EVER wondered what happens on car launches where motoring writers test a new car for the first time?
Typically we get to drive said new vehicle in its perceived natural habitat - you know, off-road course for a 4x4 SUV, country roads for a sports car, race track for a supercar and tight urban spots for the city cars. Plus they feed us coffee and biscuits too, making sure even the grumpiest of us keep smiling.
But what to do with the launch of a light van, not least when there's only a short window of a few hours to test it? Ideally we'd be dropped in the centre of a city during morning rush hour, asked to make collections and deliveries to impossible deadlines, sit in non-moving traffic for hours while leaning on the horn and barge our way into any gap we could find. Oh, and cut up the odd cyclist for the full experience.
But that would involve a motoring journo actually doing some real work, something we're reminded daily we don't actually do.
Citroen decided it best to introduce its refreshed Berlingo light commercial to us on a wet skid pan, timing us around a coned slalom course and throwing in the added challenge of us moving Christmas presents from one van to another, as quickly as possible.
There was method to this madness. It gave the new Berlingo the chance to show off its spritely 1.6-litre petrol and diesel engines, its easy-to-access cargo space and nimble changes of direction aided by electronic stability control and traction control included as standard. Plus we appreciated not having to sit in city traffic.
So what's new with the Berlingo? Citroen says the updates mean segment-leading safety, infotainment and practicality, with huge appeal coming with a locally developed seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android MirrorLink, plus a segment-first reverse camera, all offered as standard. Voice text messages on the go is surely a massive benefit to busy van drivers: everyone wins from a safety aspect.
Not much has changed for the updated Berlingo's exterior, but the short-body offering comes with a revised front bumper, while the long-bodies are offered with an optional Look Pack ($800) bringing LED-daytime running lights, fog lamps, colour coding and funkier wheel covers.
Berlingos come as standard with sliding doors both sides, 180-degree opening rear barn doors and passenger seat work station where the spare seat folds down. It is one of the few light vans to accept a full, Australian- sized palette in the rear and the payload is 850kg for the shortie and 750kg for the long body.
Drivetrains remain unchanged with an 80kW petrol mated to a five-speed manual for the short body, or 66kW diesel four-cylinder in the long body with five-speed manual or optional six-speed auto (adding a rather painful $4000). So how much can you learn flinging one of these vans around a wet slalom course? Well, enough to be quite impressed actually.
Tight turns at speed in a van on a slippery surface would typically bring a nightmare of understeer, but the Berlingo's ESP and traction control mopped things up very neatly. It all felt very safe manhandling the French van through rapid changes of direction, meaning this included safety kit will be a huge boon to sole traders and fleet managers alike.
Bang-up-to-date phone connectivity and that reversing camera are also huge incentives for those who spend half their lives in their work van. Pricing looks competitive too, with the Berlingo short body costing $21,990, the long body $26,990 and long body auto $30,990. And if you're quick, drive aways before year's end are $22,000, $26,500 and $30,500 respectively.
We didn't get to sample the new Berlingo for long, but would suggest that the safety and infotainment sweeteners as standard will give shoppers plenty of reason to consider the Citroen commercial.