The Citroen Berlingo Multispace has an almost fanatical following among motorists for whom practicality is of the utmost importance.
That the Berlingo does so much for so little empowers owners to ignore its looks, looks that are – and I’m being charitable here – somewhat challenging.
Upright and pugnacious, as you might expect of a car that is also available as a van, the best that can be said of it is that it isn’t as ugly as the Fiat Multipla…
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Deliciously spacious and utterly practical
Yet it has a charm all of its own. That Victorian stance and straight-backed church pew seats provides such a huge amount of headroom that it enabled Citroen to fit airline-style overhead lockers (the MODUTOP, a £700 optional extra) plus four individual glazed portholes in the roof. The result is deliciously spacious and utterly practical.
Oddment space abounds, and if the huge cubby box between the two front seats is almost useless thanks to its cavernous, undivided interior (I lost our eleven year-old in there for a couple of days) the rest of it is a model of OCD order: you will never, ever have a single piece of personal clutter that cannot be accommodated in its own individual storage space.
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Great for carrying large loads
My five-seater car (seven seats are available) swallowed enormous loads with the rear seats upright, and unfeasibly large loads with them folded down.
An eBay purchase of several dozen mid-seventies Danish shelves was accommodated with ease, leaving what I thought might be a load-too-far looking forlorn and lost on the carpeted floor. (The downside was that the seller took one look at the Berlingo and assumed that I was a trader.)
Comfortable and durable seats
The driving position is a bit kitchen-table but comfortable enough, even over a four-hour stint.
The seats might be flat but they are supportive and covered in a durable cloth that should look exactly the same when it’s condemned to that great scrapyard in the sky.
The gear lever sprouts out of the dashboard but it’s easy and soft to move, giving precise gear selection as long as you don’t rush it.
Which is a theme that runs through the Berlingo like a thread. This is not a car to be rushed, if for no other reason than there is simply no point.
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A civilized long-distance tourer
The suspension is softly sprung, so there is quite a bit of body-roll. However, the payoff is a smooth ride and the ability to traverse potholes and rough roads in relative comfort.
It hangs on well enough if you insist on giving it a thrashing through the bends but this is a car that is owned and driven by people with different priorities and to ignore what it does well is to miss the point entirely.
Far better to sit back and ride all that lovely mid-range torque and enjoy that comfortable suspension in the certain knowledge that you are beating the system.
Road and wind noise is more muted than you might expect too, making this utilitarian Citroen a surprisingly civilized long-distance tourer.
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Economy and range
The economy isn’t as good as the manufacturer would have you believe but that isn’t a problem that is unique to Citroen who suggests that 64 mpg is possible, but I could only eek the Berlingo into the mid-50s. I suspect that 60 mpg might be possible with care, which is still pretty good given the versatility of the car.
A 53-litre fuel tank should give a minimum range of well over 600 miles, further bolstering the Berlingo’s credibility as a long-distance mule.
Grumbles are minor and limited to the stereo controls being in a very odd place and there being no USB plug for charging a smartphone or iPod.
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Cheap but practical
There is no getting away from the fact that some of the dashboard plastic is scratchy and unpleasantly cheap either but then this is a cheap car.
Prices start at just £13,355 for the 95bhp petrol engine and you could spend well over £20,000 on a top-of-the-range six-speed diesel that’s loaded with toys.
I’d recommend the 100bhp diesel that sports 187 lb ft of torque, which is a more suitable engine for the Berlingo than the cheaper petrol version.
The list price is around £16,000 for a basic one but you should be able to do better than that if you’re prepared to haggle. If you pick one up for under £15,000 you’ll have a supremely practical car that will still be giving sterling service in a decade’s time.
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Best-in-class – Citroen Berlingo Multispace: Often imitated, never rivaled.
The best of the rest – Peugeot Partner Tepee: Just as practical as its French rival, but it lacks the Citroen’s charm and individuality.
Left-field alternative – The Fiat Qubo: If you don’t need all that space, the Qubo embodies the same ultra-practical ethos in a smaller, cheaper package.
Buying a secondhand Citroen Berlingo
I loved the Berlingo but even I had to admit that it is ungainly to look at.
The new model, which is scheduled to be available in the UK from summer/autumn 2018, is much easier on the eye but if you can ignore the way the old car looks then you can save a bundle.
We still don’t know how much the new one will cost but carwow is reporting that savings of up to £4,620 are available on the old one. This means a starting price of around £12,788 against the advertised price of £16,795 – and those savings are only going to get bigger as the year grinds on and the launch date edges ever closer.