Load up, drive away
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.