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Citroen Berlingo

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Citroen Berlingo Citroen Berlingo

Driven December 2002

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The best thing about new car launches (apart from the food, the hotels and the exotic locations) is reading the press packs. Although the car in front of you might have all the elegance of a car crash, the press pack has a liberal sprinkling of words such as 'individual', 'unique styling' or 'a breath of fresh air'.

The Berlingo Multispace is a case in point. Now don't get me wrong, I like the original and I like the new face-lifted version even better, but let's call a spade a spade here, and not a 'lifestyle adventure tool for the garden generation'. The Berlingo is little more than a van with windows that's been given a new nose and better interior, yet the press pack tells us it has a 'new - particularly expressive - front end. By combining generous volumes and taut lines, the Berlingo clearly announces its power and robust strength'. Eh? I thought it simply had new, bigger (sorry, 'generously dimensioned') lights, a taller bonnet and a slightly chunkier look which, it has to be said, is an improvement.

Meanwhile, the interior has a 'leisure-vehicle look'. Funny, I thought the Berlingo was a leisure vehicle. It's like saying the QE2 looks like a ship. But I'm being cynical here since the interior is a big improvement; better built and not looking like the old Pug 306 the original was based on. Citroen are still offering the fabulous Modutop as a £450 option that gives more lockers than Air Force One. Plus, like the Picasso, the Multispace now has Citroen's Comfort pack available as a reasonable £60 option that gives front armrests, rear seat trays and the brilliant folding trolley (or 'Modubox' in Citroen speak) in the boot.

The van roots are well-disguised behind the impressive trim levels, including electric windows, remote control locking and variable control steering. However, it hasn't gone completely soft and still has the 'you can fill me to the top' image. Citroen has also kept the twin sliding doors in the rear, one of the original's most unique and user-friendly features.

Beneath the new nose, the Berlingo has a reinforced structure and sharper brakes. Other than that, the spec is familiar: 1.4 or 1.6 petrol engines or 1.9 and 2.0 HDi diesels. The HDi's a tad unrefined, while the 1.6i 110bhp petrol feels smoother and faster.

On the road, the car still feels the same as the original version - fun, in a 'Noddy in Toyland' kind of way - but be careful with the corners; it feels as if wants to topple over.

Where Citroen has really scored is with the cost. Thankfully, the new 'robust look' hasn't added anything to the price and so the 1.4i version starts at £9,295, rising to £10,595 for the two-litre HDi although we'd go for the 1.6i that's just below ten grand. Hard to find another mini-MPV for the same price, especially one that is, in Citroen's words, your 'day to day companion'.

Paul Walton

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