Citroen e-Berlingo van review
With up to 4.4 cubic metres of cargo space and a range of 171 miles, the electric version of Citroen’s most compact panel van is a useful and versatile vehicle
- Rides well
- Decent performance
- Up to 4.4 cubic metres of space
- Fairly basic equipment
- Potentially limiting range
- More expensive than diesel
|Van type||Range||Wallbox charge time||Rapid charge time|
|Electric||171 miles||7hrs 30mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)||30mins (10-80%, 100kW)|
Many of the first generation of electric vans were effectively 'conversions' – relatively unsophisticated fittings of a zero-emissions powertrain to a chassis originally designed for a diesel engine. The limitations of this approach can be seen in models like the Mercedes eSprinter and Volkswagen Abt eTransporter, which have a range of less than 90 miles before needing a top-up. More recently, models designed to run on electric power from the outset have started to arrive, and they have much greater potential to be practical, usable alternatives to their diesel counterparts.
The Citroen e-Berlingo is one such van: a sister model to the Peugeot e-Partner and Vauxhall Combo-e Cargo, it has the same 134bhp electric motor and 50kWh battery setup as those models, offering a range of 171 miles. Some may still consider that too short, but it's on par with what the e-Berlingo's main, the Renault Kangoo E-TECH, Nissan Townstar and Mercedes eCitan, can manage. Fully recharging from a wallbox will take around seven-and-a-half hours, while a top up from 10-80% at a rapid charger takes around 30 minutes.
Thankfully, the switch to electric hasn’t made a dent in the Berlingo’s carrying capacity or practicality. Towing is limited to 750kg, and the standard 'M' length version has an 803kg maximum payload, along with 3.3 cubic metres of cargo space – or up to 3.9 with the passenger bench folded down. In XL guise, cargo space jumps to 3.8 cubic metres with the bench up, or 4.4 when it's folded down. However, this version also has a slightly lower maximum payload of 751kg.
The e-Berlingo isn’t lacking in performance, either. With all the electric motor’s 260Nm of torque sent to the front wheels as soon as you put your foot down, it can easily haul itself up steep inclines, even with full load of cargo on board, as we found when driving up a one-in-five-and-a-bit hill with 200kg of sand in the back.
It’s also more relaxing to drive than its diesel alternatives, with no gearshifts needed and far less vibration and noise in the cabin. Admittedly, the range-topping Driver Pro model we tried has some extra sound deadening compared to the cheaper Enterprise Pro variant, which helps isolate road noise even further.
The e-Berlingo also rides quite well, even when it’s empty, largely as a result of the battery pack’s placement under the floor between the axles. That keeps the bulk of the van's mass low down, ensuring the chassis remains settled over rougher roads.
Like all the models it shares technology with, the Citroen lets you choose from Eco, Normal and Power driving modes, which vary the amount of power and torque on tap from the electric motor. As the names suggest, Eco priorities maximising range, while Normal suits most everyday driving and Power is for when you’re carrying a heavy payload or need a bit more grunt for overtaking. There's also a 'B' mode on the gear selector, which increases the strength of the regenerative braking system to recover more energy when you slow down.
Inside, the e-Berlingo feels like well put together and built to last. The scratchy-feeling plastics are to be expected – this is still a van, after all, and feels tough enough to handle the sort of punishment it would face serving as a tradesperson's work vehicle.
For example, the climate control panel has chunky up-down toggle switches to adjust the temperature, while the buttons for the air-conditioning and demister are large and square, meaning you can still use them while wearing gloves. That's not an issue we faced on our test drive in warm French weather, but it’s reassuring to know you’ll be able to easily control the van’s functions in the colder months of the year.
There are several versions of the e-Berlingo van available, as well as the seven-seater MPV passenger model. The entry-level panel van in Enterprise Pro trim starts from just under £26,000 before VAT, but after the plug-in van grant has been deducted.
For that price, you get 16-inch steel wheels, a modular folding passenger bench seat, an eight-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth and rear parking sensors. Standard safety systems include cruise control, a speed limiter and rear parking sensors; upgrading to the XL body length costs around £1,200 more.
Next up is Driver Pro trim, which is only available with the M body length, but adds 16-inch alloys, a body-coloured rear bumper and a 10-inch digital driver’s display, plus all-round parking sensors and a digital rear-view monitor displaying a constant feed of what’s going on behind the van from a camera mounted on one of the rear doors – useful given the lack of any rear windows. There's also a Crew Van version, which can seat up to five in addition to cargo space. However, it’s only available in Enterprise Pro trim for just over £28,000.
All things considered, the e-Berlingo is worth taking a look at if you think an electric van would suit your business. It’s relaxing to drive, just as practical as the diesel version and features an interior that's built to last. However, there's a flurry of new electric vans set to rival the e-Berlingo launching soon, including the closely related trio of the Nissan Townstar, Mercedes eCitan and second-generation Renault Kangoo E-TECH, so we’ll have to wait and see how it stacks up against the competition.