Wednesday 2 March 2011
As you can imagine from a vehicle that has been voted Fleet Van 'Van of the Year' for two years running, there are very few complaints with our long-term test Berlingo after eight weeks here at Fleet Towers. Those weeks have been spent driving up and down British motorways, lugging various items of cargo around that are too big to go in cars and generally being a very useful addition to the test fleet.
It's a tad muddy and grimy now it must be admitted (you can't really take vans through automated car washes), but our Berlingo certainly shines like a star on the performance front. Even now I'm still finding useful little items, like the torch that's clipped into the side of the cargo area and which charges itself as the engine is running. How many other manufacturers have thought of that brilliant piece of kit? And various cubby holes and cup holders keep coming to light which I hadn't previously noticed before, all of which serve to raise this van up another notch or two in my estimation.
The free sat-nav unit is coming in handy too. Regular readers will know what a technophobe I am and it's heartening to discover that I can use this unit without going to university and gaining a degree in electronics first. You simply tap the picture of the little envelope on the screen, key in a postcode and off you go. The only grumble I can find so far is that there isn't anywhere to lodge my mobile phone while it's being charged from the 12v socket on the dashboard.
We've had a minor blip on the reliability front - but that was a flat tyre so we can hardly criticise the manufacturing process for that.
We've also managed our first proper fuel consumption test and, before revealing the figure, it's worth mentioning that the official one - 48.7mpg - is recorded on a rolling road with no cargo so it's nigh on impossible to replicate this on the open road with a load on board. We managed 44.1mpg on a good mix of motorway hauls and round-town stuff and that's not a bad score, seeing as we weren't purposely driving for maximum economy. As the engine eases up, we reckon we'll be able to nudge that figure up.
We also got the chance to try out the Berlingo's second passenger seat when my partner and daughter-in-law both wanted a lift into town - a journey of some five miles. There doesn't appear to be any legroom for the middle occupant and as my daughter-in-law is heavily pregnant, we doubted whether both could fit in. But with my partner swivelling her legs round to the left a bit, we all fitted in snugly. Mind you, both women said they wouldn't fancy a long trip under such conditions. However, I'd still vote this seat a useful addition and the Berlingo and its twin, the Peugeot Partner, are the only vans in this sector to offer such a facility.
The recent snow and ice have given me the chance to test out the traction control system that we have as a paid-for option on our test model - it forms part of a £350 ex-VAT Plus pack which also includes hill-start assist and a passenger airbag. (Prices as of Feb 2010)
Until the snow fell, I hadn't experienced this addition, but no sooner had we seen a good fall of the white stuff than that little orange light was winking away on the dashboard, helping to keep me safe on the roads. I can't stress how important traction control - or ESP as it's known - is. It works away on its own, easing up the power on individual wheels if it feels a sideways skid coming on and it is reckoned to save thousands of lives a year already. In my opinion, the sooner the EU makes this safety device a standard item by law on all vans, the better. In my last long term report I stated that the second passenger seat in the Berlingo is a paid-for option. In fact, it is standard fitment on LX models.
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