Citroen Berlingo Multispace VTR

Newcomer is hugely practical, but does it have family car desirability?

It’s never been glamorous, but the Berlingo has proved a surprise hit for Citroen in the UK. In the 10 years since the first version hit showrooms, the firm has sold more than 50,000 cars to a committed band of Brits who loved its MPV space and supermini price, but were willing to ignore its obvious van ancestry.

As with its predecessor, the newcomer has a similar shape to a commercial vehicle. Behind Citroen’s bold double-chevron family nose is a high roofline, slab sides, an upright rear and large door mirrors. However, the big C4-style wraparound headlamps and body-coloured bumpers help to add a dash of style to the Berlingo.

If you’re buying one of these cars, good looks probably won’t be your top priority. What will interest you is the interior’s size and versatility – and the Citroen won’t disappoint. The cabin is vast, and easily eclipses most other five-seat family cars and MPVs. A panoramic glass roof and colourful seat trim enhance the airy feel. Large sliding back doors give easy access to the rear, while up front the high driving position means you get a commanding view of the road.

There’s plenty of stowage space, courtesy of deep door bins, a shelf above the driver and passenger and a large aircraft-style overhead locker behind the rear seats. Plus, the cabin feels well screwed together, with decent-quality materials used throughout.

Open the large tailgate, and you’re confronted by a huge 675-litre boot – the same as in the Peugeot. It can be extended to an incredible 3,000 litres by folding the rear bench flat, while a low loading lip takes the strain out of lifting heavy items aboard. Our test car came with three individual folding and removable chairs in the rear, instead of the standard 30/70-split bench. The more flexible set-up is a £485 option.

On the move, it’s clear that the Berlingo is a big step forward over its predecessor. The ride soaks up even the worst bumps, and refinement is excellent. Only in sharp corners does the Citroen struggle, as body control isn’t as strong as in the Partner.

Less impressive is the 88bhp 1.6-litre turbodiesel. It’s smooth, but can’t match the pace of the more powerful Peugeot. The Citroen took 14.9 seconds to cover 0-60mph – 2.8 seconds more than its rival. You have to work the engine hard to keep up with traffic, and that hits economy – the Berlingo returned 36.2mpg with us.

It’s hard to ignore the Citroen’s £12,375 price, though. Can that help it take victory over the more accomplished Peugeot?

Details

Price: £12,375Model tested: Citroen Berlingo Multispace VTRChart position: 2WHY: Low-powered, low-spec Berlingo Multispace VTR has the much cheaper price here.

Economy

Given its size and flexibility, the Citroen’s £12,375 price is amazing – it undercuts the Peugeot by £2,930. And big car practicality doesn’t mean big bills. It sits in band C, so road tax costs £120 a year, while fleet users benefit from the bargain purchase price, with lower-rate earners shelling out £520 annually. Even though the two cars are so similar mechanically, three checks for the Berlingo cost £725. That’s £135 more than the Partner. You get better service – the Citroen network came three places higher than Peugeot’s in our Driver Power 2008 dealer survey. Heavier fuel consumption will also see Berlingo buyers hit harder in the pocket.

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