Itâ€™s slightly eccentric and extremely appealing
It was more than 20 years ago that Citroen invented an entirely new class of car by putting windows and seats in a van. The Berlingo was simple and straightforward, but extremely practical, and the fact it offered so much room for so little money made it a great buy for the smart-thinking family car buyer.
Competitors followed, but the Berlingo remained the original and, for many, the best. So Citroen didnâ€™t need to do much over the years to keep sales ticking on â€“ which is why itâ€™s taken a full 22 years for us to get just the third-generation model.
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Like the original, it has two sliding rear doors, and you can now get two versions, a five-seater or a longer seven-seater. With a focus on recapturing the simple spirit of the original, and make up for the slightly mediocre second-generation model, the French company reckons itâ€™s made the best Berlingo yet.
A range of engines will be offered but we drove the best-seller, a 109bhp 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol, in five-seat Flair spec. This top-end trim has a lavish list of equipment, including 8.0in touchscreen, fully interactive sat nav, 360deg reversing camera and dual zone climate control. It even has a head-up display: back-to-basics Berlingo this is not.
Citroen Berlingo Flair 1.2 Puretech 110Â
Price; Â£18,000 (est)
Engine: 4 cyls, 1199cc, turbo, petrol
Torque: 152lb ft
Gearbox: 6-spd manual
Kerb weight: 1356kg
Top speed: 109mph
Fuel economy: 51.3mpg
Rivals: Ford Tourneo Connect, Vauxhall Combo
Itâ€™s still hugely practical though, with 186 litres of storage in the 28 cabin compartments alone. The 775-litre boot is 100 litres bigger than before and the huge tailgate opens up low, making loading heavy things easy. The three rear seats individually fold and, with a folding passenger seat too, you can drop in loads three metres long.
Whatâ€™s it like to drive? Friendly, easygoing and comfortable. It rides softly, smoothing out ripples and strolling along with a cheery deftness. Steering is decent, grip is ample and it doesnâ€™t roll as much as you might fear, either.
The engine is superb, with diesel-like pull at low revs and a surprising verve in its mid-range, although thereâ€™s no point revving it out fully as you wonâ€™t find much more power there. The diesel seemed decent too, but we didnâ€™t get enough time in that to form full impressions.
Weâ€™ve seen enough of the new Berlingo for it to convince us, though. Itâ€™s as eccentric as ever, and all the better for it, and the fact it has even more room and even more practicality is also a welcome step on from the previous carâ€™s already impressive workhorse tendencies.
It has luxury car equipment with the practicality of a van and, with the option of something called Grip Control, will even give some of the muddy road prowess of an SUV. Itâ€™s the Berlingo back to its best, and this is something to be welcomed for all family car buyers with an ounce of common sense.