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Oasis or Blur? Plain chocolate Bounty or milk chocolate Bounty? Berlingo or Picasso? There are some decisions in life where there can be only one choice. For me it has to be Blur, the plain Bounty and a Berlingo (although not necessarily all of them at the same time!)
My love affair with the Berlingo started about two and a half years ago when my husband ordered a brochure for the Citroen Picasso. Accompanying this were the particulars for the Berlingo. I was immediately struck by the versatility of the car (more about this later) and also, I must confess, I loved the fact it looked a bit like a van! My husband hated it and put the details in the bin! Clearly underestimating the resourcefulness of us females, he forgot all about the Berlingo for many months.
Many months later .....
we bought a new Berlingo for £8,400 from a local Citroen dealer! At the time, Citroen had a deal on whereby you didn't have to pay the VAT on all new purchases. Sound familiar? Yes, I know, they have this deal on fairly frequently, but I was duped into believing that it wasn't going to be repeated for quite some time! The result? I rushed into buying my car (the 1.4i forte in 'sahara gold'). It's not all bad though, I love the colour and I've since seen the 'wicked red' which was my first choice and not liked it as much! The only thing I haven't got (and do miss on warmer days) is a sun-roof.
Anyway, enough about my car ... on to the specifics. I'm going to start with the advantages of this car. Before I do that however, apologies in advance that this is a little long. This car has so many good points, I struggled to contain them!
Storage space If you've been fortunate enough to more than glance at a Berlingo, you will have been struck by how much space this car has. To start with, there's the obvious places like the boot. It's huge! The Berlingo van on which the Multispace was based has two doors which open outwards where you would expect the boot to be. However, on the car, this has been changed to a lift up boot like on a regular car. However unlike a regular car, the Berlingo has a gigantic floor area measuring approximately 1.2m by 0.85m (4ft by nearly 3ft). From the floor to the ceiling is another 1.2m (4ft) although you can't fill the boot this high when you have passengers (without fear of knocking them out should you brake sharply!) When all five seats are being used as seats, there is a roll-up cover for the boot. Be warned though that this is flexible and you can't put things on it like you would a parcel shelf.
Apart from the boot, there are an amazing number of nooks and crannies to store things in. Citroen have two types of Berlingo, the 'forte' and the 'desire'. Both have over-head net-bag style pockets on the rear side doors and another pocket in the boot. There are also two lift-up lids under two of your passengers feet. Under these are little cubby holes (ideal for storing cds). As well as the standard glove compartment and numerous cup holders there is also a large space above the driver and front passengers heads which I personally use for keeping a map (never used it, can't read it but it's there, just in case!) and a pair of sunglasses (far more necessary!). If you decided to purchase the more desirable 'desire' this space is transformed into proper built in storage units. The 'desire' also has fold-down aeroplane style tables on the back of the front seats. Even if we had these, my children are too small to appreciate them at the moment anyway but I imagine families with the 'desire' would find these tables ideal for colouring-in type activities on long journeys (until you discover the travel-sickness capabilities of your offspring that is!)
Versatility It is when you don't need all five seats that this car shows its real potential. The front seats don't move (except backwards and forwards a little to aid comfort) but the three rear seats are built as a set of two and one on its own. To fold the seats is simplicity itself. You press a button in and see a red bit pop up next to said button, you push the back of the seat forwards so it is flat on the bit where your bottom goes and then you pull the whole thing forwards so it is flat against the back of the front seats. This then provides a mass of space for carrying a table, an electric piano, a Christmas tree (or whatever!). If you are a rather long-limbed driver, you need to put your seat at its desired position before folding the rear seats. Once the seats are folded, it is almost impossible to move the front seats back.
More ingenious is the decision to build the rear seats as a two and one unit. It means that if you have less than five people in the car (but more than two!) and need a bit more storage space, you can choose to fold up just one seat, leaving room for two in the back or alternatively, fold up the two-seater and carry one person in the back. It might sound a bit obvious but it really is handy if, for example, your boot is full of shopping and you have a husband, two children and a double-buggy to transport. You simply whack the single seat out of the way to make space for the pushchair.
Safety There is a button in the middle of the driver's controls which, when pressed, locks all the doors. If you use this feature and then hold the button for three 'bongs' the car will automatically lock itself every time you close the doors. If you choose this option, the car also locks itself when you get out. I haven't experimented to find out what happens if you leave your keys in the car, get out and close the door!
Another built in safety devise: when you select reverse gear with your front wind-screen wipers on, the back wiper starts up automatically. This made me jump the first time it happened so I thought I should mention it but it was quite handy as it meant I could see where I was going!
I also almost forgot to mention the rear sliding doors. They are a brilliant safety bonus since they make getting children (especially small wriggly ones) in and out of the vehicle as easy as possible. You also don't have to risk losing a door if someone passes a little too close should one of your little darlings choose to take longer than average to get out!
High driving position This is such a big advantage for me that it had to have its own paragraph. I like to be able to see the end of my bonnet. I find it hard to judge how much space there is in front. Being that much higher up, it makes reversing past a car much easier and parking in front of a pillar or a gate a doddle!
Features The new Berlingo (after late 2000) has many of the features you would hope for as standard: power-steering, electric windows, remote central locking, driver's airbag, immobilizer (you don't have to type in a number though which is great because I used to keep forgetting to do that on my Saxo!), a heater for sorting out the wind-screen, an engine (must confess to not being able to write much about that though!) The 'forte' has a radio-cassette player whereas the radio-cd player is standard on the 'desire' but both have the option of adding air-conditioning and you can upgrade your 'forte' to a cd player for an astronomically high price (can't remember what I was quoted but it seemed a lot just for a cd player!)
Disadvantages I really love the Berlingo but even I have to admit that it has one or two design flaws. You remember the huge boot I told you about? It's quite nice to have a proper boot rather than two doors at the back. However, be careful where you park when you go shopping. I always try to park with my rear (sorry, I mean the rear of the car!) facing out towards the road. When parking in supermarkets for example, I like to drive forwards to park in the front of two spaces so as not to have to reverse out except, if you do this and someone parks behind you, you can't get the boot open very easily.
The reason why I avoid reversing wherever possible is that I'm rubbish at it! I can't deny it, I am. However, the visibility when reversing is quite poor. I've not had many cars to compare it with but my husband says the same. I'm afraid I can't tell you why the visibility is poor, you just wish you could see more of what is coming when going backwards!
You probably need me to tell you about things like nought to sixty and fuel consumption and I can't! Well, I can sort of but if you want actual figures, you'll need to look in the Citroen brochure. In terms of speed, the 1.4 is never going to be that nippy. The injection helps a bit but another time I'd go for the 1.6 petrol engine as I do find the 1.4 a bit sluggish up hills (especially if you select too high a gear!). I've never driven it but I've been told the 2.0 HDL diesel is really quick so perhaps if its space and speed you're after, it would be worth a look. Although we considered it, I personally couldn't justify the extra two grand as speed isn't a priority for me. As for fuel consumption, I don't know the figures but I do find it quite heavy on petrol compared to the Saxo I drove previously. Usually (present price-rise excused) it costs about £36 to fill the tank from empty and that will give me about 350 miles. That's driving mainly local journeys. If my husband uses it to go to work, this can be stretched out to 380 miles.
If you're still with me, I would like to conclude by saying that personally I think the Berlingo is a far better choice than the Picasso or similar (cheaper too but that's another paragraph again!) since it has a lot more space and flexibility. Yes, it looks like a van, but when you get past that I think it makes a fun, quirky choice which even the most sceptical of spouses will have to admit is a brilliant choice for the family.
I am car hunting now and I love the look of this one - Vicki xx
lipsalve 16.07.2005 00:27
Sounds great. We will be car hunting in the next few weeks and will need a car big enough for 3 child seats and 6 child elbows! Great review. I will have to do the 'short person's test' on them as currently I have to sit on a cushion to see out of the window of our Citroen BX! Jo x
lizzie27 14.07.2005 21:46
A fresh, female view on a practical car (or van!). Very honest and quite convincing! Fab!