SHORT BLACK

Citroen’s Berlingo brings good value to the high street delivery sector

If it were not for the efforts of Volkswagen with its Caddy van, it’s highly probable that other manufacturers would not have brought their own small van equivalents to the Australian market. Volkswagen has been the driving force in this area, and, with sales of Caddy holding 62.1 percent of this market segment, (VFacts YTD March) the German brand recognises that there is a strong market opportunity in the small van category.

While VW leads, others struggle to follow, and the consequent sales of the Citroen and Peugeot reflect perhaps a Gallic indifference to what might be achievable. Against the 462 Caddy registrations, Peugeot managed 11 units with the Partner, Citroen 62 units with the Berlingo, and Renault 91 registrations with the Kangoo.

Each of these three small vans is capable, well equipped, economical and good to drive. Renault is shaping up to release a new Kangoo and will undoubtedly develop a keener sales strategy for the remainder of 2014 and beyond, but Citroen and Peugeot dealers need a jump start if either brand is going to achieve targeted objectives.

Citroen-Berlingo_4Into this mix of small vans comes the Suzuki APV. With a retail figure of 118 registrations it actually outsold all three of the French Connections, especially surprising considering it is without doubt the worst of the products in this segment.

With the latest version of the Berlingo in our corporate carpark for a week, Delivery took the opportunity to drive it in a wide range of operating circumstances. From freeways to inner urban city streets we checked out visibility, performance, drivability, comfort levels and ride and handling, and came to the conclusion that it’s an extremely versatile and valuable addition to the Citroen brand.

Citroen Australia is offering a six-year, unlimited distance warranty together with Roadside Assist as of March 1st this year. But before you get excited and order your new Berlingo, here’s the catch – it only relates to the Grand C4 Picassos and Citroen DS models. Berlingo buyers currently have to make do with a standard 100,000-km/three-year warranty, but that does include a three-year Roadside Assist package. There’s also an anomaly with capped-price servicing, as the Citroen DS passenger car alone gets this benefit for six years/90,000 km. There is an intention to extend this coverage to the Berlingo, but our sources suggest this might not occur until later this year.

So, as we focus on the Berlingo, just what do you get for your $19,990? This money buys you the short-wheelbase Berlingo powered by a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, petrol engine that powers the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. With this drivetrain under the bonnet you can experience 80 kW at 5,800 rpm with peak torque of 147 Nm rated at 4,000 rpm. Running at Euro 4 emissions levels, it’s matched to a five-speed manual gearbox. Fuel economy is okay, but not amazing, with a combined figure of 8.2 l/100 km rising to 10.8 for the urban cycle and improving to 6.8 l/100 km for those out in the country.

Weighing in at 1,565 kg, you get disc brakes all round with ABS (anti-lock brakes) as standard, plus a driver’s side airbag. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and traction control are an optional extra package that in our view should all be standard inclusions. If you want automatic rain sensitive windscreen wiper actuation and auto dusk sensing headlamps, these are also optional, as is rear parking sensors and additional SRS airbags for front and lateral protection. In standard trim the price is $19,990.

For an extra $5,000 you can enjoy the long-body version, which comes with an engine swap from the 1,587 cc petrol to a 1,560 cc, four-cylinder diesel. TCitroen-Berlingo_6he performance ratings for the diesel are 66 kW at 4,000 rpm with peak torque of 215 Nm rated at 1,500 rpm. These levels of torque would suit an automatic transmission, especially around town, but that’s not going to be part of the equation as the diesel is only offered once again with the five-speed manual gearbox.

Fuel economy of the diesel is better than its petrol-fuelled counterpart, and at a combined value of 5.7 l/100 km the economy for this Euro 4 engine is where it should be expected. Out in the country the economy improves to 5.2 l/100 km, while in town it gets thirstier to return 6.7 l/100 km. The extra weight of the longer body reduces the payload to 750 kg, from the shortie at 850 kg.

Delivery ran the longer bodied Berlingo through the week on test over a wide selection of road surfaces and came away impressed with the ride and handling and the ability of the suspension to cope with all sorts of surprises available from NSW roads. The front uses coil springs, inclined shock absorbers and independent trailing arms, while at the rear there are independent MacPherson type struts with triangulated lower wishbone suspension arms, coil springs and integral dampers.

The 1.6-litre diesel is a remarkably free-revving engine that is well suited to the gearbox for all types of driving conditions. The shift quality of the transmission is also impressive, with light shift efforts and a slick selection negotiated through a small lever that sprouts from the dashboard.

The interior cargo space is easy to access, thanks to sliding doors on both sides and barn doors at the rear.

When it comes to dimensional differences, the load length of the short-bodied Berlingo is 1800 mm with a height of 1100 mm and a width of 1230mm (between wheel arches). This provides a cargo volume of 3.3 cubic metres that can be increased to 3.7 cubic metres by folding the front passenger seat forwards. This action also extends the cargo deck length on the passenger side to 3,000 mm, providing an easy way to slide in long packages.

If size is all-important and the short wheelbase version doesn’t offer sufficient space to match your needs, the longer-bodied version is, to our view, the better bet. For that extra $5,000 the front bits all stay the same, but the cargo deck area extends to 2050 mm (or 3,250 mm with the passenger seat folded). In terms of exterior dimensions, the long-body version comes in at 4,628 mm, compared to 4,340 mm, while the wheelbase stays the same at 2,728 mm.Citroen-Berlingo_16

Be cautious as far as the order form is concerned when choosing between short and long-body alternatives, as the sliding side doors are optional on the shortie but standard on both sides for the long-body version. Whilst you may think that a short van doesn’t need doors on each side, once you start delivering and collecting parcels you will wish you had included them both. It makes using the van so much easier.

The audio system is pretty basic with very average sound quality, and, annoyingly, the Bluetooth option for mobile phone connectivity is again an option on the short-body version, although it is included on the longer bodied unit.

Berlingo provides a good driving experience and the variable power-assisted steering gave a good level of feel on all road surfaces. We liked the cruise control and upper speed limiter being standard equipment, and with a rake adjustable steering column the driver gets a good view of the controls and gauges irrespective of their height.

The cargo van interior does amplify road noise, and if we put a Berlingo on our fleet we would very soon be adding extra sound proofing to the rear to reduce road and tyre noise.

We checked with Citroen and the additional cost of ESP and Traction Control is $500 with a further $875 for the two sliding doors on the standard body length version.

At $24,990, Delivery’s selection is to go straight to the longer-bodied Berlingo and benefit from the easier access provided by the two sliding doors, plus the better fuel economy over the life of the vehicle. The optional safety pack should also get ticked for selection on the order form to provide ESC and Traction Control.

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