You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Is Citroen's cheapest van up to the job?

CarsGuide logo CarsGuide 6/09/2018 Mark Oastler

Citroen, the famous French manufacturer founded in 1919, has achieved global acclaim for daringly bold and brilliant design and engineering that was often ahead of its time.

Despite this, the double chevron badge has suffered a tumultuous ride since the 1970s, including a lifesaving merger with Peugeot in 1976, followed by another near-death experience for Peugeot-Citroen (PSA Group) in 2012. 

Since then, though, major restructuring has seen a remarkable turnaround. Under Inchcape Australasia, which took over PSA’s local distribution in 2017, Peugeot Citroen Australia has a fresh focus on light commercial vehicles, with the venerable Citroen Berlingo holding centre stage with its class-leading payload capacity.

Even so, with less than seven per cent of the local small van segment (under 2.5 tonne GVM), the Berlingo’s market share is dwarfed by French rival Renault’s Kangoo, with 25 per cent, and VW’s kick-butt Caddy, which now commands more than 65 per cent.

However, with an all-new Berlingo range just around the corner and super deals being done with the current model in run-out mode, we put one to work for a week to see if it would be worth a trip to your local Citroen dealer to bag a bargain.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The Citroen Berlingo range comprises three models; the L1 Short Body Manual, L2 Long Body Manual and L2 Long Body Semi-Automatic.

Our test vehicle was the L1 Short Body Manual (aka M Confort VTi), which, with a 1.6-litre petrol engine and five-speed manual gearbox, is normally $22,990. This compares favourably with the Kangoo L1 SWB (1.2-litre petrol/six-speed manual) at $23,990, and is a huge 24 per cent saving over the Caddy TSI220 SWB (1.4-litre petrol/seven-speed dual-clutch auto) at $30,390. 

However, the Berlingo’s run-out price is now a bargain basement $19,990 drive-away, so you’ll save even more up front, plus be eligible for an immediate tax deduction if you're a business owner.

Given it’s a commercial van, our Berlingo came with all the usual visual cues of a hard worker, like the solid white body colour with contrasting black bumpers, door mirrors, handles and side rubbing strips, plus black hub caps inside 15-inch steel wheels with 195/65 R15 Michelin tyres and a matching spare. However, the cabin does at least get floor carpet.

The Berlingo gets 15-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Mark oastler) © CarsGuide.com.au The Berlingo gets 15-inch alloy wheels. (image credit: Mark oastler)

Its standard equipment list includes useful stuff like a rear-view camera and rear parking sensors (essential in any van with solid side doors), guide-me-home headlights, height/reach adjustable steering wheel, RDS stereo sound system with a 7.0-inch touchscreen and multiple connectivity options (including Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Bluetooth), cruise control with adjustable speed limiter, one-touch electric front windows and more.

Is there anything interesting about its design?

The smallest Berlingo rides on a front-wheel-drive, 2728mm wheelbase with an overall length of 4380mm and width of 1810mm. Compared to the Caddy, the Berlingo is 46mm longer in wheelbase, 28mm shorter and 37mm wider.

Suspension features MacPherson struts up front and a tidy trailing arm arrangement at the rear, which is well designed for carrying heavy loads. Steering is via power-assisted rack and pinion and four-wheel disc brakes provide reassuringly strong braking. The turning circle is a compact 11.0 metres.

Compared to the Caddy, the Berlingo is 46mm longer in wheelbase, 28mm shorter and 37mm wider. (image credit: Mark oastler) © CarsGuide.com.au Compared to the Caddy, the Berlingo is 46mm longer in wheelbase, 28mm shorter and 37mm wider. (image credit: Mark oastler)

The cabin and cargo bay are separated by a removable grey vinyl screen, with a large clear section in the upper half to allow rear vision for the driver. Citroen says this screen is primarily to reduce air-conditioning requirements, which in turn reduces the A/C load on the engine to optimise performance and fuel economy. 

It’s also claimed to (slightly) reduce noise intrusion from the cargo bay, which is mostly caused by tyre roar through the rear wheel arches. However, Citroen has taken a commendable step in trying to muffle these noise paths by surrounding each wheel arch with large plastic mouldings which are claimed to contain sound-absorbing material.

The cabin layout is simple and functional. (image credit: Mark Oastler) © CarsGuide.com.au The cabin layout is simple and functional. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

Glazed rear barn doors with wiper/washer and 180-degree opening, plus solid sliding side doors, are standard issue. The barn doors also feature an asymmetrical design (one wide, one narrow) to off-set the centre pillars and reduce the large blind spot they create in the rear-view mirror. 

The cabin layout is simple and functional with decent-sized door mirrors, although the kerb side would benefit from a wide-angle lens due to a big blind spot for the driver created by the solid side door. The fold-down inboard arm-rest is a nice touch and the cabin is quite spacious, although tall drivers will find the left footrest too high for a comfortable leg position.

How practical is the space inside?

The Berlingo’s 1433kg kerb weight and 2150kg GVM would normally result in a 717kg payload. However, Citroen’s official payload figure is 133kg higher, at a class-leading 850kg, because PSA calculates kerb weights differently to the norm (typically French). So, 75kg of that can be carried on the roof when shared across three racks with the mounting points provided.

Its robust 3250kg GCM allows up to 1100kg of braked trailer to be towed without any reduction in payload. Citroen states that this GCM applies up to a maximum altitude of 1000 metres above sea level, with a 10 per cent reduction for each additional 1000 metres. So keep those stats in mind if you’re heading for Mount Kosciuszko.

The cargo bay, which offers 3.3 cubic metres of load volume (or 3.7 with passenger sear folded), has a floor length of 1800mm and a roomy 1229mm between the wheel arches. This means it can carry one 1160mm-square standard Aussie pallet, easily loaded with a forklift through the rear barn doors and held in place by six tie-down points. There’s also internal lighting, a 12-volt outlet and sturdy ladder-frame cargo barrier behind the driver. Nothing for the passenger, though.

The cargo bay offers 3.3 cubic metres of load volume. (image credit: Mark Oastler) © CarsGuide.com.au The cargo bay offers 3.3 cubic metres of load volume. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

Cabin storage options include two pockets and a combined cup/bottle holder in each door. There’s also a large lidded compartment and two open bins set into the dash-top, two circular storage slots in the centre display plus two smaller pockets below and beside the gearstick; the latter a slim-line 'holster' complete with USB port.

The single glovebox has two-tier storage, and there’s a full-width cabin shelf overhead. The centre console, which is a module that can be unlocked and removed if you want floor space between the seats, has a cup holder at the front, a big internal storage area with sliding lid in the centre and two cup/small bottle holders at the rear. There’s also lots of vacant space for additional storage under both seats.

There’s a large lidded compartment and two open bins set into the dash-top. (image credit: Mark Oastler) © CarsGuide.com.au There’s a large lidded compartment and two open bins set into the dash-top. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The Euro 6-compliant 1.6-litre multi-point fuel-injected four-cylinder petrol engine is conspicuously rev-happy for a commercial vehicle, as evidenced by its tachometer which displays rpm increments all the way up to 7000rpm - with no redline.

The needle has to reach 6000rpm to access the engine’s relatively modest maximum power of 72kW (less than Kangoo/Caddy, which are both turbos), with peak torque of 152Nm (also less) at a relatively high 3500rpm. It also requires 95-octane fuel.

The 1.6-litre engine produces 72kW/152Nm. (image credit: Mark Oastler) © CarsGuide.com.au The 1.6-litre engine produces 72kW/152Nm. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

The five-speed manual gearbox has useful spread of ratios for both city/suburban delivery work and load hauling on the highway.

How much fuel does it consume?

Our Berlingo achieved a combined figure of 7.2L/100km over a distance of 422km on a variety of roads and with different loads, including near-maximum GVM. Impressively, that was line-ball with the official combined figure of 7.1. With its 60-litre tank, you could expect a realistic driving range of 580-600km.

What's it like to drive?

The first thing we noticed was the relatively low cargo-bay noise, combined with low wind and engine noise. The ride quality was firm but acceptable without a load, and the steering responsive and linear in weight, with a strong self-centering effect ensuring good directional stability. 

The slick-shifting manual gearshift was nice to use, with well-defined gates and a light clutch action. Braking response was strong, but four discs designed to cope with a 3250kg GCM could bite hard if you pressed too firmly without a load.

With maximum torque at 3500rpm and peak power at 6000rpm, the 1.6-litre non-turbo engine responded best around town when kept revving freely between those two numbers. Although torque started to fall away sharply below 1800rpm, a useful amount remained between 1800-3500rpm, as evidenced by 2750rpm at 100km/h and 3000rpm at 110km/h in top gear on the highway.

With 600kg in the cargo bay plus a 100kg driver, our 700kg payload was 150kg below GVM. Handling and ride quality with this load was excellent, particularly over large bumps and on heavily patched bitumen roads. Braking was also reassuringly strong and it continued to track straight in cross-winds at highway speeds.

Handling and ride quality with a 700kg payload was excellent, particularly over large bumps and on heavily patched bitumen roads. (image credit: Mark Oastler) © CarsGuide.com.au Handling and ride quality with a 700kg payload was excellent, particularly over large bumps and on heavily patched bitumen roads. (image credit: Mark Oastler)

The engine’s rev-happy nature was noticeable on our 2.0km, 13 per cent gradient set climb with this load, finding its sweet spot in second gear at 3750rpm - which it happily pulled all the way to the top. Engine braking on the way down was non-existent, but the powerful brakes easily covered this shortfall.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

No ANCAP rating here, but a LHD diesel version with dual airbags achieved four stars when tested by Euro NCAP in 2009. Evidence that our local model is aimed at cost-cutting fleet buyers is a front airbag and cargo barrier for driver only, with passenger front airbag and side airbags for both sides only available as optional extras. There’s no AEB either, but you do get an electronic stability control program with traction control and hill start assist, plus a rear-view camera and rear parking sensors.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

A three-year/100,000km warranty includes roadside assistance, plus there’s a five-year anti-corrosion warranty. Scheduled servicing is 12 months/20,000km, whichever occurs first. There is also fixed pricing for the first three scheduled services of $416 (12 months/20,000km), $777 (24 months/40,000km) and $416 (36 months/60,000km).

Verdict

Given Citroen’s proud heritage of innovation, the Berlingo has a few unique and quirky features, but is overall quite conventional in its design and performance (though in a well thought-out and practical package).

With sub-$20K run-out pricing, it should have plenty of appeal for commercial customers, as it costs much less than its major rivals yet offers a superior payload.


More from CarsGuide

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon