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First Drive

First Drive: Citroen Berlingo

First Drive - October 2021 - Citroen Berlingo - Image 1
The story: Citroen’s most practical model is available in petrol auto powertrain as well as the petrol and diesel manuals (and forthcoming full EV).
Key rival:Peugeot Rifter
On sale:Now

Citroen’s Berlingo is the epitome of practical sensibility, and this version combines an automatic gearbox and petrol engine, slotting the EAT8 auto in with the most powerful engine in the line-up, the 130hp 1.2-litre.

The powertrain is available in both five-seat M and seven-seat XL body lengths, as well as all four trim levels, and is engaged via a dial on the dashboard, which is due to be replaced by a new selector as part of a modest revamp late this year in which the Rip Curl trim level will supersede the mid-spec Flair.

First Drive - October 2021 - Citroen Berlingo - Image 2It’s fair to say the additional style touches of the top Flair XTR model (pictured), particularly the coloured surrounds to the foglights and airbump on the doors, lift the car’s appearance, whereas the entry car driven here is a little more sober. However, that merely adds to the air of unerring sensible practicality, with even the shorter M model boasting a huge boot, big sliding rear doors to aid access, and plenty of interior passenger and especially stowage space. Although the door and dashboard pockets aren’t the biggest in the class, the central space and the very handy shelf above the windscreen are extremely useful indeed.

The powertrain is a little lumpy at low speed, with careful moderation of the accelerator required to ensure smooth progress, but it offers as much power as the driver of such a tall, sensible vehicle is likely to require.

The issue with the 130hp auto is that not only is it almost £2000 more than the 110hp manual model, but it is also 6g/km less efficient, which tips the car one BiK band, two insurance groups and, importantly, one first-year VED band higher. And that VED band takes the first-year cost from £220 to £555, a big jump given this is a sensible budget model.

paul barker

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The verdict

The automatic 1.2 petrol doesn’t make enough sense financially, or drive well enough, to be a better choice than the manual models in the ultra-sensible, ultra-practical and likeable CCT Award-winning Berlingo.