The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.1
Like buses, you wait a while for a new small van and three come along at once. The Citroen Berlingo, Peugeot Partner and Vauxhall Combo are all essentially the same van, having been developed together. There are small differences between them, but it is arguable the Citroen is the pick of the three, and the pick of the small van class.
Reasons to buy
- Excellent payload
- Fantastic ride
- Brilliant safety kit
At a glance
Cargo & practicality
In a sector where payload is key, the Berlingo has moved the bar that bit higher with a new high for the class. The maximum 1,050kg payload means the Citroen will be able to take a serious amount of kit.
You aren’t restricted to a single model if you want a really good payload, either, with 50% of the engine and trim combinations offered with a payload that surpasses 1,000kg, and most of the rest getting close to that level.
You’ll be able to use that space to its full extent, too, with a new overload sensor that warns when you have filled the loadbay to 80% of its capacity, and again when you go over the legal limit.
The cabin offers an excellent amount of practicality, too. As ever with these things, the layout depends on the model you go for, but Citroen says there is as much as 39 litres of space in the various cubbies and lockers. The one thing there is a lack of is cupholders, but the door will take a large bottle.
All models bar the entry-level X trim come with a system that allows the cargo space to extend into the cabin. Called the ‘Extenso’ seat, it only increases the load volume by 0.6 cubic metres, but it boosts the load length by 1273mm, so is incredibly useful for loading longer items like ladders or poles.
There are two different lengths of Berlingo on offer. Confusingly these are called ‘M’ and ‘XL’, even though there is no ‘L’ version in between.
The major discernible difference between the Citroen Berlingo and the Peugeot Partner (beyond the front end looks) is the cabin layout. The Partner might go for the small steering-wheel layout that isn’t to everyone’s taste, but the Berlingo is much more conventional in its approach.
It is easy to get comfortable, and all but the most basic versions get seat height and lumbar adjustment. The high mounted gear lever is well positioned, while the electronic parking brake of the higher trims frees up more space, which is always welcome in a van.
That interior space amounts to up to 113 litres of storage, and comes in the form of a variety of covered and uncovered spaces. The small tray for tucking your phone under the heating controls is one highlight, as it can be equipped with wireless charging. The generous dash-top box on the passenger side is good, too, made possible by the airbag being moved higher up to the roof.
The rear loading bay offers no wild tricks, but plenty of space between the wheelarches means it will still take up to two Euro pallets.
The bar for economy has been moved up with the arrival of the Berlingo and its Partner and Combo siblings, as every diesel version of the Citroen offers in excess of 60mpg. The most efficient version is the M version, with the 100hp 1.6-litre diesel, and that claims more than 67mpg.
There is safety in numbers, and the previous Berlingo sold in huge amounts, with parts and engines that are tried and tested as a result. There are also vast numbers of shared parts thanks to the partnership with Peugeot and Vauxhall – this should help with finding a garage that can easily work on the Berlingo later in its life.
It is worth noting the 1.6-litre engines only have a 15,000-mile, or one year, service interval, while the 1.6-litre engine goes 25,000 miles or two years between services.
The two diesel engines on offer at launch come with a choice of three power outputs in total. The two lower powered versions are both 1.6-litre units, which are old engines that have been carried over from the previous version.
The best of the three available at launch is the more powerful 1.5-litre. It is the most responsive and smoothest version on offer, with less noise and vibration than the other two.
The more powerful version of the 1.6-litre diesel is a good all-rounder, with enough pull to cope with town and motorway driving, but the least powerful model is likely to struggle with heavier loads and faster roads, so is better suited to lighter loads around town.
There is a choice between manual and automatic gearboxes, with the latter a wonderful eight-speed unit that is shared with Citroen’s passenger cars. It is fantastically smooth, and a far better option than has historically been offered on a van. As proof of its modernity, it even boosts the claimed efficiency.
Ride and handling
For all of its workmanlike exterior and loadbay, the Berlingo is a passenger car underneath – it is based on the same underpinnings as several models from Peugeot and Citroen’s car range, like the Peugeot 308 and 3008, and the Citroen C4 Picasso.
This means it handles and rides with a wonderfully composed smoothness, with a light load, or even none at all. It soaks up small bumps at lower speeds, but what is more impressive is the way it tackles bigger undulations at higher speeds. It holds its body in check, without pitching around if you come across an unexpected dip or bump.
The visibility is decent for a van, but the optional camera system is an excellent addition. It gives you a view down the passenger side blind spot or acts as a rear-view mirror for a panel van, where one would normally be impossible thanks to the solid doors. The only issue, which is easily overcome, is that your eyes take a bit of adjusting when looking from real-life images to the screen showing the camera’s image.
You’d think cars lead the way in safety kit generally, but the Berlingo comes with a new piece of equipment that has been specially developed to keep van drivers safe and within the law.
The overload sensor warns when the Berlingo’s loading bay is filled to 80% of capacity and then again when it passes the legal payload limit. It is a simple and ingenious warning that is activated by a button, or automatically when the engine starts up. The only downside of it is that, inevitably, it is not offered as standard across all trims. It only costs a couple of hundred pounds, so the hope is that many will still fit it.
The other excellent piece of kit is the Surround View Vision system, which uses cameras to give the driver a view of blind spots down the passenger side and out the back of the van.
There is plenty of other safety kit on offer, but it’s a shame that a lot – like the lane departure warning, active safety brake and adaptive cruise control – are only offered as cost options.
The entry level X trim is pretty sparse, and its fairly basic level of equipment is aimed at companies looking to keep costs down. It comes with a full bulkhead, automatic headlights, a DAB digital radio with Bluetooth, USB and audio connections and single (M) or twin (XL) sliding doors as the highlights.
The model range isn’t linear. The Enterprise trim builds on the X, with Driver sitting above the two. There is also a more rugged model, the Worker, which also builds on the X trim and caters for those looking for a van that is capable on trickier terrain such as building sites.
With this in mind it comes with grip control and a hill descent system, underbody protection, mud and snow tyres and 30mm increased ground clearance. It also gets the Overload Sensor and the flexible folding passenger seat that boosts storage capacity.
The Enterprise gets air conditioning, rear parking sensors, cruise control, an electronic parking brake, steering wheel controls for the audio system and an 8.0-inch colour touchscreen that is fitted with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. A hard-protective flooring is also equipped in the rear.
The top-of-the-range Driver is geared towards those that spend all day in the van and comes with extra sound deadening in the cabin, automatic wipers, alloy wheels, body colour exterior details, satellite navigation and the rear and side cameras.
The touchscreen system is not as slick as some rivals – the VW alternatives are more intuitive for example. One bonus is that you don’t have to use the touchcreen to alter the climate change, as you do on some Citroen passenger cars, as there are physical buttons.
The Citroen Berlingo’s closest rivals in terms of technology, driveability and modernity are its own siblings – the Peugeot Partner and Vauxhall Combo.
There are valid reasons to choose either of those other two, but the Berlingo will arguably the pick of the three for many, thanks to its simple cabin and well-packaged options. It is an excellent all-round van.