Large boot for large loads
A core model in Citroen's line-up, the Berlingo might now be outclassed by more modern people carriers but its utilitarian approach still appeals to families with active lifestyles. This mid-life refresh is a modest one, but tweaks to the car's exterior, the inclusion of more kit and engine improvements help keep the boxy Berlingo fresh.
In the marketplace the Berlingo must look over its shoulder at truly budget alternatives like Dacia's MPV, which offers vast space and seven-seat options with a significantly lower list price. But the Berlingo can forget challenging more expensive alternatives that have much higher quality interiors, better engines and much improved driving dynamics. It represents traditional functional transport.
With that in mind, Citroen's recent refresh has resulted in mild cosmetic tweaks inside and out plus a more car-like infotainment system for selected models. Factor in a reversing camera, improved active safety kit and more upmarket cabin trim and the Berlingo deserves its place at the less glamorous end of the people carrier market.
The car's modernisation process also extends to motive power. Continual, gradual improvement has led to the inclusion of cleaner, greener petrol and diesel engines from higher up Citroen's range. And you'd be wise to choose the most powerful unit you can afford, as it makes the driving experience a lot easier and more relaxing.
One thing that hasn't changed is the Berlingo's exceptional versatility. The car's sliding rear doors are a boon in tight spaces, while the large – and heavy – tailgate can double as a rain shelter. The durable cabin is more bash-proof than most and there's also the option of seven seats – you can even completely remove the two rear rows if you need to move a particularly large load.
As the choice of compact MPVs continues to grow, the Berlingo Multispace has carved out a niche for itself. It might not be fashionable but its cabin is more durable and knock-resistant than most, while the various interior storage options are certainly more innovative than its conventional rivals. It's not a car for keen drivers though, but the latest updates should keep the car on the radar of buyers seeking a left-field alternative MPV.
While the Berlingo range has benefited from improved engines, don't expect tax-busting CO2 or real world economy figures as you'll need to drive the car hard when it is loaded. And if saving cash is important, don't be tempted by the high-spec cars as prices are very close to more conventional MPV rivals. That said, in basic form the Berlingo is hard to beat if you need a durable family holdall.
There is no shortage of space wherever you look in the Berlingo, from the drawer under the driver's seat to the large glove box and the extensive roof-mounted airline-style locker system. It would take a determined family to truly make use of the Berlingo's full storage potential, and the utilitarian plastics are less vulnerable to knocks and scrapes than more expensive materials might be. In seven-seat guise it's even better, and you also have the option of completely removing the rear rows to convert the Berlingo into a van.
Current and recent updates have steadily improved the Berlingo's main controls, with the car now boasting an ergonomic proposition on par with other budget Citroen offerings. The good news is that everything works as it should, however the inclusion of the model dependent colour touchscreen infotainment system is a little awkward-looking but its operation is mostly straightforward despite some lag when switching between functions.
The Berlingo provides relatively soft seats that can lack sufficient support for tall occupants. Legroom is plentiful and there is ample headroom right through the cabin. The big cabin does have a tendency to amplify engine and road noise, however.
The Berlingo gets remote central locking as standard, complete with deadlocks to stop thieves opening the doors from the inside after smashing a window – a function that can be activated with two presses of the 'lock' button on the key fob. Also present are child locks. Thankfully the car's large load area boasts a sturdy load cover to dissuade casual thieves from seeing what they can find in the boot.
The Berlingo's modest safety provision reflects its utilitarian market position and commercial vehicle roots. There are just enough cabin airbags plus ABS and stability control, but you'll need a high-spec model to benefit from rear parking sensors and an enhanced 'Grip Control' stability system boasting added assistance on ice, snow, mud and the like.
The Berlingo is never going to appeal to keen drivers, but the car is easy to drive and offers a typically French-style soft ride with a little more pitch and roll than your average MPV. The various controls offer ample assistance, while it helps to pick a high power engine – petrol or diesel – to minimise gearchanges and reduce unnecessary noise. Overall, the Berlingo is capable but keep expectations low.
Whether you opt for five or seven seats, the Berlingo Multispace is good choice for active families. The seats are all high enough to make mounting child seats easy, the sliding rear doors mean that the process can be done even in bay parking spaces, and the vast boot area means that any pushchairs, nappy bags, giant plastic toys or even the family dogs will fit. And while the car's interior trim might look low grade, it's more durable and bash-proof than most upmarket rival offerings.
While the Berlingo's ease of access, the unintimidating driving experience and passenger-friendly layout are plus points, there are better value options that will cost less to insure, tax and fuel, and that are even easier to park if you don't need the car's extra versatility.
The Berlingo isn't like its more polished and refined Citroen stablemates, as its durable, almost utilitarian nature is what appeals to most buyers. It's still prone to the odd cabin rattle though and recent years have seen prices creep up close to those of regular MPVs.
Large sliding rear doors reveal expansive door apertures that allow very easy access, especially considering the raised position of the rear seats. The conventional front doors also give good space for occupants to exploit. There is a little bit of a stretch from the seat to get past the door sill, but overall it's a good compromise. However, access to the boot is limited slightly by the large tailgate, which needs plenty of room and a strong arm to operate.
A simple, traditional combination of buttons and dials on the centre console operates the stereo, which does require taking your eyes off the road. There's an input for external music devices, while you can also specify a colour touchscreen unit boasting improved audio and a navigation option.
It's almost the same as before with this refreshed Berlingo, as the overall colour choice is only boosted by two new hues. There are no bad choices however, and the car looks good regardless. Inside it's also mostly the same, with detailed trim changes the only major change to the otherwise durable-looking interior.
With such excellent visibility and a high seating position it's very easy to judge the car's position, while the impressive turning circle lets you squeeze into smaller spaces than some other similar cars might. Where fitted, parking sensors and the reversing camera help if you're not confident of your immediate surroundings. Arguably the most useful feature here is the car's twin sliding rear doors, which allow parking in tighter spaces.
Space saver fitted as standard.
Petrol engine options – 1.6-litre (95bhp). Diesel engine options – 1.6-litre (75bhp, 100bhp, 120bhp). Transmission options: five and six-speed manual gearbox, plus six-speed automated manual gearbox. Trim levels: Touch, Feel, Feel Edition, XTR.