Citroen has bolted its electric powertrain into its compact van – but has the technology made the Berlingo a more compelling offering?
4.5 out of 5
The Citroen e-Berlingo Van is a great little workhorse. With a maximum payload of 800kg, plenty of torque and an electric range of 171 miles, it's more than capable enough to take the place of a diesel van in most applications. The only drawback we can see is price, but once you factor in the fuel savings over the first few years of ownership, it starts to make sense. In all, it’s a well-executed small electric van which stands out amongst its mediocre peers.
The industry-wide electrification push has produced several rather lacklustre electric vans in recent years, most of which have been quick-and-dirty rehashes of existing diesel-powered vehicles with tiny ranges. Key culprits include the Volkswagen Abt e-Transporter and Mercedes eSprinter, both of which will do less than 100 miles on a charge.
Stellantis’s approach is a little different, though, as our drive in the new Citroen e-Berlingo Van showed. It’s another reworked version of a diesel-powered van, but it’s been more carefully engineered than these earlier attempts at electric commercial vehicles, creating something which should be genuinely usable every day for most buyers.
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We’ll start with the powertrain. It comprises the group’s familiar 100kW (or 134bhp) electric motor mounted under the bonnet and a 50kWh battery pack bolted under the floor. Stellantis has also taken extra care to package the electrical components into the van in such a way that its carrying capacity isn’t affected.
So, the e-Berlingo retains the same 800kg payload and one-tonne towing capacity as the diesel van. You can even have the EV in standard and extended-length guises, which offers a load space of 3.3 and 3.8 cubic metres respectively. And a 7kW wallbox can comfortably charge the battery to full overnight, meaning the charge schedule isn’t eating into your productive daytime hours.
The battery pack offers a maximum range of 171 miles. And while that’s nowhere near enough if your day job is transporting cargo from one end of the country to the other, in the vast majority of cases it’ll be ample. Most vans only cover an average of about 50 miles a day, so a wallbox at home would be all you’d need to keep your business rolling – and the money you’d save on diesel would eventually offset the higher purchase cost of the EV.
And it’s not like you’re left wanting on the performance front. Yes, the e-Berlingo’s electric motor has around 40Nm less torque than the most powerful diesel model but, because all of it is available from zero rpm, it doesn’t really feel any slower or less muscular. Even with 200kg of sand on board (which Citroen graciously supplied with our test vehicle), the van can haul itself up a one in five-and-a-bit hill with no drama.
The e-Berlingo also rides quite well, even when it’s empty. This is mostly due to the battery pack’s placement under the floor between the axles, which concentrates the van’s mass low down and helps keep the chassis settled over rough tarmac.
It’s considerably more relaxing to drive than the diesel model, too. As you would expect from an EV, there’s far less vibration and a lot less noise entering the cabin, and the lack of a manual gearbox will certainly make your delivery rounds or morning commute that little bit easier. Our range-topping Driver Pro model also featured some extra sound deadening over the cheaper Enterprise Pro variant, which helps isolate road noise even further.
While we’re on the subject, we appreciated the level of standard equipment on the e-Berlingo. Our range-topping Driver Pro model came with plenty of creature comforts, such as a multifunction steering wheel, a head-up display, traffic sign recognition and an eight-inch infotainment system with a three-year subscription to Citroen’s connected technologies, which add real-time traffic data and speed camera locations.
Another useful feature is a digital rear-view monitor, which displays a constant feed of what’s going on behind the van using a camera mounted on one of the rear doors. It’s handy, given the van’s lack of any rear windows, but the low-resolution LCD screen can be a little difficult to read in bright sunlight.
The e-Berlingo is also really rather well-built. Obviously, there are some hard scratchy plastics in the cabin, but what do you expect? It’s a van – of course there are. More importantly, all of the interior bits seem tough enough to soak up the sort of abuse they’re liable to cop from a life in the trades.
The climate control panel is well thought-out, too, for the same reasons. The temperature controls are chunky up-down toggle switches and the buttons for the air conditioning and demister are square and broad, meaning you can operate them while wearing gloves. Granted, this wasn't much of a concern on our warm French test-route, but it's nice to know the system will be easy to use in the dead of a British winter.
As we touched on above, the only thing we can see being a turn-off for potential buyers is the price. The cheapest version e-Berlingo, specified with Citroen’s middling Enterprise trim, starts from £31,302 including the government’s plug-in van grant, which makes it more than £4,500 more expensive than the 128bhp diesel version of the van.
We think the e-Berlingo is definitely worth it, though, especially considering its only current rival is the commercial version of the Renault Zoe, which is tiny by comparison. Your only other choices at the minute are this van’s clones, the Peugeot e-Partner, Vauxhall e-Combo and Toyota Proace City Electric.
However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the new Renault Kangoo E-Tech and the electric versions of the Nissan Townstar and Mercedes Citan will go on sale next year in the UK, so we’ll have to wait and see how they stack up price-wise once they’ve been launched.
|Model:||Citroen e-Berlingo Panel Van Driver Pro 50kWh|
|Price:||£33,240 (OTR including VAT and PiVG)|
|Transmission:||Single-speed automatic, all-wheel drive|
|Range:||Up to 170 miles|
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