Buying an affordable workhorse van can mean some compromises – but depending on if you're willing to take a gamble on an emerging brand, you might not need to sacrifice space for price.
As such, we’ve brought two well-known small vans – the Volkswagen Caddy, Australia’s best-selling model in the segment, and the Citroen Berlingo, a go-to second option – and the much larger, but also cheaper, LDV G10.
As you can see in the images, the LDV plays in the category of vans the next size up, but with pricing that undercuts most small vans available on the Australian market, it is a true segment buster - something the Chinese brand needed in order to gain some market share in the notoriously fickle commercial vehicle segment.
Let’s find out.
Pricing and equipment
These three vans are pretty close on price, and there’s not too much between them when it comes to standard equipment.
The LDV G10 we have here is the recently added base model manual version – we've previously tested the 2.0-litre turbo petrol automatic model and came away pretty impressed. This version, though, drops the turbo engine and six-speed automatic transmission in favour of a lower-tech 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and a five-speed manual transmission.
As such, it costs a fair chunk less than that already-budget-friendly model (it is $29,990 drive-away), with this one – get this – costing just $25,990 drive-away.
So it’s not only the cheapest van in the mid-sized segment, it’s also sharp enough to shake things up in the segment below.
The Citroen Berlingo L2 Long Body model we have on test is a $26,500 drive-away proposition, and you can expect a similar promotional deal to run for quite a while. The list price is $26,990 plus on-road costs.
There’s a smaller Berlingo (the L1 petrol manual that shares the same wheelbase as our tester, but has a short body on top - priced from $21,990) that is cheaper, but more people buy the spec we have on test.
The Volkswagen Caddy we have here is not the most affordable version of the small van you can get – there’s the budget-conscious manual Runner model that starts from just $23,990 drive-away, and it’s something of a no-frills affair with a less powerful engine than our tester and a manual gearbox. The Caddy TSI220 DSG we have here though, has a few more bells and whistles (not many, though!), and the dual-clutch automatic transmission many drivers may prefer over a manual gearbox. It is listed at $28,990 plus on-road costs.
The Caddy is the only auto on test, but you can get automated versions of the Citroen (the L2 ETG version, with its far-from-perfect semi-automatic transmission: $30,990 plus on-road costs/$30,500 drive-away); and there’s also that aforementioned LDV G10 with the turbo engine and automatic transmission ($29,990 drive-away).
As for equipment, all three vans have media screens with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, radio and CD player – the LDV’s screen even offers DVD playback. The screen in the Volkswagen is a 5.0-inch touchscreen unit, while the LDV and the Citroen have 7-inch touchscreens. All three have USB connectivity, too.
That new 7-inch touchscreen in the Citroen (now the same as the one seen in Peugeot and Citroen passenger cars, not the aftermarket Pioneer unit that was fitted to 2015 models) has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. You can get those smartphone smarts in the Caddy, too, but you have to pay $1290 for the privilege (or $2090 if you want satellite navigation as well). Apple and Android phone mirroring is not available in the LDV, and it can’t be had with sat-nav, either - the brand is betting that most buyers will suction-cup their own map system onto the windscreen instead.
The Volkswagen misses out on a rear-view camera as standard but you can option that tech bundled with rear sensors for $1090, but only if you choose a lifting tailgate rather than barn doors. It’s also worth noting the Caddy has no parking assistance kit as standard, with rear sensors optional ($590 without the camera).
The LDV is the only one with alloy wheels, and they’re 16-inchers. The Volkswagen has 16-inch steel wheels, and the Citroen has 15-inch steelies with hubcaps.
The LDV G10 is the only one here without cruise control, which could be a pain for distance drivers. It also misses out on steering wheel audio controls, and the volume knob is, annoyingly, on the far side of the dash. Both the Volkswagen Caddy and Citroen Berlingo have steering wheel controls of sorts – the Caddy’s are on the lovely little flat-bottomoed steering wheel, while the Berlingo’s are on a clumsy stalk that extends from the steering column.
All that aside, the LDV is the only van on test with climate control air-conditioning. The other two have manual dial controls. All three have auto-off headlights, which is great for busy drivers with other things on their mind, but the Citroen is the only one here without a digital speedometer, and its analogue unit has European increments (50, 70, 90, 110km/h) meaning you’ll have to keep a close eye on it in 60, 80 and 100km/h zones.
As for safety kit, all three vans have dual front airbags, but the Volkswagen and Citroen have side airbags as well. All three have anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control, too.
How each of these vans is configured comes next.
There is no small van in the LDV range yet, so buyers will either be able to live with the size of the G10, or they won’t. It is 760mm longer than the Caddy and 540mm longer than the Berlingo, not to mention being taller, wider, and riding on a longer wheelbase than either of those vans.
The budget Chinese van also has the biggest cargo area by far, and it has larger door openings than in either of the smaller vans.
It’s not just in terms of real estate that the LDV fights a bigger game than the others – it’s also more of a heavy hauler. The G10 model can cope with a payload of 1093 kilograms, where the other, smaller models here, fall more than 300kg short. It also has two cubic metres more capacity than the Volkswagen, which could be a big cost saver in the long run as it may mean fewer trips for delivery drivers.
Here’s a table that should make it easier to get your head around the vast dimensional and capacitive differences between these three:
|Measurements||Citroen Berlingo||LDV G10||Volkswagen Caddy|
|Width(between wheel arches in brackets)||1554mm(1230mm)||1590mm(1278mm)||1556mm(1170mm)|
|Rear door opening(height and width)||1148mm (h)1250mm (w)||1179mm (h)1370mm (w)||1134mm (h)1183mm (w)|
|Side door opening(height and width)||1100mm650mm (w)||1165mm (h)820mm (w)||1097mm (h)701mm (w)|
|Cargo volume||4.1m3 (pass. seat down)/3.7m3 (seat up)||5.2m3||3.2m3|
It’s worth noting that the Volkswagen is the only model here that can be optioned as a crew van in long-wheelbase specification. In fact, as we found with the Volkswagen Transporter in our most recent mid-sized van comparison, the German brand offers plenty of options to try and tailor to the needs of its buyers.
For instance, the Caddy comes standard with just the one sliding door, but barn doors at the rear. You can option a second sliding door if required ($690), and it can be optioned with glass in the doors ($290 each) if necessary. You can also option a rear tailgate (solid: $100; glazed: $790) if you want, and as mentioned above, that’s the only way you can get a rear-view camera fitted ($1090 including rear parking sensors).
That’s all well and good, but in this company there’s a focus on value, and the fact the LDV comes with dual sliding doors standard could be a big bonus for buyers. It does, however, lack the option of barn doors at the rear, meaning forklifting pallets in is impossible, despite LDV claiming the G10 can fit two Aussie pallets in the cargo area.
The G10 has six floor-mounted tie-down points to secure a load, as well as four further tie-down hooks mounted on the wheel arches. The Caddy and Berlingo have six floor-mounted tie down points each, while the French van also has a driver’s seat protector that neither of the others offer, but you can’t option a bulkhead in either it or the LDV, but you can get a fixed partition in the German van for $290.
The LDV feels the biggest van as soon as you haul yourself up into the seat. The other two have more back-friendly slide-in seats, but the LDV hits back with an advantage in terms of vision from the driver’s seat. It has decent sized side mirrors, but not quite as good as the Volkswagen’s. The Citroen’s side mirrors are quite small, meaning tight reverse angles could be a bit daunting.
As for cabin storage, the LDV can’t match the Citroen and Volkswagen despite having a vast size advantage.
It lacks high-mount cup-holders that the other two have, instead asking occupants to deal with two low-mount pop-out adjustable units. The Caddy counters with four cup holders and two bottle holders in the doors, while the Berlingo has a single cup holder between the seats and a couple of door-mounted bottle holsters.
The Citroen, however, has an ingenious roll-top storage box between the seats that is not only deep enough to offer a great hidey hole for tablets or laptops, but can also be removed from the car to open up a flat space between the seats if needed – great for accomodating long loads. Neither of the other vans have covered centre console sections.
Further, the little Euro vans both have clever overhead folder holders – great for clipboards – that the Chinese model misses out on. And the Citroen has a battery of storage holds on the top of the dashboard, including a closable one behind the instrument cluster. The Volkswagen has a couple of smaller, er, caddies for storing loose items, too.
If you like to drive with the windows down, the LDV has auto down on the driver’s side only, where the Volkswagen has auto down on both, and the Citroen wins with auto up and down on both – despite its window triggers being positioned oddly, near the gear selector.
In fact, that point about the Citroen’s ergonomics was something that all on the comparison raised. The placement of the controls is typically French – meaning you will be confused at first, but learn to live with the locational logic over time. The Volkswagen is typically Teutonic in its ergonomic execution – simple, smart and sensible. The LDV is perhaps the least user friendly in that respect – you’re always going to have to reach over to change the stereo volume, for example, and also have to reach down to get your coffee (unless you head to your local auto parts supplier to get a vent-mounted holster!).
The seats in the LDV, though, are very good. It has central armrests for both chairs, and also has better lower back support and sculpting than those in the Volkswagen. The Citroen’s seats, with their strange shape that lacks cushioning in the lower bolster section, may look pretty cool, but they aren’t as supportive as we would like for longer-distance driving.
We’ve already made mention of the media screens, but their usability is key – and the Citroen’s unit was by far the pick of the pack. Clean, crisp, easy to navigate and with the hard-point menu and volume buttons it was the most user-friendly by far. But the placement of the USB port in the passenger-side foot well area is odd.
The LDV’s screen was also crisp to look at, but lacks the intuitive menus that the others offer. It also has an annoying screen saver that pops up after a period of time. You can adjust the timing that it happens, but still, it might be better to just have it remain on the radio screen. Also, it had the most unintuitive Bluetooth system – you go to the phone menu on the display, and it remains greyed out, meaning you can’t pair it through the screen itself. A few of us must have spent minutes each trying to figure this out, before realising that you have to initiate the process from your phone, by hooking up to the car rather than the reverse.
Our Caddy’s system, while a bit pixelated, did everything demanded of it. Bluetooth was easy to connect and reconnected smoothly, and the menus are simple to navigate. Overall, it felt the most premium of these three in terms of overall cabin refinement, despite lacking some equipment.
You’d expect the LDV to drive in a far less city-friendly manner in this company, but we were surprised at just how well it coped with the cut and thrust of urban duties.
Sure, it may have had a incrementally larger turning circle than its much smaller competitors, but it steered easily and precisely, making parking moves and roundabouts a cinch.
The other two also offered pinpoint steering at low speeds, with the Citroen offering a very light action in the driver’s hands and remains easy to twirl at higher speeds, and the Volkswagen being fingertip-light at parking speeds but building resistance with pace.
On the topic of parking, the camera systems in both the LDV and Citroen make a massive difference to the usability of those models in day-to-day driving. The Volkswagen’s optional sensors are good, but we reckon a camera really is a must for this type of vehicle.
As for ride comfort, the LDV and Citroen again smacked the Volkswagen around a bit. Or maybe that should have read that they cushioned the Volkswagen out of contention…
Both the Chinese and French vans offer better suspension comfort and composure over sharp bumps, with the rebound control in particular making for a smoother drive experience. The German model felt way too stiff over bumps, rebounding sharply in an unsophisticated manner at the same speeds over the same lumps.
The Volkswagen’s drivetrain also offered a few quibbles, with its 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine (with 92kW of power and 220Nm of torque) stumbling a little from a standing start. There was a touch of turbo lag, but the main issue – as we’ve found with many Volkswagen Group products in the past – was the dual-clutch (DSG) transmission.
It has some hesitation and lurchiness when you apply throttle, but once you get away, the drivetrain is very good. The DSG shifts rapidly and super cleanly, and while the Caddy is the smallest van here, it has more torque than its rivals – yep, even the diesel-powered Berlingo.
Our biggest bugbear with the Volkswagen, though, was how noisy it was on test – it was like an echo chamber. Hit a cats eye, and you hear it up front and then twice as loud in the rear. Road noise, too, was excessive in comparison to the other cars.
The French van has a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbo with 66kW of power and 215Nm of torque and it develops peak pulling power at 1500rpm (the Volkswagen has its across 1500-3000rpm). Either way, both have plenty of grunt, and the diesel engine in the Citroen felt reassured and rewarding to drive, while also feeling a little more resilient to low-rev labouring in-gear.
The gearshift action is a bit long in the throw but light to shift, and the clutch pedal also requires minimal effort.
The LDV’s (Mitsubishi-sourced!) 2.4-litre petrol four-cylinder has the biggest capacity of the three here, and the highest peak power (105kW) but the lowest amount of torque (200Nm).
You can feel it when you drive the big Chinese van, too, and the weight penalty it pays – it has a tare weight of 1907kg, where the Citroen has a kerb weight of 1580kg (including the weight of a driver and fluids) and the Volkswagen has a kerb mass of 1321kg (its tare weight is only 1208kg).
Still, it got along decently, particularly in first and second gears. But in third gear there seemed to be a bit of a torque hole, and at higher speeds it required a downshift up steeper hills to maintain momentum - in part, due to the gearing of the transmission. On the whole, though, the drivetrain was bearable, and would prove fine for a business buyer considering a fleet of these budget models for their drivers to live with.
The gearbox in the LDV was also quite notchy in its action - you never really felt as though the shifter was slinking through the gate, rather than bumping into it, as it made its way into gear.
Warranty and servicing
All three vans have a three-year/100,000km warranty and three years of roadside assistance. The Berlingo is the only model in the Citroen range that misses out on the brand’s exceptional six-year/unlimited mileage cover.
The Volkswagen requires servicing every 12 months or 15,000km, and the program spans six years or 90,000km. On average, it’ll cost you about $450 per visit.
Citroen requires the Berlingo to be serviced every 12 months or 15,000km, which is handy for owners who spend a lot of time on the road. Citroen says it will cost about $1700 over three years (approximately $566 per visit).
The LDV doesn't come with a capped-price servicing program either, and oddly it requires its first service at six months or 5000km, with visits due every 12 months or 7500km thereafter. According to LDV, the van will cost about $1200 over the first three years to maintain (approximately $400 per visit).
While the LDV may be the most affordable to maintain, it would work out to be the dearest to run overall, due to the fact it was the thirstiest vehicle on test.
The G10 used 11.7 litres per 100km across a range of driving disciplines (it claims fuel use of 11.5L/100km, so that’s pretty honest). It was followed closely by the Caddy, which used 10.6L/100km (and claims use of 6.0L/100km). The Berlingo’s diesel manual drivetrain was the most frugal by far, averaging 7.2L/100km (while claiming 5.7L/100km).
If you’re after a budget van that has not only a small price tag but also a small footprint, then you’ll be more interested in which of the German and French models we’d recommend.
And it’s fair to say the Citroen Berlingo is the vehicle we’d put higher on our list than the Volkswagen Caddy.
If you can cope with a manual transmission (we tested the automatic version a while ago and while it’s not perfect, nor is the Caddy…), the Berlingo is a very amenable little van for the urban delivery driver or light-duty tradesperson.
The Volkswagen is also an impressive little van, with a clever, car-like interior, but without weight in the back it is jumpy over bumps, and it was by far the noisiest van on test in terms of cabin noise. The auto wasn’t perfect, either, so we’d understand if you were tempted by the manual-equipped Caddy Runner.
The LDV? Well, it was something of a surprise package in this company. We’d predicted that the petrol manual drivetrain wouldn’t be a highlight, and while it was far from perfect, it certainly wasn’t dire. We’d probably prefer the turbo petrol auto combo, but as a tool of the trade, the manual could be a great bargain buy for businesses.
Interior storage and ergonomic shortcomings aside, the LDV is a solid offering for the money. If you want the most van you can get for your money, take one for a test drive. You might be just as surprised as we were...
Click the Photos tab for more Citroen Berlingo, LDV G10, and Volkswagen Caddy images by Sam Venn.