Citroen Berlingo Electric van review

The Citroen Berlingo Electric van uses tried-and-tested running gear, but it has a short range compared to better-developed rivals

£22,550 - £23,150
Electric

Pros

  • Three-seater
  • Tried-and-tested van technology
  • Can add a full charge overnight

Cons

  • Short range
  • Dated driving experience
  • Expensive for what you get

Even in electric-car terms, the Citroen Berlingo Electric is something of a niche choice. It's been on sale since 2013 and is a rival to the Renault Kangoo Z.E. and Nissan e-NV200, but annual sales have never risen past double figures in the UK. Just like the regular Berlingo van it's based on, it uses exactly the same running gear as the Peugeot Partner Electric.

However, it's not the first electric van built by Citroen. It was preceded by the Berlingo Electrique, which was originally made for use by the French postal service. Customer versions were also offered, and in turn that model came after an electric version of the Visa-based C15 van was built.

But while Citroen has dabbled in electric vans over the years, it hasn't really embraced the technology as wholeheartedly as rival Renault. The current Berlingo Electric is far better than its predecessors, but with a 49kW electric motor producing 66bhp and twin battery packs making a combined output of 22.5kWh, the Citroen only has an estimated driving range of 106 miles – some 70 miles short of the claimed range for the Renault Kangoo ZE.

Citroen offers two charging options. The fastest is a 'CHAdeMO' high-voltage socket on the nearside rear of the van, which can charge the batteries to 80% from flat in 30 minutes from a high-voltage source. Charging from a mains socket takes a more leisurely 12 hours from a socket on the offside front wing, but that means a flat battery can be recharged overnight. If you fit a dedicated charging point, then this charge time can be reduced to eight hours.

There's a single version of the Citroen Berlingo Electric on sale, which is based on the LX trim of the diesel model and comes in L1 or L2 body lengths. The difference between the two is increased load volume for the L2 (3.7 cubic metres, compared to 3.3 cubic metres for the L1) and different payload weights (636kg for the L1 and 552kg for the L2, including driver), while the L2 comes with twin sliding side doors, compared to just a nearside door for the L1. There's no option to add a second side door to the L1 model, while both vans have offset double rear doors a standard and no option to add a top-hinged tailgate.

There's a charge monitor in the instrument pod where the rev counter of the diesel version normally sits, while air-conditioning is fitted as standard, but there's no pre-heating function available. The hard plastics, upright dashboard, orange dot-matrix displays and painted metal surfaces leave you in no doubt about this van's functional nature, though. One positive the Berlingo does offer over a Kangoo Z.E. is the availability of an optional steel bulkhead with glazed window, which helps reduce interior noise but still lets you keep an eye on your payload. A three-abreast seat layout adds a touch of versatility, too, even if the seats themselves are a bit narrow.

On the road, the Berlingo Electric sprints away from the line briskly enough, although the relative lack of power means it soon runs out of steam. The Berlingo is based on running gear that can trace its roots back to 2001, so it's not very nimble, especially due to the weight of the batteries, which adds around 300kg to the weight of the standard Berlingo.

The Berlingo Electric arrived five years into the Berlingo van's production cycle, and while it's still available to buy, it won't be around for long, because the Mk3 Berlingo Van has already been revealed, and there's sure to be an electric version of that model that'll arrive much earlier in the model cycle.

The other big minus point is that while the Berlingo Electric isn’t as expensive as the Renault Kangoo Z.E., it has a shorter range and a limited line-up in comparison. This, plus the fact it's certain to be replaced soon, makes it very difficult to recommend.

For a more detailed look at the Citroen Berlingo Electric, read on for the rest of our in-depth review.