17 April 2020
After a few months of the Berlingo being used more for its ‘Crew’ capabilities, the time finally came for it to put in a shift as a van.
Colleague Tristan Young had the perfect opportunity, with a house clearance requiring something with plenty of carrying capacity.
Having taken the keys, he confessed that he was close to not handing them back again. Over to Tristan for more:
“Full van mode is easy to achieve; fold the rear seats and slide the bulkhead forward is all that’s needed. And operating and securing the bulkhead is intuitive thanks to the four handles being coloured yellow.
“The only downside to having
a moveable bulkhead is that the rear attachment points which intrude slightly into the load area.
“One final point I can report is that the sliding side doors hold really well in the open position if you park on a slope.”
One element both Tristan and I struggled with was sliding the front passenger seat. The driver’s side has a bar beneath the seat, but the passenger seat has a lever beside the cushion. And in our car it took a good yank to get moving.
24 March 2021
Having spent weeks praising the Berlingo’s practicality it was odd to come across something in the interior that didn’t match up to standards.
It concerns something that really isn’t a problem until it suddenly is – the cupholders. There are only two of them, they are both really small and they sit really high up in the top corner of the dashboard next to the pillar between windscreen and door. Let’s just say you’d better not be a fan of picking up Venti Lattes at the Starbucks drive through.
Sure, it might sound like a small thing in the grand scheme of things. “Just use a bottle or take a sealable flask!” I hear you cry. And, of course, you shouldn’t drink while driving. But if you get called off to a job while there is half a coffee left, where do you put it for that journey? And you need somewhere to balance the coffee while you drive out of the aforementioned drive through if nothing else.
And those who do bring their own cold bottled drinks shouldn’t look too smug either. With the cupholders positioned right up on the top of the dash they will be primed to slowly heat up in the midday sun as summer reaches its peak.
Given the premium on space in the Berlingo cabin it is hard to see exactly what the solution might be, but there are surely options available to the designers.
8 March 2021
My diet this week has mainly consisted of humble pie.
Having grumbled about the fact that the front passenger seat in the Berlingo didn’t slide forward and backwards, I sent it off to colleague Tristan who equally found that there was no obvious way to do so – certainly there is no bar underneath as there is on the driver’s seat. “Fair enough, it must be fixed in place – who needs to move the passenger seat much in a van anyway,” thought I.
Then up popped a reader in my mentions on Twitter, asking if I had managed to sort the issue. It turns out that he had just taken delivery of his own Crew Van and had encountered the same problem.
He then went on to say: “If you lift the handle on the side of the passenger seat which normally raises and lowers the seat this lets you slide backwards and forwards.”
On trying it, it turned out that the handle on our Berlingo was very stiff. This lead Tristan and I to both conclude that it did nothing and was only on there as it was cheaper in production to leave a handle that did nothing in place than it was to take it off. Once given a good yank the seat started sliding.
Humble pie duly eaten, cap duly doffed to Graham Smyth (@gtsmyth23).
22 February 2021
The CVT Berlingo has, like many fleet vehicles, not covered as many miles so far in 2021 as would normally be expected. Rather than embarking on plenty of professional journeys, it has been pressed into service as family transport on the few occasions that such things have been allowed. As a result I have had an insight into how a windowless crew van might work as weekend transport.
I had real concerns that my three-year-old daughter might be a vocal and resistant critic of the Berlingo due to the lack of visibility in the back, but so far things are going OK. Because all three of the rear seats have Isofix we have been able to position her in the middle, which means she has a fantastic view out of the side. We then tell her that the lack of windows mean she is hiding from all the other cars and she is on a secret mission. So far this has worked, but cracks started to emerge when we had to move her to the seat behind the front passenger recently.
Because you can’t slide it forward or backwards, as I mentioned last time out, she is a little restricted on the legroom front. This, and the big headrest blocking her view, meant that she asked to go in a “car with windows” this last week.
We had little choice, though, as the middle seat was taken up by daughter two, who arrived less than two weeks ago and has claimed that spot so mum can sit next to her. Given she has slept through every journey she’s been on in her short life so far, the dark and cosy atmosphere seems to be to her favour at least.
8 February 2021
Having talked about all the flexibility of the Berlingo’s seats last time out, particularly the ability to fold down row two relatively easily, I noticed a slight oddity with the front passenger seat.
While you can fold it forward to accommodate longer poles and the like, you can’t do something that front seats conventionally do. For some odd reason you can’t slide the seat forwards and backwards.
It shouldn’t be an issue for the front passenger – there is enough legroom up front for even really tall passengers, but it does make things a little less flexible in the second row. While there is a decent amount of leg space back there, too, it does mean that things like big child seats are better off behind the driver (assuming the driver isn’t really long legged). There is also the middle seat, which is an option thanks to there being Isofix in all three rear seats.
25 January 2021
After a month on the driveway (with slightly more time spent looking at it sitting on the driveway than actually driving it) the Citroen Berlingo is starting to settle into family life.
I’ve also already had reason to curse my preconceptions about it. With previous crew vans I’ve lived with in the past there has been the option to turn them from predominantly people-carrying machines into full-capacity vans. However, to do so you had to employ patience and brute strength to remove the seats and then had to deal with the issue of storing them.
Before the Berlingo arrived I’d blithely assumed that the system would be similar, and my garage would be pressed into service if I needed to take the seats out at any point. Fairly rapidly, though, I was delighted to discover a much cleverer system. Instead of having to take the seats out, you can fold them down using a simple lever, exactly as you would in a car. They go almost totally flat, and then you have the choice of either sliding the bulkhead forward or opening a little gate in it to slot longer items through.
This simple system seems set to make the Citroen a much more flexible vehicle in its time with us.
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.