Citroen is arguably the market leader when it comes to MPVs, with two sizes of C4 Picasso as well as the full size C8 to choose from. Now the value end of the market has a contender in the shape of the Berlingo Multispace. Following on from the very popular last generation Berlingo, it aims to offer the same combination of value and space.
The Berlingo Multispace retains the commercial origins of the old car by being based on the Berlingo van, but these roots are no disadvantage, bringing robustness and versatility in spades. The exterior design is fresh and attractive, mixing the front styling of the C4 Picasso with a capacious rear end. The Berlingo is both longer and wider than the old car as well as longer between the wheels, promising yet more cabin space.
Underneath the Berlingo borrows much of its running gear from the C4 Picasso, eschewing the potentially less sophisticated components expected from a van-derived car. With a conventional suspension set up front and rear it makes no compromises in terms of comfort, while the set-up at the rear is designed to intrude into the cabin as little as possible, maximising load space.
The Berlingo uses a front-wheel drive layout, with a choice of two petrol and three diesel engines, all matched to a five-speed manual gearbox. Although longer and wider, the Multispace has not increased in height in order to maintain an aerodynamic profile and record impressive fuel economy.
The Berlingo brings modern car technology to the budget MPV market, with every model fitted with a MP3-compatible CD player with steering wheel controls, front electric windows and a steering wheel that adjusts for both height and reach. In addition, luxuries like tyre pressure monitoring, ESP, full-colour sat-nav and Bluetooth phone connection.
The Berlingo Multispace does a fine job of fulfilling the needs of an MPV buyer. It offers a perfectly decent driving experience, good equipment levels and low running costs, and it strikes a good balance between comfort and utility. Such is its abilities, there seems little point in spending more on a more premium-priced MPV.
Running costs for the Berlingo should be relatively low, with low insurance ratings and good economy from the diesel options. Emissions could be lower however, and this will affect vehicle excise duty costs in the future.
The Berlingo makes the most of its commercial heritage with stacks of space throughout. Even with five passengers, the boot space is impressive, but with the rear seats folded it can handle double the amount of a typical large estate. The cabin is also packed with storage areas, particularly when the optional Modutop system is chosen, and there are 170 litres of storage space available around the cabin. It also has the ability to store skis and similar items with the optional interior roof bars, a bonus for security and economy.
The layout of the Berlingo is simple and uncluttered, with a clear instrument display and controls that are easy to understand. The addition of steering wheel controls on all models means the audio system can be operated without the driver taking their eyes from the road.
Once again, the Berlingo performs better than expected, with a good driving position and comfortable seats. Refinement levels are also quite good, with only wind noise increasing noticeably at speed.
All except VT models are fitted with remote central locking as standard, while an ultrasonic alarm system can be specified to improve security.
The Berlingo has proved itself to have a good standard of crash safety, and the standard fit safety equipment of ABS with brake assist and twin airbags is good for the class. The option of ESP is also a welcome one.
The Berlingo is as easy to drive as any conventional car, as it is blessed with light controls and excellent visibility. The 90bhp diesel engine, likely to be the most popular choice, offers a useful turn of speed when pressed but requires little work to maintain a steady pace. The suspension is tuned for comfort, offering an absorbent ride, but even when pushed it remains controlled and avoids excessive body roll.
The Berlingo is unquestionably an ideal family car, combining space, comfort and sufficient ruggedness to cope with family life. The Modutop option also allows for DVD players and entertainment systems to be connected.
The Berlingo is possibly more practical than many first car buyers will possibly need, but its low running costs and easy-going feel may suit the inexperienced.
Given that the Berlingo is pitched as a value rather than premium MPV, it hits the quality nail right on the head. In many respects it feels more posh than you might expect of a van-derived car, and although the quality is not perfect, it is more than adequate. The value approach of the Berlingo also helps its image, as it avoids any sort of pretension and appeals on its simplicity and honesty.
With two large doors up front and a pair of sliding doors at the rear, access to the Berlingo is a breeze, although passengers accessing the rear seats do need to duck more than might first appear. The tailgate is large and opens to a useful height, making for simple loading.
With a good quality audio unit fitted as standard, buyers can enjoy decent sound reproduction from a number of inputs. The optional CD multi-changer and auxiliary input is also unusual in this class.
The Berlingo has a bright and cheerful cabin, with the plastics and cloth trim colour co-ordinated with the exterior. The trim itself feels robust rather than premium, but it is far from uncomfortable or utilitarian, and is unlikely to disappoint a potential buyers.
Thanks to its squared-off exterior, the Berlingo is easy to see out of and therefore a cinch to park. The addition of parking sensors from the options list makes the task easier still, as does the light steering and easy controls.
Full size steel spare fitted underneath the rear floor.
Petrol engine options – 1.6-litre (90bhp and 110bhp). Diesel engine options – 1.6-litre (75bhp, 90bhp, 110bhp). Transmission option: five-speed manual gearbox. Trim levels: VT, VTR and XTR.