Even before the deal had been inked to buy Vauxhall and Opel from General Motors, the PSA Group had entered into an agreement to supply a compact van and passenger version of the same vehicle. And so the Citroën Berlingo and Peugeot Rifter has a brother, the Vauxhall Combo Life. With sales of multi-purpose vehicles on the slide, thanks to the popularity of SUVs, it helps to make the sums add up if there’s an extra model to amortise the production and research and development costs against.
FIRST UK TEST CITROËN BERLINGO
It’s very easy to write the Citroën Berlingo off as simply a ‘van with windows’, however, the French firm’s designers and product planners have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that it is more than that. Sure the silhouettes are the same, but underneath there’s the EMP2 platform that underpins other models like the C4 Picasso and upcoming C5 Aircross. For the first time, there’s a choice of two wheelbases – medium and XL – with the smaller version tested here, and the other arriving in showrooms next year. It’s a whole lot more car-like than before, and it’s road manners are all the better for it. Peek under the bonnet and there’s a choice of three 1.5-litre BlueHDi engines in 75, 101 and 129bhp power outputs.
Citroën’s brand-new eight-speed automatic transmission is on offer, too, with the most powerful edition, but it’s the six-speed manual version that we test here. The powerplant is a smooth, refined unit, one that is quiet both on the motorway and around town. The only time you’ll really hear it is when you’re giving the right pedal a workout, and then it’s hardly intrusive.
The gear lever is perfectly placed, with a slick operation and a nicely weighted, progressive clutch. The ratios are neatly chosen and match the perky behaviour of the Berlingo’s engine. It’s quick off the line, with very good mid-range torque, making overtaking slower moving vehicles easy. There’s some inevitable lean when cornering, thanks to the high sides, but its road manners are safe and highly predictable. Grip levels are good, and the steering is nicely judged and accurate, making manoeuvring around town pleasurable. Ride comfort is generally good, too, soaking up imperfections nicely, and with only the deepest of potholes being transmitted into the cabin.
Our test car came with the £590 optional XTR pack, which apart from some exterior visual upgrades in the form of 17-inch alloy wheels, front and rear scuff plates and gloss black mirror cappings and roof bars, there’s also orange fog lights surrounds and the same treatment to the Airbumps. It also means a quirky green ambience to the interior. Practicality is high on the agenda with the Berlingo with a huge list of different storage areas, including trays, cupholders, large door pockets and a big dashboard top box. An optional Modutop incorporates a panoramic glass roof with even more storage and costs £750.
The dashboard plastics are all hard to the touch, with not a soft surface in sight. Pleasingly, though, far from being poor quality, scratchy materials, they all feel solid and up to the job of punishing family life. The floating touchscreen is neatly positioned within your field of vision, and the controls neatly grouped together for ease of use. Headroom both front and rear is excellent, while leg, knee and foot space is equally generous. There’s the ability to fit three Isofix child safety seats in the back, and each of the chairs slide and fold independently. The front seat passenger seat even folds down, too, meaning that exceptionally long loads can be accommodated within the car. Sliding side doors make getting in and out of the rear seats very easy, particularly in tight parking spaces. Deep windows result in all-round visibility that is brilliant from the driver’s seat, and thanks to an exceptionally low loading sill, it’s easy to haul bulky items into the boot. With the seats in place, there’s 775 litres of cargo carrying capacity, which opens up to 3,000 litres with the back seats folded down.
On sale Now
In showrooms September 2018
Prices £18,850 to £24,370
Body-styles 5-door MPV
Engines 1.5 (75bhp), 1.5 (101bhp), 1.5 (129bhp)
Trim levels Feel, Flair
Also consider Ford Tourneo Connect,
Model tested Flair BlueHDi 130
Price £22,970 Built in Vigo, Spain
Body-style 5-door MPV, 5-seats
Powerplant 1,499cc, 4-cylinder,
16-valve, turbo diesel
Transmission 6-speed manual
Stop-start Yes SCR Yes
Max power 129bhp @ 3,750rpm
Max torque 221lb ft @ 1,750rpm
Top speed 116mph
CO2 emissions 113g/km (Euro-6d Temp)
Economy (urban/extra urban/combined) |
Fuel tank size 50 litres
Range 723 miles
Insurance group tba BIK rate 27%
Size (length/width with mirrors) 4,403/2,107mm
Boot space (min/max) 775/3,000 litres
Kerb/max towing weight 1,430/1,500kg
Euro NCAP crash rating Not yet tested
Verdict Hugely practical, it’s the ultimate family wagon, especially for those that need to carry three Isofix child safety seats in the back. The sliding side doors make it even easier.