Try and picture a van-based compact people carrier. Bet you weren't imagining anything quite as nice as this. The MK3 model version of Citroen's much more civilised third generation Berlingo people carrier has been further distanced from its predecessors' basic commercial roots. With smarter styling, more equipment and efficient PureTech petrol and BlueHDi diesel engines, this value-for-money five or seven-seater is now a vehicle that demands to be taken very seriously indeed. If you're after a budget family carry-all, it's well worth a look.
If you've yet to sample one of these third generation models, you'll probably be very pleasantly surprised by how the Berlingo drives. The old bump, thump and reverberations that characterised previous versions have well and truly gone. I know it's a bit of a cliche when discussing this sort of MPV but there is a lot of truth in describing this boxy Citroen as 'car-like'. For what is quite a tall, high vehicle, there's none of the tippy feeling that characterised the previous generation version of this design, helped in no small part by beefier anti roll bars.
And a much improved suspension set-up. Which in turn has made possible the kind of ride quality you'd like to expect from a Citroen: in other words absorbent and very well tuned for our terrible roads. It's an important thing to consider, for I reckon that aside from safety and practicality, ride quality needs to be one of your key criteria when making a decision on an MPV-style vehicle. Too firm and you'll never manage to get the kids off to sleep on a long journey at night: too soft and they'll get car sick. The Berlingo strikes a good balance because it's a little softer than you might expect in compression and rebound - in other words, over the bumps - but a little firmer than you'd think in roll - in other words, around the corners. Engine-wise, you get to choose between a 1.2-litre three cylinder Puretech petrol unit (with 110 or 130hp) or a 1.5-litre BlueHDi diesel (with 75, 100 or 130hp).
This third generation Berlingo sits on the PSA Group's latest EMP2 platform and gets the same kind of two-tier light signature frontal treatment we've seen on the company's recent models. There's a more forward-set windscreen and a higher and shorter front end, plus even 'Airbump' plastic panels protecting the flanks from supermarket scrapes. As before, there are two wide sliding side doors and they feature electric windows. There are two body styles - 'M' and 'XL'. And buyers choose between 5 or 7-seat variants.
Citroen claims even more interior versatility this time round, with three individual seats in the rear that can be folded down with a simple movement using the 'Magic Flat' controls in the boot. Combined with a folding front passenger seat, this feature provides a perfectly flat floor and a load length of up to 2.70m for the standard 'M' version and 3.05m for the lengthier 'XL' model. There's a class-leading boot volume, increased by 100-litres to 775-litres for the 'M' version. The boot is easily accessible thanks to the opening rear window in the tailgate and two different height positions for the luggage cover. Around the cabin, there are 28 large and ingenious storage spaces such as the new-generation Modutop multi-function roof that also lets more light into the interior. The 'Top Box' glove box is unique to the segment thanks to the 'Airbag in Roof' system.
Older Citroen Berlingo Multispace models tended to be enormously endearing. Like a faithful family hound, your people-carrying Berlingo wouldn't be flashy and could be a little agricultural in its manners but would never let you down. This third generation design though, sets out to add a little pedigree to the breed and in doing so, changes the rules quite significantly, positioning this model as a more desirable family accoutrement. Spend enough on this new generation version and it can be as stylish, safe and high-tech as you could possibly want.
Going that route of course dilutes much of the price advantage that so sets more basic variants apart from more conventional - and arguably more car-like - compact MPVs. But it doesn't negate it completely. Which means that you can specify this Berlingo precisely the way you want and still end up with one of the most affordable five or seven-seat people carriers on the market. And a car that's far more spacious and practical than most of its contemporaries into the bargain. Which of course is why Berlingo sales remain so strong - and why you need to try one of these if you're looking for a good value set of family wheels. You can thank me later.Click here to find out more about our Citroen Berlingo range