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Future Classic Friday: Citroen Berlingo Multispace

Published 11 August 2017

If ever there was a car that embraced the spirit of the original Citroen 2CV, the Berlingo Mutispace was it. Crude, basic, functional and fun.

It was nothing like the 2CV in appearance, but it represented a refreshing approach to motoring, the likes of which had been lost through the excesses of 'must-have' options and posh trim levels throughout the Eighties and Nineties.

A van based MPV wasn’t, perhaps, the most obvious choice for Britain's markedly snobby buyers, but for one thing – the Berlingo was genuinely brilliant.

The commercial version of the van was introduced in 1996, alongside the Peugeot Partner, with which it shared much of its bodywork.  The two vans were exceptional in their class, though the Multispace still couldn’t displace the Visa-based C15, which, amazingly, remained in production for almost as long as the Berlingo itself.

Citroen Berlingo Multispace (3)

It's trump card was tremendous road manners - beneath the utilitarian exterior the Berlingo was based on the platform of the Citroen ZX and Peugeot 306, renowned for being among the best handling cars in their class at the time, while the added weight of the extra body, if anything, improved the ride. Indeed, Jeremy Clarkson, in his emphatic recommendation of the Multispace, said the only car that could match its ride quality was a Jaguar XJ8. 

Add in a flat floor, high tailgate and functional, rectangular load bay that will swallow a pushchair or mountain bike without the need to collapse or dismantle either and suddenly the Berlingo’s appeal starts to shine through.

Car park friendly sliding rear doors to stop your kids banging them into other parked cars, a rear seat that’s wide enough to fit three cars seats, enough height and legroom for an adult to get in the back and secure children into their seats and a cockroach-like resistance to natural destruction are other strings to its bow. Even after 20 years, it's rare to find a rotten one...

A facelift came along in late 2002, giving the model larger front lights and a bigger grille, plus a plusher cabin - but it's the older and more utlitarian models that actually have the most classic appeal. A 1.9 non-turbo diesel, with its distinctive clatter and lethargic but dutiful performance is actually a more pleasing car to drive than one of the later common-rail HDi models, in our book at least.

Citroen Berlingo Multispace (2)

Plus, they're even less likely to go wrong. That old PSA diesel is good for a quarter of a million miles easily - it's more likely to get banned from the roads under new air quality rules than it is to break down.

Whereas most cars reach classic status through the posher models in the line-up, it's the less well-appointed Berlingos that we think are the way forward - refreshingly honest and simple vehicles, easy to maintain and quirky in their own way. Their charm is not just in their simplicity, but in how they prove that you don't need bells, whistles and technical brilliance to create a car that's perfect for the job.


Yorky Bob    on 11 August 2017

I think Clarkson said Rolls Royce ?

bola    on 11 August 2017

drove the Berlingo van diesel 1.9 from 1999 to 2004. used for business deliveries in the city..all short runs, and it never failed to excell...sold it for almost as much as I paid for it...amazing resale value and it was a dream to use for business and pleasure....cant fault it. i still drive a 1996 ZX and the Berlingo, having the same platform, says it all.

Robin Alexander    on 12 August 2017

I bought a 1999 berlingo van was a gas board i bought it for £50 99000 on the clock it still had the old gas board racking and plastic lining took them out sold them for £200 then i set out to to turn it into a little camper van it took me 6 months to finish i fitted leisure battery cooker , wash basin avtex tv nite heater lighting seating at the back i even mafe the fronts seats fold all the way to the dashboard to make a 6ft 4" bed then next year i will give it a respray but iam very proud as its lined the engine is bullet proof now iam camping all over the country

   on 14 August 2017

My father has one and from that I recommended a friend get one.

Clever, functional, utilitarian and cheap. Like a miniature VW Transporter.

I'd love a 4x4 version for fun.

Peter McGuire    on 16 August 2017

It may be a fine vehicle, but please it is no Classic.
What's next the Transit Connect?

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