We've all been passed many times by white vans steaming down the outside lane as the driver 'pushes the envelope' once again on his way to a plumbing emergency. This Berlingo Multispace is basically the same beast with the added advantage of rear seats (and windows), a set of sliding doors and some truly inspired trim combinations.
Mr Magoo might mistake the Berlingo for an MPV, but the basic shape has few people fooled. It's a van with windows. It is also deceptively big, with huge front doors and cramped rear sliding doors which have an irritating tendency to spring back at you. Citroen has gone to some lengths to distance the Multispace from the white-van image, fitting it with 'Esprit' upholstery and a choice of vivid colours, including 'Wicked Red'. The overall effect is a bit like a trip to an Early Learning Centre, just not as fun.
The strange appearance, though doing nothing for your street-cred, is a boon around town. Other drivers let you out of junctions, no-one cuts you up and builders gesticulate their encouragement as you zip past.
But it isn't aimed at upwardly mobile twenty-somethings, the Multispace is for families and this is where it comes up trumps. With two sliding doors access to the Multispace is easy. While, up front, it sports almost excessive headroom and a utilitarian dash.
This model, the Multispace 'Modutop' (not a Pokémon character, I'm assured), comes with a storage system on the ceiling for items you couldn't fit in the boot. Place a mobile phone in the driver's overhead bin and pull away sharply from the lights, however, and an unpleasant Nokia/forehead interface takes place. Ouch. The Modutop option includes various small pockets and hatches, as well as five individual sunroofs and an auxiliary set of vents. The boot space also deserves special mention. Although large, it is finished in a hard-wearing, corrugated plastic which promises to knock seven shades out of your shopping at the slightest corner, so luggage nets are a must.
Driving the Berlingo is fun. It's no sports car, but unloaded it can provoke a grin. The controls are over-light and flimsy feeling, and the upright driving position is straight from the van, but it still loves to be thrown about. Also the skinny front tyres are easily provoked into comedy screeching through corners. Powering the Multispace is a range of 1.4-, 1.8- and 1.6-litre 16v units, as well as a 1.9-litre diesel engine. This 1.6-litre unit is frugal and perfectly adequate around town; only on motorways does the lack of torque and breeze-block aerodynamics limit progress.
So who would buy one? The same people who buy Renault's Kangoo presumably. The 1.6I 16v Forte costs a measly £9,480, plus an extra £500 for the Modutop option. Compare this with a £12,300 Scenic or a £13,995 Zafira and you'll see what good value it is. For families on a budget the Multispace is almost perfect, with loads of room, a practical interior and low running costs.
If you can live with the utilitarian image and are prepared to swallow a little pride, the Citroen is worth a look. Ultimately this is a car you will buy with your head and not with your heart.