Load up, drive away

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Big Wheels - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING EDITOR

AUS­TRALIAN tradies buy at least eight times more utes than vans , 175,000 against 20,000. It’s the op­po­site in Europe.

But closed-in cargo car­ri­ers are in­creas­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, not only be­cause the loads are more se­cure but also be­cause of the in­creas­ing choice of smaller mod­els that can fit into tight spa­ces when mak­ing de­liv­er­ies.

Sales of small car-de­rived vans grew by 17.5 per cent last year alone. The Volk­swa­gen Caddy, Re­nault Kan­goo and Suzuki APV lead the light brigade, fol­lowed a dis­tant fourth by the Citroen Ber­lingo.

But Citroen hopes to re­verse its for­tunes with the up­dated model re­leased in De­cem­ber.

Changes in­clude a new nose and the ad­di­tion of sta­bil­ity con­trol, rear cam­era and touch­screen with Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto.

Prices start at $26,990 for the Ber­lingo “long body” pow­ered by a 1.6-litre turbo diesel en­gine matched to a fivespeed man­ual trans­mis­sion. Citroen has had a spe­cial of­fer of $26,500 drive-away.

A six-speed robo­tised man­ual (there is an au­to­mated sin­gle-clutch gear­box that’s there­fore is not as smooth as the lat­est twin-clutch set-ups) costs from $30,990. Un­til the end of March this too is on spe­cial, from $30,500 drive-away.

In both cases th­ese rep­re­sent sav­ings of about $4000 off the full RRP, ac­cord­ing to the Citroen web­site cal­cu­la­tor.

Citroen hasn’t yet grad­u­ated to a smoother twin-clutch or torque con­verter au­to­matic be­cause man­u­als are still the most pop­u­lar choice in Europe.

The op­tions list is short but worth a close read. In­cred­i­bly, the Ber­lingo comes stan­dard with only one airbag (in the steer­ing wheel) — pay $800 and add a pas­sen­ger airbag and side airbag in each front seat.

There is a case to bem made for side airbags to be stan­dard, es­pe­cially given side im­pacts are more likely in city driv­ing than head-on hits.

This may be why Citroen is keen to clear the cur­rent stock — to make way for bet­ter equipped mod­els.

Other op­tions: pay $1000 for the pas­sen­ger and side airbags — and also get a middle seat to ac­com­mo­date an ex­tra pas­sen­ger for short trips.

Metal­lic paint is un­usu­ally high at $800. Ouch. The same amount buys a “look pack” that adds body-coloured bumpers and al­loy wheels.

Stan­dard fare car­ried over from the pre­vi­ous Ber­lingo model in­cludes cruise con­trol, Blue­tooth and USB con­nec­tion, twin side doors and rear barn doors that open 180 de­grees and help the van swal­low a 750kg pay­load or tiems as large as a full-size Aus­tralian pal­let.

We tested the man­ual model in the city and sub­urbs and quickly came to en­joy the French van’s abil­ity to deal with speed humps and gen­er­ally cope with the daily grind.

The turn­ing cir­cle is not ex­cel­lent by small-car stan­dards (11 me­tres) but is marginally tighter than most utes.

Vis­i­bil­ity is OK, mostly due to the con­vex mir­rors on both sides, and the rear-view cam­era made park­ing a cinch, al­though the dis­play is fairly grainy at night.

The five-speed man­ual doesn’t have the most pre­cise shift ac­tion but we did see ex­cel­lent fuel econ­omy over 500km of mostly city driv­ing and the 1.6 turbo diesel is rea­son­ably perky, al­though we were un­laden dur­ing the test.

Down­sides? The Citroen Ber­lingo isn’t cheap, es­pe­cially when com­pared to the VW and Re­nault ri­vals. Its op­tional safety equip­ment should be stan­dard. And we’re un­clear why the Ber­lingo has war­ranty cov­er­age for only three years/ 100,000km when Citroen pas­sen­ger cars now come with six years/un­lim­ited km cov­er­age.

Over­all, the up­dated Citroen Ber­lingo is a sound al­ter­na­tive to the rest of the de­liv­ery-van crowd. Just be sure to hag­gle on the price and the cost of metal­lic paint (aim to get close to the cur­rent drive-away deal if it’s ex­pired by the time you’re ready to buy) and find a way to get the op­tional safety equip­ment in­cluded.

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