The Berlingo was first brought to the Australian market in 1998, and it has remained ever since, albeit with a number of refinements. The Berlingo may be considered the descendent of the legendary 2CV AK400 in many respects.
While the modern vehicle does not share its forebear’s almost complete lack of frills, the Berlingo did share some of the no-nonsense ethos with which its ancestor was conceived. All Berlingo models are, however, replete with modern injection engines.
When initially introduced, the three-door Berlingo was available with a single body shape and a single 1.4L petrol engine. These somewhat limited options were expanded over time to include the current choice of three diesel engines and one petrol engine, as well as an electric variant that is due to be released at some time in 2013.
There have been two generations of the Berlingo, with the second-generation range (introduced in 2008) offering a choice of two body shapes (the petrol L1 and diesel L2). Both body types are expanded to five doors and are longer and wider than their predecessor, with the L2 being the longer of the two variants.
The increased capacity of the second-generation models – the L1 is 240mm longer and 80mm wider – made the new models considerably more expensive than their predecessor, yet these vehicles remain very reasonably priced for vans of their sizes.
The Citroen Berlingo belongs to the sub-2.5 tonne class. When one considers that the most popular vans in Australia belong to the 2.5 to 3.5 tonne class, the Berlingo may seem less appealing. But what the Berlingo may lack in size compared to bigger vehicles, it certainly makes up for in terms of competitive pricing and a cargo area that remains more than accommodating despite the vehicle’s relatively small size.
As previously mentioned, the first-generation Berlingo was initially only available with a 1.4L engine. From inception in 1998 until being discontinued in 2008, engine specifications were expanded to include eight different engine variants at different times in its lifespan, including a 2.0L diesel engine that produced 66kW of power and a torque of 205Nm.
The range also included the ‘Electrique’ engine, which was made for Citroen by Venturi Electric and produced 28kW of power and a torque of 180Nm.
Since 2008, Citroen have given a choice of four engines – one 1.6L petrol engine and three 1.6 HDi 16V diesel engines, all of which are paired with manual 5-speed gearboxes and have power ratings of 55kW, 66kW, and 88kW.
The short-body Berlingo L1’s 4-cylinder engine produces 66kW of power at 5800rpm and 132Nm of torque at 2500rpm. Acceleration is not this van’s strong point, only reaching 100km/h in 17.5 seconds, using 8.2L/100km of petrol. Quite honestly, the Berlingo could have done with a sixth gear to accommodate steep hills and high speeds on the highway.
Steering on all models has been a source of criticism on the Berlingo. There is perhaps too much play when the wheel is central, coupled with a heaviness at speed. The ride can also be uncomfortable on bump and pothole-laden surfaces, which tend to cause a degree of bounce.
However, the Citroen Berlingo is a lot smoother and quieter on flat roads. The driver's seat puts you in a commanding position with great forward visibility and backward visibility from nice big wing mirrors.
Standard equipment on early models includes a driver’s airbag and an engine immobiliser, with options including metallic paintwork and air-conditioning with a pollen filter. Options on later first-generation models grew to include anti-lock brakes, air-conditioning, passenger airbags, split fold rear seats, and a 1.9m electric sunroof.
Many of these options come as standard kit on the second-generation models, with the addition of cruise control and speed limiter functions. The modern Berlingo received a 4-star rating from safety experts at the ANCAP in 2011 – not perfect, but by no means bad.
Modern Berlingos have electronic stability control as an option. The lack of a passenger-side airbag as standard is something to keep in mind, as the passenger airbag is only included on models that have the third front seat option.
The sub-2.5 van segment to which the Citroen belongs is dominated in the Australian market by the VW Caddy, which has an impressive 55.3% market share. This market is also shared by the Suzuki APV and Holden Combo, as well as the Berlingo’s virtual doppelganger, the Peugeot Partner, which shares a parent company, PSA, with the Citroen.