No, I’m not short of subjects to write about and no, I didn’t just go somewhere on vacation, I’ve been staying at or around home like everyone else this year. However I’ve been sitting on these photos of the car we rented in France back in 2014 and I’ll admit I am a bit of a procrastinator. It was a good vacation so I figured I might as well relive a little bit of it and finally post these pictures as was my intention all along, after all I spent all of about three minutes taking them with the full intention of writing about the car and I did write several other posts having to do with the same trip. It’s finally time to assuage the guilt that crops up every time I think about it, everything else that I need to do will just have to wait.
As usual I spent a lot of time before we left trying to decide which rental agency would give me the best shot of getting something interesting as an “or similar” option as you never actually get the car in the picture. This time I picked EuropCar and figured I had a good chance of getting something unfamiliar and interesting in the south of France. And so it turned out.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is a 2014 Citroën Berlingo XTR Multispace, the Multispace part refers to it being the passenger version. And it is fairly small but still spacious in the tradition of the most useful vehicles. It seats five, has a stick shift, is a turbodiesel, has sliding doors and was comfortable (of course it was, it’s French!). My understanding is that it’s also sold as the Peugeot Partner as well as being available in a cargo version with just one sliding door and on top of that there are two lengths offered in the basic platform, this here is the shorter one, only the cargo versions were offered in long form.
It has a face that still looks fresh and modern to me six and a half years later, likely since I have zero opportunity to see similar ones around here, but then again I thought this version of the Citroën logo with it integrated into the bodywork was a good piece of design.
Underhood is a 1.6liter HDi turbodiesel unit that seems to have been available in various states of tune generating either 75, 99, or 114hp (this is very common in Europe, one or more displacements with various output levels per displacement); I’m guessing this one had the middle version with 99hp as it was a fairly well equipped model but I doubt a rental car would have the top spec one.
It could have been the base engine though as it was not particularly quick but was a good cruiser on the little freeway that connects Nice to Cannes. Around town it was tractable and responsive, as long as you were willing to shift gears a lot, which I was. I recall I usually had my foot to the floor but we were also loaded with us two adults and all three kids and usually a bunch of luggage or groceries or beach stuff. Of course this was back before diesel engines were acknowledged as the work of the devil so I was still able to feel smug driving it.
I recall the shifter felt a bit like the one in an Alfa Spider all up on the dash like that, I don’t think there has been anything more recent in North America that has a manual gearbox located like that (edit: the 2002 Civic Si hatchback had a similar one, I knew there was one). Otherwise the position is like in a Honda CR-V or various minivans, but those are boring since they are automatics. The front seats had armrests, the dashboard was interesting and attractive to look at even though it was pretty much Plastic City, but that’s probably perfect for a rental mini-minivan.
I had such poor picture taking form back then, just look at the angled steering wheel, so sloppy. This is a not unattractive dashboard, it’s certainly interesting to look at with some personality and the contrasting color is a good choice as well, it’s sort of a cream color set off by the dark gray and black rest of the cabin. Similar to one of the color combinations in the recently discontinued Dodge Grand Caravan.
I recall there was plenty of cabin space especially overhead being that it’s a tall-boy design. Oh and all of a sudden I’m reminded that there was a huge shelf up overhead that spanned the cabin (above the sun visors but below the roof), a brilliant use of the space similar to what’s found in some cargo vans. Yes, it’s a Citroën and I know they are supposed to be quirky to be the real thing but this was perfectly usable and not weird which some will lament. However as a renter in an unfamiliar car in unfamiliar terrain normality is welcome.
This is the back seat area after we returned from the beach, it appears we brought half the beach back with us. The three individual seats were a great feature, with all three positions providing equal comfort and equal space. I think each one could be reclined individually. What look like small mats on the floor are actually lids for underfloor storage bins.
And an extremely cool feature lifted straight from airplanes were little tray tables with cutouts to hold a cup (44oz Super Big Gulp need not apply though, but more civilized cups would work). When you just can’t wait to slather that baguette with your Brie Citroën has you covered, similar to a Jaguar Vanden Plas but in a slightly cheaper finish. Check out the little bag hook on the side of the tray as well, très magnifique. I don’t think any minivan has anything similar to this tray, do they?
Lots of space in the back too, I didn’t try it but I believe the seats can all fold up against the front ones to increase the cargo area significantly. Either one, two, or all three can be removed as well. The high walls and low floor help to jam all kinds of things in here, the cargo cover was welcome to try to hide stuff from prying eyes.
The back’s a bit on the boring side, but the window is big and the wiper came in handy when it rained a bit later in the week. The vanlet is 172.4″ long and 70.9″ tall, so that’s about 5″ longer and 8″ taller than a second generation Scion xB or 8″ shorter in both dimensions than a first-generation Ford Transit Connect if that helps to visualize things. I don’t recall what kind of gas mileage it got but do know fuel was hugely expensive, it turns out that there has been an electric version of this available in several configurations for a long time now with a range of around 100 miles. That would be fine for where I used this one.
I definitely enjoyed driving the Berlingo during our week in the area, but also recall pondering that powered as it was, it would leave something to be desired back here in the States. It would cruise just fine, but getting up to speed was slow. It was perfect for the place and conditions it was in, but likely not in all others. Still, it exhibited some great ideas and use of space and the format was excellent while not looking boring even though it was painted an unexciting color.
My other vacation snaps during this week: