This really is only a problem to the more style-conscious among us at Fleet Towers (I have heard one or two drivers who have yet to test the Berlingo discussing what disguise to wear when taking it home).
But putting looks to one side, the Berlingo has been a pleasure to have over the past two weeks. It is comfortable to drive with a high, upright seating position and plenty of leg and head room. Also I don't have to duck when putting my daughter into the child seat.
I love the huge wing mirrors and there seems to be acres of glass, providing good all-round visibility – especially noticeable to my rear passengers.
Boot space is ample and the folding aircraft-style tables are really handy – they come as part of a comfort pack which also includes front folding armrests and ceiling-mounted Modubox.
Most importantly, as a mother I appreciate the ability to turn off the front passenger airbag easily to accommodate a child seat, and the ISOFIX seat mountings. A close second in importance is the cornucopia of cubby holes and stash pockets and useful flat dash area.
Although our test vehicle has the 2.0-litre HDi engine it still feels a little underpowered, especially when overtaking. The car cruises comfortably on the motorway, but tends to roll about a bit on country roads when not loaded to the gills, a legacy of its van heritage.
Another part of the Multispace van heritage is the sliding side doors. In principle they are great, but in practice I have found the rear seats are too far forward of the sliding doors. So before getting out, you need to rotate yourself 90 degrees to avoid catching your feet on the B-pillar.
I had initially put this down to my ample frame and a narrow door, but my pixie- framed grandmother and father-in-law had exactly the same problem.
My rear passengers also found it difficult to both open and close the doors and fasten the seat belts, which makes me wonder about the practicality of the Berlingo for full occupancy use day-in, day-out.
One other niggle I have is with the gearbox – it's like the black hole of Calcutta. I know there are gears in there somewhere but once in neutral you have to desperately fish about and eventually aim for a gear, any gear. I had thought I would get used to to it in time, but even today as I hand the Berlingo on to another driver, I still find it's a problem.
Company car tax bill 2003/04 (22% taxpayer): £43 per month