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Citroen Berlingo Multispace 1.6 HDi 90 VTR

Click to view picture gallery“In a world where low running
  costs and practicality are prime
  considerations for buying a
  sensible vehicle for active families,
  or a car that doubles as a work-
  horse, the Multispace fits the bill
...”

GIVEN THAT FUEL PRICES WILL REMAIN HIGH, road tax charges are increasing for the majority of cars, space on our roads will get worse and parking charges — assuming you can actually find a space — will get higher, then buying a sensible fuel-efficient car for family use with the potential to carry luggage and loads easily is becoming more increasingly important.

With cars themselves becoming more expensive, affordable and versatile 'dual-use' vehicles that can easily switch between people and load carrying duties powered by fuel-miser engines will be the future for mainstream models. Many of these cars are already with us — the new Citroen Berlingo Multispace, to name but one, is a good example of people/load space packaging.

The all-new bigger and better Citroen Berlingo Multispace went on sale in the UK from June, with attractive and competitive pricing starting from just 10,995.

The good news is that the latest Multispace is no longer just a Berlingo van with windows. The Berlingo uses the same construction architecture and running gear as the award-winning C4 Picasso MPV, so it not only performs and handles like a modern passenger car (rather than a commercial vehicle) but it looks smarter, too. It is also larger, but still not too large to be classed as a 'compact' people carrier.

Citroen are big sellers of vans and MPVs of all sizes, and as usual all these models benefit from the choice of fuel-efficient, low CO2-emitting petrol and diesel engines — and, being Citroen, attractive competitive pricing.

In a world where low running costs and practicality are prime considerations for buying a sensible vehicle for active families, or a car that doubles as a workhorse, the Multispace fits the bill.

It may not be totally stylish judged against Citroen's usual passenger car flair, but it does have a certain practical charm and will appeal to people who buy a car with their head not their heart. Everything about the Multispace is practical. Its longer wheelbase but compact overall 4.3-metre length combined with easy-to-use sliding rear side doors make it family-friendly and very spacious. Add to that the huge load area and the option to fold or even take out the rear seats and the load space is, at worst, large and, at best, huge — up to 3,000-litres.

For the record, the load capacity ranges from 675 litres with the three rear seats in position and up to a massive 3,000 litres with the rear seats removed. Rear side sliding passenger doors makes it easy to get in and out of and the high and wide tailgate means it is easy to load. There is even enough headroom to fit the optional internal roof bars for long items such as skis, thus eliminating the risk of theft and not impacting on fuel efficiency. The Multispace can be tailored to meet the exact needs of the wide range of customers who buy this type of vehicle, including the less able who need space for a wheelchair.

So from a wheelchair to a bicycle, family luggage to the household pet or even use as a taxi, the Multispace fits the bill. There are lots of internal storage areas, including the roof section, so the practicality of the vehicle seems endless. The maximum braked towing weight is 1,300kg.

My test car, which I happily used for a hard week's motoring up and down motorways and some city travel, was the Berlingo Multispace 1.6HDi 90bhp VTR priced at 12,375. This is expected to be the main selling model but as diesel fuel gets more costly the 1.6i 90bhp petrol engine is looking a better option for private buyers and this version costs 11,465. But to those prices most customers will add the cost of the 620 air conditioning and they should take the Electronic Stability Programme at 350. Even so, for 13,345 you have a really good, cost-effective package and you just know there will still be a deal to be had with your local Citroen supplier.

OK, so it looks like a smart box on wheels — but it drives much better than that. Thanks to using a passenger car platform and running gear the new Multispace handles pretty, the stability is fine (helped by the wide front and rear tracks) and, above all, it is very comfortable.

Strong headwinds I suspect could take the edge off cruising performance, and side wind gusting was felt but the vehicle cruised effortlessly at top motorway speeds — and very economically as well. My test car returned a very realistic 47.8mpg and that was generally hard driving or sat in motorway traffic.

From the driver's seat the Multispace, for me, was less pleasing. The visibility was excellent but I just couldn't get the seat at the right height in relation to the height-and-reach adjustable off-set steering column. I also found the room for my left foot limited. There just wasn't enough space to get my foot on the rest, which is too close to the clutch. I guess this is down to the left-hand drive initial design which, for the driving position, doesn't convert so well to right-hand drive. I have to admit I'm six feet tall, so it will not apply to all buyers. Thankfully there was plenty of headroom.

The level of specification with the VTR model is generally good — except for not having ESP, air conditioning, side curtain airbags or alloy wheels as standard. But owners do get anti-lock braking with electronic brakeforce distribution, front airbags, Isofix child seat mounting points, front fog lights, a stereo radio/CD player with MP3 compatibility, electronically-operated and heated door mirrors, electric windows, split/folding rear seats and armrests for the front seats plus lots of storage pockets.

Reasons to buy a Multispce include: totally practical, best use of space for its compact size, bigger and better than before, car — not van — driving performance and refinement, well priced and cheap to run. Things you may not be happy with include the fact that the very important safety function of an Electronic Stability Programme is a 350 extra cost option when it should be fitted as standard; AirCon is also an extra cost option for VT and VTR models (costing between 620 and 750); its styling will not appeal to everybody and an optimum driving position is not easily obtained. However, credit where credit's due: it is an old and well used saying, but the Multispace really 'does what it says on the tin'. — David Miles

Citroen Berlingo Multispace 1.6 HDi 90 VTR | 12,375
Maximum speed: 100mph | 0-62mph: 14.3 seconds
Overall test MPG: 47.8mpg | Power: 90bhp | Torque: 159lb ft
CO2 150g/km | VED Band C 120 | Insurance group 4E