You say Berlingo, I say Rifter, they say Combo – the three versions of the van car marketed by Citroën, Peugeot and Vauxhall. Each is offered in standard and extended length, with sliding rear side doors and a lift-up tailgate. The longer one has seven seats. Take your pick.
The pick sent me was the seven-seater Berlingo XL, recently refreshed with token cosmetics from the Citroën Cactus – a single mock luggage strap over the dashboard and a Cactus-style pod on the flanks.
These van-cars are excellent things to have in your life. Take out the rear pair of seats and fold the middle three flat and you have a car you could sleep in on a budget holiday. Or use as a van. Or take stuff to the dump or, in its homeland, the déchetterie. Fold flat the spare front seat and you can carry a 12ft load.
I didn’t do any of that but I did use up the seating on a family walking trip. What, as they say, is not to like? Well, a few things. There are no real cup holders for real cups. There are two shallow holes on the dashboard and a couple more in the far back but not the place to put a hot drink when the vehicle is moving. The cup holes in the folding picnic tables are even smaller, maybe suitable for an espresso cup.
Mais alors, look at all the other storage places we have given you, the pockets and indents and cubby holes on the dashboard, the pop-up box on top of the dashboard for your Beretta, the documents shelf above the windscreen, the secret compartments in the floor – sadly not lockable but I did find a Berlingo promo ballpoint. A tasty option (not fitted) is the glass roof panel with a full-length interior storage box.
The Berlingo is a blast to drive. Just expect some roll if you blast it too hard. Passengers like the higher view from the windows. The sliding doors make entry and exit easy if you can cope with the slightly greater muscular effort needed to get them moving. The tailgate is another matter, a vast slab of metal with a poorly designed strap to bring it closed again. Twenty reps of open and shut is a good workout for the shoulders and torso. Just keep out of its way when the tailgate is coming down. Power closing is not an option. However, you can have a flip-up rear window for an extra £250 which is worth having and arguably could be a no-cost option. Sturdy roof bars take care of boxes and canoe or bike carriers. The flat tailgate is a more practical location for bike carriers in lieu of using step ladders.
I would have liked a reversing camera, which is part of another option pack. There is only one petrol option and my diesel-engine demo was fitted with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, operated from a handy rotary wheel on the central panel. There was a button to select manually, and levers behind the steering wheel to nip up and down the ratios, which I did just once to confirm they are not needed.
The vehicle is fitted with mod cons: a distance control warning, a dinnertime gong to announce speed cameras, a stand-up screen for navigation and information (with another ledge behind it), voice control selection which understood what I wanted first time. This is a fairly classy set-up.
This week we heard from the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders that electrically assisted cars reached a record one in ten sales in the kingdom in October. Overall, car and van sales continue to fall. Big losers are DS (Citroën’s posh brand in the PSA group), Fiat, Honda, Maserati, Mitsubishi, Smart, SsangYong and Subaru. Toyota on its own outsold them all.
PSA’s UK head of electric vehicles, Helen Lees, says that 15 new electrified vehicles would be launched in the Peugeot-Citroën and Vauxhall Opel ranges in the next two years. This week LEVC, the electric black cab makers, estimated that since its launch last year, the TX had saved 9,700 tons of CO2 and 5.5 million litres of fuel. It has a range of 377 miles. Toyota announced its latest C-HR is exclusively hybrid.
The Berlingo would make a passable taxi with plenty of passenger legroom and 58 inches of elbow room and lots of headspace. The ride comfort is superior to many cars (and taxis). The suspension soaks up things such as road humps and railway crossings. The burly 205/60 section Michelins play their part, too, though if you are in a bad mood you may hear the tyres roaring. The 1.5 turbo diesel engine was rated at 45 to 50mpg and just 114g of CO2. I got an easy 46mpg on short hops to 52mpg on 56-mile commutes from the sticks to the suburbs.
Verdict: Sensible carry-all.