Some cars you just instantly love, the Citroen Ë-Berlingo it’s one of those cars. Oh its ugly as sin to look at but beauty is more than skin deep. So what makes this passenger van so special. The obvious appeal is the fact the five seater is huge inside – as are its near identical sister cars from Opel and Peugeot). Under the car’s floor is a 50kWh rechargeable battery and under the bonnet there is 136hp electric motor that powers the front wheels.
The experience behind the wheel is in reality exactly as you would expect it to be. You sit nice and tall much like a big SUV, as with most vans. You get a simply great view of everything around you and the added bonus of car-like creature comforts. The five-seat Ë-Berlingo is available in two sizes or more accurately ‘lengths’. The standard ‘M’ version starts at €35,394 while our longer test car the ‘L’ (LWB) model starts at €36,706.
The exterior styling will not set the world on fire but Citroën has done just enough to point the car out as a car and not a van with windows. Our test car has nice 16 inch alloy wheels although they look incredibly small compared to the car’s body. The rear side windows are tinted, twin sliding rear doors make access easy. The rear tailgate has a window which opens independently also. Roof bars make roof box fitting a doddle – Far flung world here we come! There is a subtle E badge to the front of the car and some nice colour coding to add more car features but no matter what way you look at it the Ë-Berlingo looks like a van.
Inside the cabin there is a huge amount of hard plastic on view but that said there are some creature comforts that make the cabin perfectly pleasant. The car’s van shape means there are loads of storage cubby areas for various bits and pieces, there is a handy overhead storage shelf that van users would be familiar with – great for paperwork. The seating is very good and comfortable. The EV has the usual assistant systems and hill start assist plus forward collision warning and the essential cruise control and speed limiter are standard too. Smart phone connectivity is good too with Apple CarPlay.
A nice touch on hot summer days is the universal opening on the key feature that while nothing new is very handy in a family car as you can open all the windows with a long press on the key. If you were intimidated by the car’s size (4,753mm) your mind will be put at ease with the reversing camera – the tail end of the car is vertical so in reality parking is surprisingly easy. The boot in our LWB (long wheelbase) version is the size of a small country (850 – 2,693 litres with the seats down / 571-2,126 litres ‘M’). The rear seats are spacious and divided in three and all feature ISOFIX anchor points. Everybody gets great legroom, great headroom and a commanding view of what’s going on around them. This is a true family car as it can do all the tasks required and cope with any surprises that family motoring throws up. It will inspire you to tackle jobs like going to IKEA even with the entire family in tow.
There are three driving modes: normal, sport and of course eco mode. The Ë-Berlingo is easy to place on the road because it is so blocky. The steering is quite slow and a reminder that the Ë-Berlingo is not a sports car. Driving the Ë-Berlingo couldn’t be easier. You get in and turn the key (ok, so that bit could be easier!) then nothing happens – it’s an EV after all! You select D from the little toggle gearshift and press the accelerator that automatically releases the electronic parking brake and off you go. Everything about this car screams functionality and this is its USP.
The Ë-Berlingo has a range of up to 280km. Unlike the larger van based electric Space Tourer there is no larger 75kWh battery option. There is an on-board 7.4 kW single phase charger, which means you’ll be able to charge at home (7.5 hours to full) and at slow public charge points at modest speed – an 11kWh charger (5 hrs.) is optional. A domestic three pin plug can also do the job in 15 hours. Behind a flap is a CCS combo (AC/DC) socket that allows access to fast charge or rapid chargers at speeds up to 100kW. This means you can get an 80% charge in as little as 30 minutes.
All EVs appear ridiculously expensive and this car isn’t cheap, but the Ë-Berlingo seems to a relative bargain. EVs are overpriced compared to their diesel, petrol and even hybrid counterparts but this car with the advantages of its huge interior space and ease of use make it one of the most appealing family electric cars out there. The dealbreaker for many family car buyers are its looks. You have to ask yourself am I such a car snob that I couldn’t possibly be seen driving a car that is clearly a converted van. At Motorhub Towers we got out of an electric car with a €100,000 plus price tag into the Ë-Berlingo and got much more bang for our buck with the Citroen.