Cheeky Chappie | Small Van Review – Citroen Belingo

Warren Caves finds there’s much to like about the baby Citroen, especially pricewise – Images by Torque it Up

With the looming release of an all-new Citroen Berlingo van for 2019, Citroen dealers are offering sharp pricing to lure buyers and put money back in business owners’ pockets.

With drive-away pricing starting at $19,990 for the Berlingo L1, and $23990 for the L2, both in 1.6-litre turbodiesel, intercooled, five-speed manual form, there’s good reason to evaluate the out-going models’ credentials.

Delivery Magazine’s test vehicle for a week was the Berlingo L2 1.6-litre diesel, five-speed manual.

Power from the 1.6-litre 66 kW engine fitted in front-wheel-drive orientation was surprisingly good, with ample torque available from as low as 1600 rpm in the rev range, which made for leisurely driving without the need for excessive gear swapping or over-revving to maintain performance.

While our test was performed with an empty cargo space, there seems ample gusto from this nimble performer to cater for a few hundred kilograms of load without too much strain; however, adding in the maximum 800 kg payload might draw some wind from its sails.

With a kerbweight of 1366 kg, equating to 48.3 W/kg, keeping up with or even setting the pace in traffic was a breeze, and the fuel economy was outstanding, showing at 5.8 lires/100 km. With more subdued driving it would easily achieve figures as low as 5.0 litres/100 km, providing a very useful range theoretically in excess of 1000 km from its 60-litre fuel tank.

Handling and ride comfort benefited from the coil-spring rear suspension and coil-over-strut front end, resulting in surefooted handling through corners and roundabouts. Interestingly, the L1 and the L2 share exactly the same wheelbase, with only the rear overhang longer on the L2, equating to extra cargo space. This wheelbase of 2728 mm provided a tight turning circle and made parking a pain-free process.

Vision from the cabin was excellent, with convex wing mirrors, complemented by rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera. Viewed via the seven-inch touchscreen multimedia unit, which covered all angles adequately.

Seating was firm and certainly comfortable enough for the intended market, complete with a driver’s side armrest, although I could not straighten my legs much at all, and after an hour or two this became uncomfortable. This was compounded by the clutch pedal, but with an automatic there would have been a little extra stretch space. If used for work that involves continually hopping in and out this may not be an issue, but there’s definitely a problem for tall drivers on long trips.

On the road the engine noise was well controlled, but, sadly, the same cannot be said for the road noise. As with any uninsulated vans the tyre noise and drumming from the rear cargo area was obtrusive, with constant adjustment of the radio volume needed between driving and being stationary. This noise was helped little by the vinyl and clear plastic cargo blind fitted behind the seats, which actually hampered the placing of items in the back via the rear doors. A solid bulkhead or cargo barrier would be a wise investment.

The five-speed manual transmission was smooth and precise and was a pleasure to negotiate, although with a long throw between gears.

Stopping power from the four-wheel disc brakes was brilliant at the empty weight, providing controlled, reassuring speed retardation, even under heavy braking.

On the safety front, the Berlingo provides a driver’s side airbag as standard (passenger optional), ABS brakes, traction control and seat belt pretensioners. An interesting omission was a clutch pedal inhibitor switch to prevent the engine starting without depressing the clutch pedal.

In the area of cab functionality it was a bit of a mixed bag. The main gauges and switch functions came easy to hand and there is a lot of storage for everyday business use items in the full-width roof parcel shelf, generous centre console with sliding lid and a myriad of small peculiar-sized pockets in the doors and dash in general.

The glovebox is tiny with not much storage capacity at all, and the drink holders, of which there are three (one in the front of the centre console and two awkwardly located at the rear), are too shallow, meaning the only sized drink vessel they could accommodate was a standard 375 ml can (which didn’t go all the way in) or something smaller. Unfortunately, it means forgetting your coffee or travel mug as it would inevitably end up spilling. There is also large storage availability beneath both seats. A USB audio socket is located at the side of the gearshift surround as well as a 12-volt socket, and another 12-volt socket in the rear cargo area.

The seven-inch, touchscreen multimedia unit was functional and easy enough to navigate, and the sound quality was really good for this market. Bluetooth, Android Auto and CarPlay are supported, however there was no sat/nav on our test vehicle.

The steering wheel controls for the audio functions are awkwardly located at the bottom rear side of the steering column, partially obscured by the steering wheel spokes. The same goes for the cruise control function. These need to be familiarised with before setting off, as doing this on the hop requires a whacky head tilt and eyes off the road to read, although once familiar the need to actually look at the controls should not be required as they are easily accessed by hand.

At the business end there is a cargo area with a maximum volume space of 4100 litres by way of a length of 2050 mm in the rear, stretching out to 3250 for long narrow loads by folding the passenger seat forward to flat against the cushion, while 1250 mm width (enough for a standard pallet) and 1100 mm of available height. All this cargo space is accessible via the two sliding side doors or the twin rear doors, which open out to 90 degrees initially, then to 180 degrees via two additional latches. The right side can also be latched open for travel with long items, although I’m not sure about the load restraint legalities of doing this.

Citroen currently offers a three-year/100,000 km warranty, and with 15,000 km service intervals and roadside assist the total cost of operation is sure to appeal.

Ideally suited to urban delivery duties for florists, automotive spare parts suppliers, cleaners, coffee vans and selected tradies, the Berlingo, while it has a few downsides, ticks a whole lot of boxes when it comes to prudent business purchases.

Nipping at the heels of its competition in the Renault Kangoo and VW Caddy, the 2018 Berlingo has an impressive CV to tempt potential employers looking for a no-nonsense business partner with low operating costs. The nimble, manoeuvrable and frugal Berlingo makes good sense, and the drive-away, run-out pricing on offer from Citroen dealers could well seal the deal with savings of up to $4000 against its competition.

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