French van manufacturing team Citroën and Peugeot are gearing up for a major assault on the small van market this summer.
Just weeks ago the two, under the PSA banner, announced the arrival in May of new twins the Citroën Nemo and Peugeot Bipper, a van which has carved out a new segment sitting just under the weights and volumes of the slightly bigger Berlingo and Partner.
Some pundits queried this strategy, pointing out that these four vans didn’t have a lot to separate them in terms of on-the-road practicality.
But the move was part of a bigger picture – a picture that was revealed to the UK’s motoring press in Vigo, Spain when the fresh Berlingo and Partner were officially revealed.
These two new models – to be launched in the UK in the second half of the year – increase noticeably in size and offer specification that was only dreamed about a few years ago.
When Nemo, Bipper, Berlingo and Partner are all on sale later this year Citroën and Peugeot will have the youngest and arguably the most dynamic range of light commercial vehicles in the world.
Vigo was chosen for the launch because that’s where the new van and its MPV siblings will be built.
The 664,000 square metre factory employs 9,700 people and churns out two vehicles per minute at present – notably the old-style Berlingo and Partner together with the Citroën C4 Picasso and Xsara Picasso.
The Berlingo and Partner have been a hugely successful venture so far for PSA – since launch in 1996, 3,200,000 models have been sold worldwide and the van has the distinction of being voted the Fleet News small van of the year no fewer than six times on the trot.
So PSA is in no doubt about the importance of this new version.
As a belt-and-braces job, the old Berlingo and Partner will continue for the time being – to be called the Berlingo First and Partner Origin – for those who want a more ‘cheap and cheerful’ van.
The new Berlingo and Partner are a totally fresh vehicle, being based on the Citroen C4 Picasso chassis. PSA says they combine earlier strengths – multifunctionality, robustness and ease of use – with greater comfort, space and specification.
Outside, the van looks very much of the PSA family, while under the skin, safety performance has been enhanced by reworking the whole structure, especially round the impact absorption areas.
ABS brakes with emergency braking system will be standard on all models while ESP taction control, tyre pressure sensors and cruise control will be options.