Citroen e-Berlingo: long-term test review

Final report: We’ve learned to love our pure-electric MPV

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Verdict

Driving the Citroen e-Berlingo has been something of an EV education. It’s been great about town and ideal for family use. I’ve learned to trust the range on longer journeys, but compromises would remain, with family living up to 300 miles away.

  • Mileage: 3,785

It seems that I’m a fair-weather EV driver. After initial doubts when our Citroen e-Berlingo turned up back in frosty February, I’ve been well and truly converted by our brilliant boxy electric vehicle

The Citroen is lovingly referred to as the ‘ice cream van’ in my family, and its beauty is very definitely in the eye of the beholder. We’ve often been reminded by friends and neighbours that “it’s no looker”. However, as the temperatures have risen in line with the price of petrol, I’ve been quietly content to plug in at home and get 165 miles of range for £12-£14. In fact, if I run the e-Berlingo around town using the eco setting and maximise its regenerative braking, I’m more likely to be getting somewhere close to the official 182 miles of WLTP range.

It seems an age ago since the winter and my worries about the e-Berlingo and its fluctuating range, after an initial 80-mile round trip to my mother’s house. However, just a few weeks ago I popped over to see her without bothering to charge in advance for the 40 miles. And that was before heading down to the New Forest in Hampshire (a further 60 miles) for a weekend away. When the range started getting low, I just rolled into a service station and topped up with 20 minutes of charge while sipping a coffee. 

My newfound EV confidence extends to watching the range trickle away on the motorway, safe in the knowledge that the Citroen becomes pessimistic when you’re driving quickly. If you turn away from motorways and A-roads, the e-Berlingo can often go another 15-20 miles without registering much more than a mile or two drop in range as it balances things up. Only once have I got the range low enough for the sat-nav to kick in, mapping out multiple routes to the nearest chargepoints. 

The navigation system is one of the plus points of the e-Berlingo, in fact. It has really simple, clear directions both on the screen and through the dash display. It also shows snarled-up traffic hotspots on the busiest roads, and the wider range indicator on the UK map gives a trustworthy idea of how far you can get on your current charge. The head-up display is also great, with info on speed limits, your actual speed, and cruise control settings, which is handy on longer trips.  

There’s really not much that you can’t throw in the Citroen. With its vast space, folding seats and sliding doors, it’s extremely easy to load up and use. Factor in the good range and efficiency, and I can imagine the e-Berlingo being an ideal car for a family with a small business. Local deliveries would certainly be straightforward and cost-effective.

Many of the niggles I mentioned in earlier reports have faded with time. The doors are heavy, and there is a knack to opening them, but you get used to it quite quickly; likewise the large tailgate. 

But there are a few problems with the car that haven’t eased. Some of the trim is a bit flimsy – I’ve had to reattach a few parts that have dropped off. 

Another gripe is that the car only comes with a Type 2 cable as standard. A three-pin cable costs extra, but having one as well as a Type 2 cable would make more sense, so that visiting friends and family becomes a chance to charge rather than relying on the UK charging network. It’s a lot easier to bung someone you know £10 for a top-up.

Citroen E-Berlingo: third report 

Electric people carrier comes into its own as a removal van

  • Mileage: 3,005

Our Citroen e-Berlingo has really come up trumps in recent weeks. The all-electric people carrier has found its niche, excelling as a frugal, quiet family transporter around South London. 

My eldest son George recently moved into a new flat with his own young family. The Citroen EV was the perfect vehicle to help move all his stuff. Well, it is a van.

With the seats folded flat, the e-Berlingo provides a mammoth 2,107 litres of boot space. To visualise this, I’m talking about two three-door chests of drawers face to face, with a 50-inch TV (wrapped in a duvet) between them. Then a dismantled baby cot tucked in across the front, loaded through the sliding doors. There was still plenty of room for more bits and bobs, but with a journey distance of just a few miles, it was easier to make several trips. It’s not like we need to worry about the spiraling fuel costs at the moment, either. 

I tend to charge the Citroen when it gets down to around 20 miles of range, and it costs between £12-14 for a full charge from our 7kW home wallbox. It takes around five hours to fully replenish the battery, giving a range of around 162 miles, although that goes up to 170-plus when using the eco setting around town. 

Apart from helping George move house, I’ve been doing the kind of light weekly mileage you might associate with a family in town: various shopping trips, drop-offs at school clubs, and lifts to work and play. I’ve found one charge will do us for around three weeks bumbling about. If we were to throw in a slightly longer journey, such as the 80-mile round trip to see my mother, we would need to charge every other week.

I’ve found it hard to get an exact figure on the e-Berlingo’s efficiency because the car’s EV settings screen only seems to show kWh over recent journeys. These are displayed

in bar graphs based on time periods. They typically range from 2.5 miles per kWh up to 5.5, depending on whether I’ve been zipping about in power mode, or heading downhill from my hill-top home, with eco mode applied and maximum energy recuperation engaged.

I actually quite like driving on eco power. I’m seldom in a hurry these days, and if I do need to pull away sharply, I can switch back to power mode with one touch. I also really like playing music in the car, and I rate the Citroen’s audio system. The acoustics are great; the car is so boxy that it’s a bit like driving about in a bass speaker. With simple volume control buttons on the steering wheel, I find myself nudging up the radio until the glass vibrates.

But not all of the buttons are great. The heater fan control is awkwardly positioned behind the steering wheel, with separate buttons for up and down. It’s easier to adjust the temperature than the fan. The placing of this and the USB port don’t appear to have been thought out, but you get used to them.

Citroen E-Berlingo: second report

Holiday trip is a stern test for our EV – and its driver’s patience

  • Mileage: 2,790

I won’t lie: it’s taken me a while to get to grips with my first fully electric car. I’ve had the usual issues – cold weather affecting the range, and the resulting anxiety – but wouldn’t you know? It turns out the main problem has been me.

When our Citroen e-Berlingo arrived back in February, it seemed the perfect vehicle for the situation I found myself in. My son George required regular hospital visits while he was recovering from a car accident, meaning he needed easy access to the car, and room for his crutches and wheelchair, plus ideally a smooth ride.

Sure enough, the Citroen is spacious and great around town, quietly using very little charge thanks to my preference of using the Brake setting, which claws back electric charge whenever your foot comes off the accelerator. With some practice you hardly need to brake at all – so getting George back and forth to his appointments has been a breeze and relatively inexpensive.

However, while I can’t deny the space in the back of the e-Berlingo has been fantastic, the Citroen’s accessibility isn’t that great. The sliding doors are heavy, and even I find them tough to move at times. George has wrist injuries and can’t move them from inside the car at all, and his pregnant girlfriend Lucie also struggles. 

So I end up acting like a taxi driver, letting my passengers in, then sliding the doors shut from outside (with some force, it must be said) to ensure they close, before finally getting into the car myself. 

Another thing we watch out for is the vast tailgate, which needs to be considered when parking. The superb rear-view camera helps, but it’s not always easy on tree-lined streets. 

Day to day around town, I drive the Citroen in Normal mode, which means it’s responsive without feeling fast, and the heater chucks out some warmth. For longer journeys I use Eco mode, which increases the range readout at the cost of acceleration and heat, because the car limits both.

The car’s biggest challenge came in March, when my wife and I set off to Yorkshire for a week’s holiday. With the claimed range of 180 miles, I was a bit nervous; I’ve only ever managed a reading of 171 miles in Eco mode (after a full charge) and it can dip quickly. 

But as it turned out, it was my nerves that were to be the main problem on our trip. We made it through London on to the M11 northbound using hardly any charge at all. I’d insisted on running in Eco mode until I had an idea how much power we were using and how near we would get to one of the three motorway fast chargepoints that I’d identified in advance. So my wife sat with her coat on to avoid the chill while I drove along at around 60-65mph to preserve charge. Rock n’ roll motoring!

I did find the cruise control and head-up display helpful, and the sat-nav was clear and simple. But traffic was unkind to us and severe delays added hours to the trip. We stopped three times on the way up. 

On the first occasion we waited 30 minutes to get onto a charger (Ionity); the second time, both (Gridserve) chargers were full, so we moved on, but had to take a 30-minute diversion to Lincoln to charge (Instavolt). We were so late and irritated by this point that we just stopped at a family member’s house en route and lost a day at our Scarborough accommodation. 

The sensible thing to do would have been to charge overnight, but the Citroen doesn’t come with a three-pin charging cable, so it took a further failed attempt at Louth, then a successful Instavolt charge at Humberstone to finally get us to our destination.

Once we were in Yorkshire, we carried on using Ionity and Instavolt chargers because they worked, but with the latter being sited at McDonald’s restaurants, we must have eaten up any fuel savings in food costs. Note to self: remember to take a packed lunch and a flask next time!

With hindsight, I just didn’t trust the e-Berlingo or its displayed range at first. I stopped too often on the way up, wasting time rather than optimising my range by picking a chargepoint and trusting that we would make it with 15-20 miles left. It only clicked on the way home, but by then I’d spent over six hours charging the car. 

However, driving an EV in Yorkshire in March on Eco mode is a slow, cold, joyless experience. This is not a criticism aimed at the Citroen, though; at one chargepoint I spoke with a Porsche owner who’d spent two hours the night before researching his route. The reason, he confessed, was that his car’s claimed range dropped by up to a third if he heated it and drove it like a Porsche.

Citroen E-Berlingo: first report

A week in a C4 acts as a prelude to life with Citroen’s new all-electric family car

  • Mileage: N/A

Fleet cars can come thick and fast at Auto Express. I have just given back the keys to our excellent Toyota RAV4 PHEV, but had to wait a week for its replacement – a brand-new all-electric Citroen e-Berlingo – so I was lucky enough to get a bonus week at the wheel of a new C4 to fill the gap.

This pseudo-SUV crossover is smaller than the RAV4, of course, but any fears I had about downsizing were soon washed away by the Citroen’s mix of cool styling and gadgets. Both of my sons loved the interior comfort and styling, and they were quick to hook up their iPads via the case and attachment mount, both of which slideout from the dash above the glovebox.

The heated massage seats (£150) were also a big hit. But whereas my boys liked the options, I was more impressed by the level of standard kit in this C4.

With Shine Plus trim you get a driver safety pack, featuring alerts, lane-departure warning, traffic and sign recognition, and adaptive cruise control. The reversing camera with top-down vision was another impressive feature, along with the wireless phone-charging slot. Most noticeable was the head-up display, with simple graphics illustrating the cruise control and limiter settings, plus a clear speed readout. It even shows the speed limit on a clear sign, which flashes red if you get a bit heavy-footed.

Citroen’s infotainment system has been criticised in the past, yet I have to say that I found it relatively straightforward.  I didn’t do too many miles in the C4, but I liked it. This car showcases Citroen’s focus on comfort, and although the relatively soft suspension does mean a bit of body roll, it’s a small price to pay for the way the car soaks up urban speed bumps and potholes.

We also found the car practical. I needed to collect a bass speaker and two amplifiers from storage for my eldest son, George. The speaker was big and heavy, but fitted (just), although the high boot lip was a challenge.

After just a week, the two sets of Citroen keys were swapped and I grabbed a quick snap of the cars together before the caramel-brown C4 disappeared.

My first impression of the e-Berlingo is that it looks quite cool, in a very functional sort of way. The orange details and exterior mouldings help it look more car than van. 

The boot space is vast, with up to 2,107 litres. That’s ideal for my current situation, with a son who’s recovering from a car accident and still needs a wheelchair on occasion, plus a grandson with a big buggy. 

However, the e-Berlingo is noticeably less well equipped than the C4. It’s been a long time since I’ve driven a test car that I’ve had to turn a key to start, but that’s just a button-pushing habit I’ve developed. 

The first trip in my new car was a simple dad-taxi run. Around town the e-Berlingo used very little charge, especially in Brake mode which, with practice, should reduce the need for me to press the brake pedal and send more power back to the battery. 

I need to work on my motorway technique, though, because an 80-mile round trip ate up 100 miles of the claimed 180-mile range. True, it was cold and windy, but that’s Britain in winter, and the first two full charges of the car have only delivered up to 164 miles of range. Roll on summer.

Model:

Citroen e-Berlingo Flair XTR M 50kWh

On fleet since:

February 2022

Price new:

£30,495

Engine/batt.:

1x e-motor, 134bhp/50kWh (182 miles WLTP)

CO2/tax:

0g/km / £0

Options:

Metallic paint (£575)

Insurance*:

Group: 20 Quote: £481

Mileage:

3,785

Any problems?

None so far

*Insurance quote for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

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