Proper multi-purpose vehicles (MPVs) might hold on to their value better than conventional saloons and hatchbacks, but the stronger residual values are sometimes cancelled out by the higher list price, so they are no cheaper to run in wholelife cost terms.
If practicality is essential then there is the option of the van-derived car, which has become a flourishing market in the UK.
Our latest addition to the long-term fleet is the current market leader in the UK, the Citroen Berlingo Multispace, which with recent updates has become more car-like. Ours is fitted with the 2.0- litre HDi engine – the same 90bhp unit as in various other Citroens and Peugeots – and offers exceptional fuel consumption and low emissions.
At £10,595 on the road (less if you are a retail customer and take advantage of the cashback offer), it comes with electric front windows, variable power assisted steering, multi-function display, audible warning chimes, electric passenger door mirror (manual adjustment would be more difficult to reach than for the driver's door), RDS radio/ cassette and 'guide-me-home' headlamps.
All three rear seats have head restraints and there are ISOFIX child seat mountings, and numerous storage pockets – even two in the floor of the rear passenger compartment.
Our test car has every possible factory option fitted, including air conditioning, extra airbags, ABS, Modutop overhead storage (not compatible with the optional electric vinyl sunroof), front foglamps, front seat armrests and aircraft-style folding tables. Every item has a practical use and it brings the on-the-road price up to £13,105 – a jump of more than £2,500 over the standard car, but still significantly less than the least expensive Xsara Picasso 2.0HDi.
The Berlingo might not have the street cred of a more modern purpose-built MPV, but the recent facelift has made it easier to live with and increased the fun factor.
Like the Citroen C3, the indicator lights are accompanied by a musical 'tick-tock' sound, almost like the Trumpton clock. The bug-eyed dashboard vents are also lifted from the C3.
The warning alerts for getting out while leaving the keys in the ignition, or setting off before the doors are closed, sound like a little pixie playing a miniature penny whistle. After the Citroen's first journey on my watch, I arrived home with a broad grin – yes, driving the car and becoming aware of its little quirks actually cheered me up.
Whether other drivers will feel the same way about the Berlingo remains to be seen, and its design will not be to everyone's taste. But someone needing a small, practical car for a specific purpose will find it invaluable. Simon Harris
Company car tax bill (22% taxpayer): £34.45 per month