Citroen Berlingo Multispace first drive

Citroen Berlingo MultispaceAs its name suggests the Citroen Berlingo Multispace is a versatile tall roof, low floor, boxy vehicle.

It is designed to maximise carrying space, but with passenger comfort, with easy loading whether its people who are able or less mobile, pets, cargo and Christmas shopping!

Versatility, comfort and low running costs are three of the major requirements for motoring families these days. The Berlingo Multispace has all three ‘in spades’, although it is never going to win any beauty contest. It’s strictly function over fashion and you can see its commercial vehicle DNA in the overall design. Yes there is a car-like aerodynamic front end, but then there are slab sides, a low floor, a high roof and a huge full height tailgate at the rear, all very boxy, but very efficient.

The Berlingo Multispace, five door, five seater MPV, also with a seven seat option, is available with the choice of 1.6-litre 95bhp petrol engine or 1.6-litre HDI turbodiesel units of 75, 90 and 115hp power outputs. Prices start from £12,960 and rise to £17,130. The 90bhp turbodiesel unit is also available with Citroen’s e-HDI Airdream micro-hybrid system with a starter/generator, stop/start and an EGS automated manual gearbox. Spec levels, depending on the engine chosen, are VT, VTR and XTR. The Multispace sits in Citroen’s extensive people carrier range between the van based Dispatch Combi and the new car based C4 Picasso in five or seven seat Grand Picasso forms.

Citroen Berlingo MultispaceThe Berlingo Multispace is designed for ‘real-life’ use and over 1.5 million have been sold globally since it first appeared in 1996. There was a major redesign in 2012 and further updates since.

I have just had a spacious and comfortable motoring week in the top of the range 1.6 HDI 115 XTR five seater manual which costs £17,130 plus a few options which pushed the price up to over £20k, which was less appealing.

But let us start at what comes as standard on the price leading VT version. Anti-lock braking, electronic brake distribution, power steering, steel wheels, stereo radio/MP3 compatible CD player, split folding rear bench seat, central locking, front electric windows, overhead storage shelf, multi-function on-board trip computer, twin sliding side doors and rear tailgate.

Moving up the range is the VTR which is the best selling level of specification. VTR adds daytime LED running lights, colour coded side rubbing strips, bumpers, door handles and mirrors, as well as remote central locking and electric door mirrors. This model also has a height adjustable driver’s seat, front arm rests and storage drawers under the front seat.

At the top of the range is the XTR specification which includes air conditioning, roof bars, an All-Road Pack with under body/engine protection and a clever differential to improve 2WD grip when needed, lateral airbags, three separate rear seats, interior roof storage bars, 16-inch alloy wheels and many other features.

Citroen Berlingo MultispaceCitroen Berlingo MultispaceIn addition to its wide range of standard equipment, the latest Berlingo Multispace is offered with a number of unique storage options, including the Modutop, which adds external roof bars, glass roof sections and overhead aircraft style storage space. For even greater loading convenience it is also available with a split opening tailgate.

It is all about space and storage with this vehicle. With all five seats in use there are 675-litres of space and being shaped like a box this means it is very straightforward and easy to load. The low height of the floor means heavy items can be put in and out of the vehicle easily and the high roof and tall tailgate gives brilliant headroom. On the XTR standard five seater version the three rear seats are individual units which slide, fold or can be removed if required. With the rear seats folded there is a massive 3,000-litres of space so one minute it can be family transport but still with loads of room for family clutter, or even the dogs, then easily it can be converted to carrying long and bulky items for work or leisure. The ‘conversion’ industry, who adapts these vehicles for wheelchair use, finds them an ideal donor vehicle. The French love them and in any rural town you will see loads of these vehicles. It’s the family bus of choice but it doubles up when required taking produce to the traditional street markets, anything from home-grown fruit and vegetables to furniture and there is still room for their offspring.

Citroen Berlingo MultispaceThere are loads of extra storage compartments such as lockers under the front seats, in the roof above the seats and a locker across the rear load section. There is also a deep centre storage compartment between the front two seats and usefully large door storage bins as well as the usual glovebox and a further two storage areas built into the top of the dashboard. The rear side sliding doors give full height access to the rear seats and the low floor height gives easy access for the able and less able passengers as well as making it easy to get in and out of the vehicle in tight car park spaces. The front hinged doors open wide, not so good in tight spaces, but the ample headroom is welcome. The front seats are comfortable and supportive and both have armrests. These upright seats allow for good visibility as well and all instruments and controls fall neatly to hand. There is easy to use ‘controller’ on the fascia panel to select the various on/off road, ice/snow/sand traction modes but the low ground clearance, despite the underbody skid plates, will limit its off-the-tarmac capabilities.

The 1.6-litre HDI 115 high pressure, direct injection, common-rail turbodiesel unit has a power output of 115hp with 240Nm (177lb ft) of torque developed from 1,500rpm. The response of this unit in second gear, for example turning into a side road at low speed, feels a bit ‘flat’ and its only at 2,000rpm, that the turbocharger forces life into this unit and the Citroen Berlingo Multispaceengine becomes much more responsive. In the mid range it felt quite lively and much more responsive. Top speed is 107mph but the zero to 62mpg acceleration time is a sedate12.1 seconds. Drive to the front wheels is through a 5-speed manual gearbox with wide spaced ratios hence the ‘flat’ response at low rpm in second gear. The fuel consumption is officially 55.4mpg but overall my week long test drive, covering motorways, A/B country roads and in-town driving returned an overall average of 45.6mpg. With CO2 emissions of 134g/km, VED road tax is £125 a year whilst BIK company car tax is rated at 21%. The insurance rating for this test model is a low 10E.

MILESTONES: Citroen Berlingo Multispace XTR HDI 115 manual. Price: £17,130. Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder, high pressure, direct injection turbodiesel, 115hp, 177lb ft of torque from 1,500rpm, 5-speed manual with multi mode differential. Performance: 107mph, 0-62mph 12.1 seconds, 55.4mpg Combined Cycle (45.6mpg on test), CO2 134g/km, VED road tax £125, BIK company car tax 21%. Insurance group: 10E. Dimensions/capacities: 5-door, 5-seats (7-seat option), L 4,380mm, W 1,810mm, H 1,882mm, boot/load space 675 to 3,000-litres. For: Very spacious and versatile people or load carrier, lots of storage space, easy to drive, comfortable, affordable to run. Against: Its boxy styling will not appeal to everybody, flat low speed engine response.  Miles Better News Agency

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