Citroen Berlingo illustrated just how practical these small vans are and why they are so popular. There’s a lot to like about being more nimble and maneuverable, while still being able to haul plenty of gear around. I could easily live with a Berlingo to use for its intended purpose. It’s no limousine, but the domain of the delivery driver has become a whole lot more comfortable than it used to be that’s for sure.
CarAdvice knows two long-term Berlingo owners. One uses his Berlingo to collect anything and everything for his restaurant - anything from new chairs and tables during a refit, to the morning fruit and vegetable collection that is. The other uses his Berlingo as a home delivery van for his restaurant/café business. Both are serious fans of the flexibility and reliability the Berlingo has shown over years of ownership. It’s fair to say that neither Berlingo has been particularly carefully looked after or maintained either, with both proudly displaying various battle scars.
Owner one is onto his third Berlingo, and there’s nearly 180,000km on the clock of the current steed. Owner two has just clocked over 250,000km in his second Berlingo. Both are adamant they wouldn’t use anything else for their business deliveries and general running round. Seat height, comfort and visibility are all noted as being factors that make the Berlingo so appealing. Servicing and reliability though are perhaps the Berlingo’s biggest positives. Both owners mentioned nothing in the way of serious problems and the cheap running costs as being key to their brand loyalty.
We ran the new Berlingo round to show them and get some feedback. Both guys commented on the apparent feeling of space in the cabin, seat comfort and excellent seat height for getting in and out – which is something you regularly do in a delivery van! The wide opening rear doors and twin sliding side doors were also appreciated, as was the generous storage space above the driver’s head over the windscreen. Our Berlingo fan boys were impressed with their only issue seeming to be with the external colour. Seems black gets dirty too easily…
In short, the Berlingo handles its required tasks with ease and comfort. I’d factor in an extra $1500 for the options discussed and I’d still be driving a genuinely cheap delivery van.
The 2014 Citroen Berlingo impresses – and if I had more junk to cart around with me, I could almost formulate a reason to buy one.