Thursday, 21 March 2019

Luxury ‘van’ puts style in its place

Luxury ‘van’ puts style in its place

WHEN it comes to choosing a new car I get the impression the British much prefer style to substance.

Our soon to be estranged friends in Europe, on the other hand, have always had a practical eye when it comes to picking new models.

The move years ago on the Continent to diesel as the fuel of choice may seem folly now but I am sure that there was a practical, collective good reason behind it.

So this week’s drive — the new 2019 Citroën Berlingo — might be considered by some British motorists as a mite too practical, a tad too utilitarian. Let’s face it, for a lot of Brits this type of car is just not flashy enough.

However, there are exceptions. I met a man the other day who was on his third Berlingo. He was very happy owning one after the other.

He cited the Berlingo’s practicality, its many uses, its fuel economy and its comfort — all attributes that come to the fore in this latest version I have been driving. The practicalities, he said, outweighed any misgivings about style. (He had also lived and worked in Switzerland before retiring back to Britain, so that might explain his affection for Berlingo-type vehicles.)

Yet the mindset among Brits seems to be fixed that practical means dull. We do not make our own British brand of cars any longer, with a few exceptions — though even in those car-making institutions the money comes from global sources.

So we tend to worship what we consider to be style above all else in cars, which naturally translates into more expensive models — and that has been the status quo for a while. Could it all go back to those admiring phrases that used to be in common usage here: “Oh yes, he drives one of those foreign jobs.”

Well, now the majority of us drive “foreign jobs”. And I have enjoyed my driving time with the new Berlingo.

A brief bit of history: the Berlingo originated as a van. There are all kinds of vehicles that started life as workhorses but since also produce versions that cross over into the “domestic” market.

Pick-ups have ditched their picks and shovels and become comfortable family-carrying vehicles (though retaining their capacity for load bearing). SUVs (sport utility vehicles) keep their 4x4 credentials mostly hidden these days but retain their four-wheel drive capability and come in all shapes and sizes.

The Citroën Berlingo and Peugeot Partner are almost identical panel vans that are now deemed “leisure activity vehicles” made by the PSA Peugeot Citroën alliance since 1996.

They have been produced with diesel and petrol engines, as well as powered by CNG (compressed natural gas) and pure electric.

The third generation Berlingo and a new Peugeot Rifter were officially unveiled at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show.

So what is new on the Citroën Berlingo? A record amount of free space, says its maker — three retractable individual rear seats; multiple storage compartments with a new-generation Modutop multifunctional roof; and a new selection of colours and materials with different interior combinations.

Citroën brands the Berlingo as the “ultimate leisure activity vehicle”.

It comes in two lengths: the standard size M measures 4.4 metres long, while the new XL size is 4.75 metres long. The M body style can seat up to five people while the XL can carry seven people in comfort.

There is a range of exterior colours available for the Berlingo including Soft Sand, Aqua Green, Columbus Gray, Platinium Gray, Onyx Black, Deep Blue, Passion Red and Polar White.

There’s the option of white details around the fog lights and side protection strips. Alternatively, you can have vibrant orange highlights included in the optional XTR Pack.

Go for contrasting Onyx Black door mirrors, body coloured scuff plates and a wild green interior ambiance with orange strip, and your Berlingo has an unmistakable French look about it.

The Berlingo offers accessibility via two sliding side doors and large opening tailgate. Power assistance to both the tailgate and sliding side doors would be a great bonus, but I suppose that would then elevate the overall cost of the car.

The boot volume of the medium-sized Berlingo M is 775 litres. The Berlingo has 186 litres of storage space designed for everyday living. A practical vehicle that scores on so many fronts — even style, in my book.

Factfile

New Citroën Berlingo

Model: M Flair BlueHDi 130 S&S 5-speed manual

Colour: Soft Sand

Cost of test car: £26,680

Warranty: three years, 60,000 miles

Options on test car include:

Metallic paint (£545); Smartphone charging plate (£100); Modutop roof (glass roof and storage) (£750).

Petrol engines available: 2018 International Engine of the Year, 1.2L PureTech S&S 110hp or 130hp EAT8 (auto)

Diesel engines available: BlueHDi range

Motoring

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