Currently reading: Britain's Best Large Car 2020: Citroen Berlingo
If you need to carry large loads, this Britain's Best Car Awards winner will do it with aplomb
Autocar
News
3 mins read
21 October 2020

Why the Citroen Berlingo won: It can meet your every need yet doesn’t feel drab. Well priced, brilliantly thought out and appeals as an anti-status symbol.

The Berlingo is just one of the winners in this year's Britain's Best Car Awards - see the full list here.

Why is a big car big? Unless you’re into the rarefied atmosphere of Bentley and Rolls-Royce, it’s for a practical purpose: to carry people and stuff. That’s what the Citroën Berlingo does with exceptional brilliance. The fact that it does this with charm and character, while delivering ride comfort virtually as good as that of a Mercedes-Benz S-Class bristling with complex electronic aids, adds to the piquancy of the recipe.

You want carrying capacity? Start with a big steel box. Better still, start with a choice of two steel boxes of different lengths depending on whether you want to carry five people or seven. Give said box sliding rear doors for efficient loading in confined spaces. For further convenience, add a huge, overhanging tailgate that gives a low loading height and unimpaired access to every cubic centimetre – and creates a handy veranda when it’s bucketing down. You want head room and overhead cabin storage? Make it taller than the average car – but never too tall to fit into multi-storey car parks. You want it to be easy to park and fit down confined village streets? Give it straight sides. Also comfortable, upright seats and terrific visibility.

Only when you’ve done all this should you let your designers loose on it – but if they’re like Citroën’s current crop, they will surprise you by bringing both a relationship with the original Berlingo of 1996 and a taste of contemporary style. You will be gratified to find that many people love the Berlingo’s no-fuss demeanour and extreme practicality far more than a whole world of tinsel.

The Berlingo is made better by the arrival of the PSA Group’s excellent 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine (it’s almost sporty) and a choice of ultra-clean diesels. In some combinations, you can have an eight-speed automatic gearbox, too. What’s more, Citroën took the wise decision to equip top-end versions with all manner of life-enhancing equipment: automatic emergency braking, a head-up display, climate control, air conditioning, a rear-view camera and much more.

There are a few distinguishing colour and wheel options but few alternatives of interior trim, because buyers of cars as honestly practical as the Berlingo just don’t care, and they know that providing unnecessary alternatives only adds to the cost. A leather upholstery option? Don’t be daft.

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The extreme irony of all this is that a sensibly specified Berlingo is one of the most comfortable cars on the road. It’s decently quiet and, with the 129bhp petrol or 129bhp diesel engine fitted, even has a respectable turn of speed.

Berlingo owners long ago got used to the surprise of those new to the model when they see its comfort and capability. Previous generations of the Berlingo continue to attract strong interest from certain kinds of people even now, and we’re convinced that today’s model carries on that tradition of discreet desirability as well as ever.

Judge's view: Matt Saunders

The big, practical car in your family is always likely to be the ritzier, pricier status symbol on your driveway, isn’t it? It always was. The reason the van-like Citroën Berlingo is so likeable is quite possibly because it’s such a tempting invitation to invert that hierarchy, which is liberating when you think about it.

Best of all, it might even confer anti-status upon its owner, and there’s a certain kind of customer who would pay quite a lot for that.

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Britain's Best Cars Awards 2020: Winners revealed

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TS7 21 October 2020

Shame there's no leather option...

...for in its ability to be kept clean with a damp cloth it beats absorbent cloth any day.

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