Citroen Berlingo
Top speed 109mph
0-62mph 11.5 seconds
MPG 42.4
CO2 119g/km

Driving into the garden centre, I pull up next to a rather unusual car. It’s a hearse. “What are they doing here?” I wonder. “Picking up some last-minute flowers,” guesses my son, “or maybe an extra shovel and some body bags…” As we bask in our hilarity, the owner of the hearse returns. He’s not an undertaker, just a canny bloke who wanted a cheap set of wheels. “It cost me £650 on eBay,” he says, hefting some fence posts into the back and laying them on the plinth where the coffin usually rests. “I bought it because there’s loads of room for my mountain bikes,” he adds. How functional: two seats, the hugest boot, low mileage, and you can park anywhere so long as you wear a black suit and look sombre.

Most of us only ever want to make one journey by hearse. But to benefit from this abundance of practicalities you don’t need to buy a funeral wagon. Instead, you could go for its life-affirming equivalent: a Citroën Berlingo.

A little over 20 years – and more than 1.7m vehicles – ago, Citroën created a previously unknown class of vehicle – and called it the Berlingo. It was an affordable, van-based MPV designed to be the ultimate leisure car, offering oodles of usable space, a massive boot and an up-for-any-adventure personality. It was short, wide and tall, which also made it very easy to park. It had hosable rubber mats and no-nonsense, wipe-down plastics. The rear doors were slidable, making access simple. It was the family car that was all about function, and because it worked so well it gained some unexpected kudos. You couldn’t call it stylish and yet it had a style all of its own. It’s been so successful that in 22 years it has only had two make-overs. The Berlingo was proof that if you build something people need, they’ll soon want one – no matter how odd it looked.

Inside story: the Berlingo has plenty of interior space. There are three rows of seats that can all be folded flat

Inside story: the Berlingo has plenty of interior space. There are three rows of seats that can all be folded flat

Now, along comes the third-generation Berlingo. It comes in two versions: a standard 4.4m five-seat model and an all-new seven-seat XL version that is 35cm longer. If either of these look familiar to you that’s because it shares much of its underpinnings with Peugeot’s Rifter and Vauxhall’s Combo Life – all three are from the same PSA Group stable. Whether you go for the five- or seven-seater, you’ll find much to like in this reinvigorated car. It looks strong and sensible, but it has a playful twinkle about it.

The grille is higher and shorter than before and is framed by a snazzy pair of two-tier lights. The massive windscreen is set so far forward you can’t reach it from the driver’s seat. This makes the car feel wonderfully spacious and bright – tomatoes in a greenhouse enjoy more shade. It’s also topped off by a pair of sleek roof rails which means if a rack for bikes, boards, skis or box can easily be added. The Berlingo also takes practicality and storage to Marie Kondo levels of tidiness: it has 28 separate compartments, totalling 186 litres of extra storage. Then there’s the boot, which swallows a further 775 litres of load.

It’s powered by a 109bhp version of the award-winning PureTech 1.2-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol engine, with a six-speed manual gearbox. A larger 1.5-litre four-cylinder diesel is also available. The petrol unit is smooth and sprightly. It corners with surprisingly little roll given its tall body and soft suspension. With its easy manner and can-do spirit, the Berlingo brims with the possibility of escape from everyday life, whether that’s camping, hiking or biking. It’s definitely one to enjoy before we start pushing up daisies…

Email Martin at or follow him on Twitter@MartinLove166



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