Vans and people movers have a simple job: to move lots of people or equipment with a minimum of fuss. That means they're often utilitarian boxes-on-wheels, high on practicality but lacking pizazz.
Citroen, though, has famously never been a slave to conventional design. Rather than turning out another bland box, the French brand is trying to break the mould when it comes to van design. Need proof? Look at the new Berlingo.
The third-generation load-lugger has been launched overnight with airbumps, contrasting colour inserts and a raised ride – all features traditionally associated with youth-centric small soft-roaders. Consider our interest firmly piqued.
Under the skin is a hybrid platform. The front end is based on the Peugeot Citroen (PSA) EMP2 architecture, while the rear has been built around the existing Berlingo platform. It was actually developed as part of a joint venture with GM, agreed upon before PSA bought Opel and Vauxhall.
The company says the EMP2 front allows for shorter overhangs and electrically-assisted steering, along with the latest in semi-autonomous driver assists, while the rear-end has been optimised to create more space between the wheel-arches.
While we're talking driver assists, the car will be offered with lane-departure warnings, driver-attention alerts, adaptive cruise with stop-go support, blind-spot monitoring, auto-emergency braking between 5 and 85km/h, intelligent high-beam headlights and a trailer stability control system.
Two wheelbases will be offered: a 4400mm-long, 2780mm-wheelbase variant dubbed 'M' and a 4750mm, 2970mm-wheelbase 'XL' model. Both options will be available with a five- or seven-seat layout, and light-commercial models will follow later this year.
The shorter option has a load capacity of 775 litres, while the bigger van will carry 1050L in five-seat guise. Citroen says the former will take items up to 2.7 metres long, while the latter will swallow 3.05m objects thanks to its folding rear and front passenger seats.
Aside from the load bay, the Berlingo has 28 storage spaces dotted around the cabin for a whopping 186L of oddment storage space. The roof has been cleverly used, and there are two glove boxes on the passenger side of the car with USB connectivity, audio inputs and space for a 15-inch laptop.
Beyond the storage spaces, Citroen has tried to make the interior feel more upmarket. The dashboard is home to an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and wireless smartphone charging will feature.
In Europe, the Berlingo will be offered with the PSA PureTech 1.2-litre petrol engine in 75kW and 97kW guise, mated to a six-speed manual and eight-speed automatic respectively.
A 1.5-litre diesel will also be offered in 56kW, 75kW and 97kW tune, too, with manual transmissions across the range, although the top-spec model will be offered with an eight-speed auto.
The new Berlingo will be unveiled at the Geneva motor show in March. At the moment, the passenger version of the Berlingo isn't sold in Australia, and there are no plans to bring the new one here.
Stay tuned for more information on the light commercial Berlingo, set to lob later this year.