With Britain’s economy continuing to be in a parlous state and with fuel price rises showing no sign of slowing down, many of today’s new van models are all about moving the maximum amount of cargo for the minimum cost.
That’s exactly what the model on test here is concerned with and Citroën has used all its latest technological skills to produce a vehicle that offers 3.7 cubic metres of loadspace but still returns 60.1 mpg on the combined cycle.
For a van, this model is packed not only with fuel-saving technology but also with other equipment. As with most Citroën LCVs, you get a Trafficmaster Smartnav system as standard, which not only acts as a sat-nav unit but also encompasses stolen vehicle tracking and even a helpline which will assist with breakdowns, and informations such as the direction of the nearest McDonald’s restaurant.
Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is standard, unlike on lower level models, together with ABS brakes, remote central locking, electric front windows and cruise control.
Our test model also had the Enterprise pack which adds metallic paint, air-conditioning, rear parking sensors and grip control pack, bringing the price to £14,045 ex-VAT.
But it’s in the engine department that the Berlingo gets really interesting.
There’s a 1.6-litre common rail turbodiesel powerplant pumping out 90bhp and 159lb-ft of torque, but it’s mated to an EGS six-speed automated manual gearbox, which means that there’s no clutch, although gears can be ‘paddled’ up and down with levers behind the steering wheel.
Unlike conventional automatics, this system doesn’t use any more fuel and, together with a standard stop-start system, it all adds up to pretty phenomenal fuel economy and a low CO2 output of 118g/km.
The Airdream also features a regenerative braking system that recovers and stores energy that would otherwise be lost when slowing down.
Behind the wheel
When the Citroën Berlingo was first launched in 1995, it was so far ahead of the rivals that it won a Fleet News van award for five years in succession.
But the original version was fairly agricultural compared to the sleek, smooth offering here.
One reason it is so different, apart from the better technology available, is that it has grown in size to accommodate its smaller brother, the Nemo, underneath.
Thus, with a special passenger seat folded down, this van swallows nearly four cubic metres of cargo, up to three metres in length. That’s some cargo area for a small van.
Meanwhile in the front, the Berlingo has plenty of legroom for the driver and, uniquely in the sector, a third seat – but, there isn’t exactly a lot of legroom for that third person.
If the extra seat is only needed for short journeys, however, it will suffice.
Meanwhile the middle seats fold halfway down to reveal a handy desk.
In the back, there’s a side sliding door and six load-lashing eyes.
There’s no clutch and no gear lever – instead just a knob on the dash which you twist round to select the driving mode.
I tried the two ‘up and down’ paddles on the steering wheel and then didn’t bother after that as the van manages to change gear quite well without my help.
Changes aren’t exactly seamless but you soon get used to the gentle little jolt.
The 90bhp on offer is quite enough for normal driving and handling is well weighted.
However, the mesh bulkhead allowed a fair amount of noise into the cab, rather spoiling the ambience at higher speeds.
This van just keeps getting better and better. Fleet buyers will well appreciate being able to lug this much cargo around in a van which should still return over 60 miles per gallon.