11 January 2021
2020 was a funny old year, with lots of uncertainty and still no real clarity as we headed into 2021. Although this sweeping statement is true of both Brexit and Covid-19 to some extent, it also applies to the status of Crew Vans in the eyes of HMRC for tax purposes.
Actually, that is said as much in hope than expectation, as the situation should have been clarified by the latest ruling in a landmark case that has seen HMRC and Coca Cola debating whether Kombi vans are really vans or cars for tax purposes. The latest appeal went in HMRC’s favour and vans that can carry five people and look like very big estate cars are in fact cars after all, meaning they don’t qualify for the much-lower van BIK rates, among other things.
Which brings me to the latest Company Van Today long-term test van – the Citroen Berlingo Crew Van. In the past, such a vehicle would have looked largely similar to the Berlingo Multispace MPV, but with a few tougher materials and a more basic kit list. But this version is notable for one major element – the lack of rear windows.
One major part of the Coca Cola case centred around whether a vehicle was primarily designed to carry goods or people, and it is harder to argue that a vehicle with no windows for the second row is designed as a people carrier.
This raises plenty of questions, which we are hoping to answer over the coming months. Does the addition of three seats in the second row make this more or less practical? Does the lack of windows rule it out as a weekend vehicle that can be used as family transport? Is the tax saving worth putting up with a lack of visibility? Will that saving cover the cleaning bill when the younger members of my family get wildly carsick when sitting in the back?
It’s too soon to know the answers to those latter questions, but I am sure you will hear the reaction if I get to test that last one in detail. Apologies in advance, Citroen.
The good news is that all three seats across the back come with Isofix, so Citroen clearly hasn’t gone for the cheapest possible seats and pretended that you can only shove your junior colleagues in the second row.
The Crew Van only comes in Enterprise trim, and we’ve kept things simple by only adding the one option – the Deep Blue metallic paint. Thankfully the standard kit list brings things like cruise control, air conditioning, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth and an eight-inch colour touchscreen.
When it was first announced the Berlingo was going to come with a selection of engines and gearboxes, including the eight-speed automatic. Instead you get this 102hp 1.5-litre diesel engine and the five-speed manual gearbox. Longer motorway trips will reveal if this proves relaxing, or whether I’ll be pining for a sixth gear.