It’s amazing how quickly two years passes, in this game. The 2016 Citroen Berlingo Long Body HDI is the third Berlingo I’ve reviewed in that time frame. I’ve previously tested the 2014 and 2015 models, and this new Berlingo has a lot to live up to, given both of those vehicles scored a solid eight overall.
This compact van segment is an interesting one. Cast your mind back a few years and the most common sight on urban roads was either the Holden Combo or the Berlingo. Now, the competitors have started to gain some traction in what is become a competitive – and popular – segment among buyers who need a useful work van.
Direct competitors for the Berlingo include the Renault Kangoo, the Volkswagen Caddy and the Fiat Doblo - the Holden Combo has cruised off into the sunset, though. The cheapest Doblo in LWB guise starts from $31,000 plus on-road costs, the Caddy Maxi $28,190 plus on-road costs and the Kangoo LWB starts from $26,990 plus on-road costs. Check the Berlingo pricing below and you can see why competition is fierce.
This time, we’ve secured the entry price point for what Citroen calls the ‘Long Body’ variant. This HDi-engined Berlingo starts from $26,990 plus the usual on-road costs, and has a manual transmission paired to the turbo-diesel engine. Step up to an automatic and pricing starts from $30,990 plus on-road costs. There’s also entry-level petrol ‘Short Body’ variant, which starts from $21,990 plus on-road costs.
So there’s something for most buyers across that model range if you need a compact van. This new Berlingo has a restyled front bumper, but remains very recognisable as a Citroen Berlingo. The twin headlines for the updated Berlingo range include new infotainment functionality and improved safety inclusions, which we’ll get to in a moment, but both factors promise to improve on an otherwise solid foundation.
Standard specification highlights include: a 750kg payload, twin sliding doors, ESP, ABS and EBD, rear-view camera with rear park assist, 7.0-inch touchscreen, Mirror Link with wi-fi, cruise control with speed limiter, front and rear independent central locking, electric door mirrors, 60/40 barn doors, full-size spare wheel, height- and reach-adjustable steering wheel, electric windows with one-touch operation, air conditioning, driver airbag and an audio system with MP3 playback capability.
The diesel engine generates 66kW at 4000rpm, 215Nm at 1500rpm and has a top speed of 162km/h – not that you’ll get to experience that in Australia of course. In true European fashion, Citroen quotes a 0-100km/h time – 12.8 seconds – and the ADR claimed fuel use is 5.7L/100km on the combined cycle. On test we used an indicated 7.6L/100km almost exclusively around town. We expected the Berlingo to be frugal with its refined diesel engine, and it was.
The most obvious addition within the cabin is the improved infotainment system. The Berlingo is familiar in every other aspect from the previous models we’ve tested, which means a good driving position, solid visibility, comfortable seating, plenty of storage and controls that are easy to access. The infotainment improvements though, make a difference. We also love the seating position in relation to the road, so that the Berlingo is effortless to get into and out of numerous times in a day – something delivery drivers or tradies will appreciate. The slightly taller seating position assists in making forward visibility as good as it is too.
Back to the new infotainment, though. The locally-sourced and installed 7.0-inch Pioneer screen is excellent. It’s clear and the touchscreen display works flawlessly. Integrated support for Apple CarPlay (which we tested extensively) and Mirror Link (which we didn’t) is also included. The CarPlay system worked beautifully during our test, once again highlighting the cleverness of a system that effectively removes the phone from the equation. You will use the USB input for the CarPlay system, which means most people won’t need the auxiliary input that is also standard.
The ageing (and annoying to use) audio system was one of our very few gripes with the previous model, so the addition of this Pioneer unit for 2016 really brings the Berlingo bang up to date. As any professional drivers will know, a reliable and easy-to-use interface between driver and vehicle is invaluable, and the Berlingo is now a lot more pleasurable in this regard.
Added safety kit includes ESC, hill-start assist and traction control, not to mention the reverse-view camera, which is made easier by the crystal clear screen of the Pioneer source unit. We loved the addition of the camera specifically, which makes manoeuvring a whole lot easier, and a whole lot safer, especially when you have a solid-sided panel van. Despite the Berlingo’s comparatively diminutive size, the camera remains a sensible addition.
During our test, we loaded approximately 400kg into the back of the Berlingo and a few things were once again apparent. The moulded liner is better than a bare painted floor but still isn’t properly non-slip, which we’d prefer as standard. That said, our gear didn’t end up flying all around the load space, though. We’d still like a better non-slip lining regardless. The other factor that was apparent was how easily the Berlingo should cope with its maximum payload figure. The 400kg was barely noticeable and we’d expect the Berlingo to easily cope with 750kg.
The cabin is as comfortable as it has been with previous variants, we like the seating position, general ambience and insulation. You’d be able to improve on that with a fixed cargo barrier, as opposed to the flappy-plastic one we had fitted to our test Berlingo. But, even so, the cabin remains pleasant.
The diesel engine is excellent and the five-speed manual transmission we tested this time was just as impressive as the automatic variant we tested in 2015. Previously, the manual we sampled in 2014, also impressed with its smooth operation.
The first thing you notice when you start to drive the Berlingo is how car-like the experience is, and that is perhaps its most standout feature. It’s not like you’re driving a commercial vehicle, unless you remember the huge load space behind you. To all intents and purposes, you could be running around town in a small car. This segment is appealing almost on that fact alone, especially if you’re a driver who needs to spend plenty of time in the city.
Part of the driving enjoyment ties back to the way the diesel engine works at low speed. Pick-up just off idle is excellent. There are no holes in the torque delivery as the revs rise, and the Berlingo gets to speed – and holds that speed – effortlessly. That then flows down to the way you’ll use the gearbox, which is precise and sharp, but you don’t need to row through the gears constantly. Rather, you can ride the wave of torque offered by the small engine and use second and third gear a lot around town at lower speeds. It’s a relaxed experience all-round and much more enjoyable than you would ever expect a commercial vehicle to be.
The Berlingo is covered by Citroen's three-year/100,000km warranty including 24-hour roadside assistance coverage for the same period.
The 2016 Citroen Berlingo LWB remains right at the head of the compact van class. It’s combination of build quality and ease of use as well as an efficient diesel engine make it difficult to ignore. If you’re in the market for a compact van to use for work, it’s going to he hard for you to go past the new Berlingo.