Citroen's e-Berlingo van is often a go-to choice in the market for small full-battery LCVs. Jonathan Crouch finds out why.
For decades now, Citroen's Berlingo has been one of the market's go-to choices when it comes to small vans. Appropriately then, it was one of the very first to be offered in full-electric form, the resulting e-Berlingo model matching the usability of its diesel counterpart. This Stellantis Group shared design replicates what you can also have with full-electric versions of the Peugeot Partner, the Vauxhall Combo, the Fiat Doblo and the Toyota Proace City. But Citroen hopes that decades of LCV experience with its dealer network will give it an advantage when operators are making up their minds. It's billed as an electric van with no compromise. Is it? Let's see.
So what's it like? Well you sit quite high and pressing the start button gets you a beep and a green ready message on the display ahead. You're ready: for van motoring electric-style. As usual with Citroen EVs, the e-Berlingo offers three driving modes - 'ECO', 'Normal' and 'Power'. You won't want to spend too long in 'ECO', unless you really are eeking out battery capacity because it reduces the powertrain's normal 134bhp output to just 80bhp and also restricts the climate system to conserve power. Citroen recommends that you do most of your driving in the 'Normal' setting, which increases the motor output to 107bhp. The top 'Power' mode isn't really intended for sporty driving but for situations when you're carrying heavy loads. The powertrain also has a 'B' setting which increases the level of regenerative braking to a point where the car slows so much when you come off throttle that you'll very rarely need to use the brake, unless you're coming to a complete stop. You need that B setting to get anywhere near the official driving range, which is claimed at 171 miles. Like all electric vehicles, this one has a bit of a weight problem - that drivetrain adds over 300kgs of bulk, but that arguably helps the e-Berlingo when it comes to ride quality; you'll feel things like speed humps keenly, but at speed on the open road, it handles tarmac tears a little better than its diesel cousin. This e-Berlingo feels really at home in an urban environment and you'll feel really confident in it because the steering is light and the suspension deals with poorer surfaces quite well. The rest to 62 mph sprint takes 11.7s and the top speed is restricted to just 81mph, so this EV won't be as good as its diesel counterpart for extended motorway runs.
There's very little outward differentiation to identify this particular Berlingo's all-electric status. Unless you notice the lack of tailpipes and the addition of a charging flap, the badging is the only real giveaway. As in the combustion range, there's a choice of standard M or long wheelbase XL body styles, which both have a sliding door (the XL has two). At first glance, the cab doesn't seem much different either, but closer inspection reveals different instrumentation and an e-Toggle drive mode selector in place of the gearshift. The drive modes are selected by a switch alongside. There's the usual two-person passenger front seat. Avoiding base trim gets you quite a different cab feel. First, the plusher 'Driver Edition' variant replaces the base version's analogue dials and 3.5-inch instrument display with a 10-inch digital instrument screen and a complementing 8-inch centre infotainment screen. And secondly, the more expensive derivative includes Citroen's 'Extenso' package (optional on the base model) where, as on the ordinary derivative, the passenger seat back folds down to create a desk surface. If you get a model fitted with the 8-inch centre touchscreen (or add that as an option), it'll come with 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring. There is no lack of storage space in the cab: 16 storage points according to Citroen, these including a 15-litre area in the centre console.
After deduction of the available £2,500 Plug-in van grant, Citroen wants around £28,500 from you for this e-Berlingo Electric excluding VAT. This undercuts the comparable Vauxhall Combo Electric by around £1,500 but it's still nearly £10,000 than the comparable diesel version. With this EV model, there's a choice of 'Enterprise Edition' or plusher 'Driver Edition' levels of trim. The base price just quoted is for the short wheelbase M version. It's probably worth stretching to the long wheelbase XL variant, which only costs around £850 more. There's also a Crew Van variant with a second fold-out seating row, only available in 'Enterprise Edition' trim for around £31,000- ex VAT after grant deduction. Both levels of trim include quite a lot. You can tick off twin sliding side doors, air conditioning and an 8-inch centre infotainment touchscreen with 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring. You also get cruise control, a colour 3.5-inch multi-information instrument binnacle display, Bluetooth, a DAB audio system and door mirrors that are heated and power adjustable. 'Driver Edition' trim gets you a 'Visibility Pack' with automatic wipers, heated and powered folding mirrors and front fog lights. With 'Driver Edition' trim, Citroen also includes its 'Extenso' system which allows you to push through items from the cargo bay into the cab and fold down the passenger seat to create a handy table. Across the range, there are two USB ports in the cab and your dealer will offer you accessories like rubber floor mats and ply lining for the load space.
If you're thinking of making the switch to an e-Berlingo, you'll be pleased to learn that the EV powertrain doesn't compromise practicality. Total capacity depends on your choice between standard M (4.4-metres long) and long XL (4.75-metres long) body styles. There's the usual side-opening siding door and twin side-hinged rear doors that open to 180 degrees. The M version offers 3,090mm of cargo area load length, with a maximum load height of 1,200mm and a maximum load width between the wheel arches of 1,229mm. The XL body shape offers 3,440mm of cargo area load length. Yet more space can be freed up with the clever 'Extenso' feature. This uses a folding front passenger bench to add an extra 0.4m3, while also increasing the maximum load length by 1.3m. Maximum load volume including the 'Extenso' system on the M version is 3.8m3; on the XL model, it's 4.4m3. The maximum payload is up to 800kg (750kg for the XL) and there's a 1-tonne towing capacity - all figures being the same as with the diesel version. We gave you the range figure - 171 miles - in our 'Driving' section: bear in mind that with any extended high-speed driving, you'll see that figure plummet very quickly. You can charge the 50kWh battery from a 100kW public rapid charger from 0-80% in 30 minutes. When connected to a 7kW garage wallbox, you'll need seven and a half hours to fully replenish the battery; or five hours with an 11kW onboard charger. This Citroen can't match the 10 year warranty cover you get on a comparable Toyota Proace City Electric but there's the usual 3 year/60,000 mile warranty and the battery gets separate cover up that promises to retain up to 70% of its capacity over 8 years or 100,000 miles.
If you can justify the price premium over the diesel model, there are lots of reasons to like the e-Berlingo van over its diesel counterpart. It's better to drive than the black pump-fuelled model and the capacity and payload figures are just as good. The range is class competitive too, though you'll need to be aware that the real world driving mileage figures may not come quite as close as you'd like to the official stats. Of course, you can get much the same package with full-electric versions of the Peugeot Partner, the Vauxhall Combo, the Fiat Doblo and the Toyota Proace city. But Citroen's dealers are often particularly competitive on price - and well versed in the needs of commercial operators. If that's enough to persuade you into a new EV era for your fleet's small vans with this e-Berlingo, you shouldn't be disappointed with what you get here.
MERCEDES-BENZ eVITO L2 ELECTRIC FWD
85kW 66kWh Progressive Van Auto
Personal Contract Hire Per Month (inc VAT) £624.21
Business Contract Hire Per Month (ex VAT) £624.21