16 Oct 2012

Living with - Citroen Berlingo XTR 110

The car - Citroen Berlingo XTR 110, 2010
Owners - Adrian Harding and Fiona Tordoff


Derided by many as a “van with windows” and having no style or street cred whatsoever didn’t stop us buying our second Berlingo. The first, a 2005 Desire Hdi 92, was such a trooper that it seemed odd not to buy the latest model.

Bought new in June 2010, this car has to be one of the most highly specified Berlingos ever seen. It would have been quicker to tick the options not wanted, some of which have proved invaluable, others less so. The salesman even commented that he didn’t realise Berlingo came with rear boot spoilers until our car arrived at the dealership. This meant it was going to cost a not inconsequential £18,000 all in, which at the time seemed a ridiculous amount of money but in retrospect seems like good value now.

The largest engine was specified partly because I am a man and partly because we were going to tow a caravan with it, which never happened. The privacy glass may have seemed like an extravagance (£157 option) but over time it has paid for itself in terms of temperature control, security and style.


The Berlingo is not fast but it cruises well and is torquey enough for most situations. There are myths that they don’t handle well, and they are true, but for what it is it handles perfectly well enough. The ride is better than anything this side of a Phantom and perfectly suited to taking a family and all its paraphernalia from A to B, without car sickness, tiredness and due to excellent visibility, boredom.

The beauty of this car is the ease by which you can drive around, get in and out, (which may seem odd, but when was the last you got into a modern car without folding yourself in half). It does seem bottom on the list of many manufacturers but ease of use and access should be higher. If I had a pound for every time I banged my head getting into the Mondeo I could have bought another Berlingo.

On motorways, which it seems to have spent a great deal of its 48,000 miles, it is very good - a bit on the noisy side - but certainly good enough.  It does genuinely keep up with most of the traffic (apart from salesmen in Audis) and is quite capable of cruising at illegal speeds. With the cruise control (another extra) set, and the iPod connected (another extra) and the sky visible through the glass panels in the roof, you have to wonder why you would buy anything else.

Each person in the car gets their own seat, it is genuine five seater, in that there are five seats, seats which can be removed and have just the drivers seat left, turning it into a van again, useful for trips to the tip or travelling alone.

There are issues in the “Garden of Eden” though - gear ratios for one. It seems 1st and 2nd came straight from the van and the French thought “Sacre bleu! We are building a car,” and stuck in the top 3 ratios from a Picasso. This makes for pleasant cruising and quick get aways, but means every roundabout is a choice of screaming round in 2nd or labouring away in 3rd.

Size – it is a wide car, same width as a Range Rover, and this can mean judging gaps, and having other people realising you are in a big car at the last moment, a bit of a lottery at times.


There are stories about French cars having poor build quality, most of which would prove to be accurate. Having said that, nothing has failed on the Berlingo but the rattles do seem to increase with use. But, because they increase gradually you tend not to notice until you swap from our other daily driver, 2011 Ford Mondeo (which shows more signs of cost cutting than the Berlingo, but that’s another story). The rear window glass was swapped under a recall and that now rattles worse than it did before. Other than that, apart from tyres and routine servicing nothing has actually gone wrong with it, during a hard couple of years.

This summer, the car covered 4600 miles in 3 weeks completing a European road trip that involved visiting 12 countries ranging from Spain to Sweden and all in between. It did this faultlessly, all the cubby holes, power sockets, pockets, drop down lockers and ample boot space proving superb for the family holiday. For this sort of “adventure” there cannot be a better car. Aircon (another option) proved invaluable in a car with a glass roof and hot climates, and the rear ventilation kept the little prince cool as well.

Coupled to 45mpg, no matter how its driven, literally, and it has to be an extremely cost effective way a seeing the whole of Europe and handles such a journey with remarkable ease and a sense of genuine reliability.

Would I recommend one to others?

Without a shadow of a doubt, the term “family friend” is over-used so I won’t use it, but there are few cars that can fill so many remits and satisfy so many demands. It may not be trendy, cool, and sporty or even a driver’s car, but for everyday use and the genuine needs of a family it is hard to think of a better alternative.

Many thanks to Adrian Harding for this review of his Berlingo.  Adrian doesn't like taking photos of all  his Citroen at once so you may notice the first picture is a stock image!