Citroen Berlingo VTR 1.6 HDi

Practical and great value, Multispace is our current favourite.

If the original Renault Kangoo helped to define what makes a good budget MPV, then the Citroen Berlingo Multispace takes things to a whole new level – it started the whole craze. And for a car that puts function ahead of form, it has been a massive sales success.

The current model arrived last year, and shares its underpinnings with the Citroen C4 and Peugeot 308 hatchbacks. Even so, the back-to-basics formula hasn’t changed much, and the latest car stays true to its commercial roots. Its tall body and squared-off dimensions have more in common with a van than a modern MPV.

The firm’s trademark double chevron grille and a pair of smart headlamps give the Berlingo an attractive front end, and our VTR-spec test car also included body-coloured exterior trim.

In terms of height and width, the Citroen is almost identical to its rival, but it has an extra 31mm between its wheels, and is 167mm longer.

Cabin space is broadly comparable, although the Berlingo’s extra length provides more boot space. Where the Citroen scores is on interior quality. Its classy dark plastics and superior switchgear dispel the budget feel that is so hard to escape in the Kangoo. A host of nooks and crannies for storing family clutter are dotted around the cabin, including a shelf above the driver and an aircraft-style locker fixed to the ceiling behind the rear seats. Again, though, this VTR model doesn’t get air-con – it’s a more pricey extra, at £620.

Another attractive option is Citroen’s £800 Family Pack. It includes a raised boot floor that accommodates an extra pair of seats, turning the Berlingo into a full seven-seater. Alternatively, the standard VTR provides enough room for five and a completely flat load area – a 30/70 split-folding rear bench tumbles forward to create a gigantic 3,000-litre capacity.

With the same underpinnings as the C4 hatch, the Berlingo’s dynamics are sharp. Ride comfort is superb and refinement is only spoiled by wind noise. This is a complaint that can also be levelled at the Kangoo, although the Berlingo is the more comfortable motorway cruiser.

In tight corners, the tall-sided Citroen’s supple suspension struggles to keep body roll in check. Even so, the more positive gearshift, stronger brakes and superior grip give it the dynamic edge.

Its 89bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine is both quieter and smoother than the 1.5-litre Renault unit. However, you do have to drive it hard to keep pace, and economy suffers. In our hands, the Citroen returned 33.2mpg – that’s 5mpg worse than the Kangoo.

At £12,815, it has price on its side. The question is whether this is enough to win.

In detail

* Price: £12,815 * Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 89bhp * 0-60mph: 14.1 seconds * AE economy: 33.2mpg * Euro NCAP rating: Four stars

Details

WHY: We’re big fans of the Peugeot/Citroen pairing in this class – and the Berlingo Multispace will be no pushover.

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