It’s slightly eccentric and extremely appealing
It was more than 20 years ago that Citroen invented an entirely new class of car by putting windows and seats in a van. The Berlingo was simple and straightforward, but extremely practical, and the fact it offered so much room for so little money made it a great buy for the smart-thinking family car buyer.
Competitors followed, but the Berlingo remained the original and, for many, the best. So Citroen didn’t need to do much over the years to keep sales ticking on – which is why it’s taken a full 22 years for us to get just the third-generation model.
Read more: Top ten: MPVs and people carriers
Like the original, it has two sliding rear doors, and you can now get two versions, a five-seater or a longer seven-seater. With a focus on recapturing the simple spirit of the original, and make up for the slightly mediocre second-generation model, the French company reckons it’s made the best Berlingo yet.
A range of engines will be offered but we drove the best-seller, a 109bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol, in five-seat Flair spec. This top-end trim has a lavish list of equipment, including 8.0in touchscreen, fully interactive sat nav, 360deg reversing camera and dual zone climate control. It even has a head-up display: back-to-basics Berlingo this is not.
Citroen Berlingo Flair 1.2 Puretech 110
Price; £18,000 (est)
Engine: 4 cyls, 1199cc, turbo, petrol
Torque: 152lb ft
Gearbox: 6-spd manual
Kerb weight: 1356kg
Top speed: 109mph
Fuel economy: 51.3mpg
Rivals: Ford Tourneo Connect, Vauxhall Combo
It’s still hugely practical though, with 186 litres of storage in the 28 cabin compartments alone. The 775-litre boot is 100 litres bigger than before and the huge tailgate opens up low, making loading heavy things easy. The three rear seats individually fold and, with a folding passenger seat too, you can drop in loads three metres long.
What’s it like to drive? Friendly, easygoing and comfortable. It rides softly, smoothing out ripples and strolling along with a cheery deftness. Steering is decent, grip is ample and it doesn’t roll as much as you might fear, either.
The engine is superb, with diesel-like pull at low revs and a surprising verve in its mid-range, although there’s no point revving it out fully as you won’t find much more power there. The diesel seemed decent too, but we didn’t get enough time in that to form full impressions.
We’ve seen enough of the new Berlingo for it to convince us, though. It’s as eccentric as ever, and all the better for it, and the fact it has even more room and even more practicality is also a welcome step on from the previous car’s already impressive workhorse tendencies.
It has luxury car equipment with the practicality of a van and, with the option of something called Grip Control, will even give some of the muddy road prowess of an SUV. It’s the Berlingo back to its best, and this is something to be welcomed for all family car buyers with an ounce of common sense.