What Car? says...
MPVs like the Citroën Berlingo were the Multi Purpose Vehicles before SUVs started getting in on the act, and still provide a solution for almost every practical eventuality.
They're designed to get as many things as possible from one place to the next – much like a van, in fact – so what better way to build one than start with an actual van? That's what Citroën did with the Berlingo (previously the Multispace), providing no-frills, practical motoring for cost-conscious families.
It’s a proven package that combines efficient engines with a bewildering number of interior storage set-ups, and over the years it has generated a number of imitators, including the Ford Tourneo Connect, Peugeot Rifter, Vauxhall Combo Life and VW Caddy Maxi Life. The Rifter and Combo Life, by the way, are basically the same car as the Berlingo but with a different badge.
One downside of previous versions of the Berlingo has been that they could never fully disguise their van origins, either because of how they looked or what they were like to drive. That put them at an immediate disadvantage next to car-based MPVs such as the Ford S-Max and the VW Touran, both of which feel, well, more like a car.
This current version aims to fix that by offering improved refinement and more luxury and safety features. It also comes in two body styles: a shorter one (M) with five seats and a longer one (XL) with seven. Read on through this review to find out whether the current Citroën Berlingo really is easier to live with, and whether it's a practical choice for your family.
Remember, if you do decide to buy an MPV – or a new vehicle of any make and model – you could save thousands by using the What Car? New Car Buying service to find great prices on whichever one you choose, including plenty of new Berlingo deals.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
The Citroën Berlingo's 99bhp diesel (BlueHDi 100) feels sprightlier than its 12.7sec 0-62mph time would suggest, and it's a solid performer in terms of low and mid-range grunt. That means it'll cope with towing or hauling along the whole family and their luggage.
Our favourite engine in the range is the 109bhp 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol (Puretech 110), though. Mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, it’s very flexible, pulls solidly from low revs and has enough mid-range clout to suit the more compact five-seat M model. It also feels peppy enough if you’re prepared to rev it hard (0-62mph comes along in 11.5sec). The manual ’box, meanwhile, shifts fairly smoothly, although it isn't as precise as the ones you’ll find in the Ford S-Max and VW Touran.
If you need a petrol with even more poke, there's the 128bhp Puretech 130. Not only is it the most powerful engine in the range – making it well-suited to the seven-seat XL version – but it also comes with an eight-speed automatic gearbox (EAT8). The ’box can cause a few unwanted vibrations in the interior when you're parking and is a bit hesitant when you ask it to kick down, but otherwise changes gears slickly on the move. It's not a bad choice if you have to have an automatic, but opting for this engine and gearbox does push up the price.
The petrols and the diesel engine are all pretty quiet but they do have distinct sounds – the petrols thrum away keenly while the diesel produces more of a background rumble. On motorways, any road noise is well suppressed, but there’s some wind noise from around the Berlingo's big door mirrors and substantial windscreen area. The Galaxy and Touran are quieter in that respect.
As for handling, the steering is light enough at low speeds (jolly helpful when you're parking a car with such a large footprint) and it's decently accurate on faster, flowing roads. You'll notice plenty of body lean through quick corners, but while the Berlingo doesn't handle as tidily as the S-Max and Touran, it is surprisingly surefooted (considering it's based on a van) and definitely easy to manage.
It's quite softly sprung, so it rides well too. Over bigger undulations (speed bumps and the like) the Berlingo is pleasantly supple, and it traverses potholes and sharper intrusions very well. If maximum comfort is your thing, the ride in the Ford Galaxy is even more polished, but that's a much more expensive choice.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Durability is the name of the game here. The Citroën Berlingo's hard-wearing interior bears witness to the fact that this car has van DNA, yet it's brighter inside than the mechanically similar Vauxhall Combo Life. That's because Citroën has given the Berlingo some textured plastics across the top of the dashboard and stylish seat materials to lift its look. You'll find many cheaper plastics, too, so if you're used to plusher interiors, you might prefer the more car-like VW Touran.
The Berlingo's gearlever is positioned a relatively long way from the driver so it's not necessarily easy to reach (depending on your size), plus the flat seats offer little in the way of side support to hold you in place through corners. The driver's seat is height-adjustable, though. Mid-spec Flair trim adds adjustable lumbar support and all versions have a reach and rake-adjustable steering wheel.
The controls on the dashboard are chunky and straightforward to use. What's more (and unlike many recent Citroëns) there are physical knobs and buttons to control the ventilation system so you don't have to dive into a sub-menu on the touchscreen simply to change the temperature.
Sadly, the infotainment system isn’t as good as the Touran's by a long chalk. Some of its menus are convoluted and take you through too many layers before you find what you want. The system isn't responsive enough to commands, either. On the bright side, it comes as standard with an 8.0in touchscreen, a DAB radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration and a USB port. Flair XTR trim adds voice activation, TomTom sat-nav and an eCall emergency response button.
Seeing out is easy thanks to the big windows and door mirrors and, while the Berlingo has a big footprint, the standard rear parking sensors make life easier. It's worth getting the optional Park Assist Pack because you gain front sensors and a rear-view camera, which are particularly helpful with the longer XL model.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
First, you need to choose whether you want five or seven seats in your Berlingo, because if you want seven you'll have to select the longer XL model rather than the regular-sized M version.
Our favourite is the five-seat M, which still offers a vast amount of passenger space for those with a smaller crowd to carry. There’s so much head room in the front and back that it's hard to imagine anyone struggling, while rear leg room is massively generous too. The rear bench is wide enough to accommodate three adults with ease, and the two outer rear seats feature Isofix child-seat mounting points.
If you opt for the seven-seat XL model, the third-row seats offer generous head room, but their leg room isn't as good as in the Ford Galaxy.
The rear sliding doors make it a doddle for passengers to get in or out when you’re parked up next to a wall or another car. You have to open and shut them yourself, though, as there’s no option to add an electric sliding function, as there is with some rival MPVs, including the Galaxy.
You get masses of storage space, particularly in the front, and the cupholder on top of the dashboard is a nice touch – it’s easy to reach and doesn’t obstruct your view of the road. The rearmost windows don’t wind down on the entry-level Feel trim, they simply pop open a few centimetres. You get four electric windows in the mid-spec Flair trim and above.
When it comes to clever seating tricks, the Berlingo isn't quite as impressive. The five-seater's rear seats split in a 60/40 layout (you get three equal-sized seats with the Flair XTR trim) and can fold down flush with the floor of the boot thanks to a nifty hinged seat base. You can’t slide them back and forth or recline them as you can in many conventional MPVs, such as the Touran.
As for boot space, there’s loads of it. Even the regular five-seater has nearly 775 litres below the parcel shelf (1050 litres for the XL). That's massive – more than the VW Touran and, indeed, pricier large SUVs such as the Peugeot 5008 can offer. In the XL, the rearmost two seats can be completely removed from the car to add boot space, and you get 4000 litres of cargo room with all the rear seats down. To put that in context, there'll be no need to hire a van when taking your kids to uni.
The boot is square with no obstructive lip at the entrance and the opening matches the width of the boot floor. The only annoyance is how enormous the tailgate is because, being top-hinged, it can only be opened when there’s a large gap behind the car. The Flair XTR gets around that by providing a rear window that opens independently, which is more usable.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
If you stick to the 1.2 Puretech 110 Feel M model we recommend, the Berlingo undercuts most of its MPV rivals massively, whether you’re buying in cash or on a PCP finance deal. The exceptions are the Peugeot Rifter and Vauxhall Combo Life, which, cosmetics aside, are essentially the same car.
It should be relatively cheap to run because of the competitive fuel economy – the 1.2 Puretech 110 petrol's official combined figure is 43.5mpg. If you intend to run a Berlingo as a company car, its CO2 emissions are from 146g/km, putting it at the higher end of the benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax bands. If you expect to run up vast annual mileages, the diesel version will prove even more frugal.
Standard equipment is generous. Even though Feel is the entry-level trim, you still get air-con, automatic lights and wipers, cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, electric front windows and electrically operated door mirrors. It also includes the 8.0in infotainment system and rear parking sensors we mention elsewhere.
That said, we wouldn't blame you for going for the Flair trim. It gives you 16in alloy wheels, electric rear windows, picnic tables in the back and the convenience of the adjustable driver's lumbar support.
You also get lots of safety features, including automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance and traffic sign recognition. It missed out on a five-star Euro NCAP rating, though, scoring four stars out of five because it was deemed that the AEB system wasn't especially effective. There were few quibbles over its structural integrity, though.
As a brand, Citroën ranked 16th out of 31 in the What Car? Reliability Survey – higher than (in order) Ford, Volkswagen, Peugeot and Vauxhall. All new Berlingos get a good but not exceptional three-year/60,000-mile warranty, although that increases to a Toyota-rivalling five-years and 100,000 miles if you buy it online.
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|RRP price range||£25,140 - £35,035|
|Number of trims (see all)||2|
|Number of engines (see all)||4|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol, diesel, electric|
|MPG range across all versions||45.5 - 54.8|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£64 / £1,932|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£129 / £3,865|