Citroën Berlingo long-term test: report 1

The Citroën Berlingo is one of our favourite people carriers, with space and practicality almost beyond measure. But what's it like in daily life? Time to find out...

Citroen Berlingo front

The car Citroën Berlingo BlueHDi 130 Flair XTR M EAT8 Run by Will Williams, senior photographer  

Why it’s here We know the Berlingo is a practical choice, but can it also show a wealth of other talents for a young family?

Needs to Be comfortable, efficient and function as a mobile office, and have plenty of space for camera kit and the family

List price £25,865 Target Price £24,871 Price as tested £28,180 Options Onyx Black paint £545 Miles 3130 Test Economy 43.2mpg Official Economy 49.5mpg

7 January 2021 – Space race

Ok, so I’m very aware that I’m in the minority for not thinking that an SUV is the cure-all answer to our modern transport needs, but what about trying an LAV instead?

No, really, that’s what Citroën describes the latest Berlingo as: a “Leisure Activity Vehicle.”  

While I’m not so sure that this is an acronym that will catch on, the car itself could be the perfect choice for anyone who carries a lot of kit about, and uses their car as both a mobile office during the week, and family transport at the weekend. In other words someone like me.

I’ve actually got previous with the Berlingo; my job as a What Car? photographer requires me to spend a lot of time behind the wheel, driving to locations, and a fair few years back I did more than 32,000 miles in the first version. I loved its honest practicality, but I also became rather too familiar with my chiropractor, due to its awful seats and bus-like driving position.

Will using Citroen Berlingo seat

So, has this third-generation model cured those faults? Well, I certainly hope so, because I’ve just taken delivery of a top-spec Flair XTR M 1.5-litre diesel with the new eight-speed automatic gearbox.

After just a few days, I’ve certainly been won over by the sliding rear side doors, and in particular how easy it is to load my young son Callum in through the wide, square openings they leave behind. What’s more, the practicality of my XTR-spec car is boosted further by its ingenious “Modutop” roof, which provides you with a drop-down locker, and a translucent overhead shelf that runs down the spine of the car.

You get swish, dimmable ambient interior lighting, too, and Callum seems to be a big fan of the large side windows and panoramic glass roof, which keep him entertained on long journeys, because they allow him to point at all manner of things.

The boot is vast on my five-seat ‘M’ version and, now that we’re in the depths of winter, the huge tailgate provides welcome protection from the elements when I'm setting up flashes or changing lenses.

On the downside, when you’re parking up at the end of the day you need to stop miles from any car park or garage wall to leave enough space for the tailgate to open. My car's does have a glass section that opens separately, and this is great for dropping shopping bags through, but it doesn't enable me to retrieve anything heavy like my camera gear.

Citroen Berlingo interior

One thing that the new Berlingo has in common with my old car is an excellent ride. True, it occasionally patters over bumps at low speed, but on the whole there isn’t much at any price that’s more comfortable, even with relatively large 17in alloy wheels fitted.

Another thing that I’m impressed by is refinement. Considering the size of the door mirrors, the high roofline and generous sweep of glass, the car is wonderfully quiet at speed. What’s more, the smooth auto gearbox is generally good at keeping the engine subdued.

While the original Berlingo that I ran had a CD player, this latest model comes with a touchscreen that offers sat-nav and Apple CarPlay connectivity. It’s a bit laggy to respond to my touch, though; I often have to prod an icon two or three times before it responds. Thankfully, unlike some rivals, you don’t have to delve into the touchscreen just to change the interior temperature; the dual zone climate control has large, chunky buttons for this.

I even like the way the Berlingo looks; certainly, to my eye it’s more stylish than its Peugeot Rifter and Vauxhall Combo Life counterparts. However, I realise it won’t be to all tastes, because whenever I collect Callum from his childminder, her young son is convinced that a taxi has pulled up on their drive.

So, will I end up in LUV with this LAV? (Sorry.) Only time will tell.

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