20 November 1998

LOOKING FOR A 3/4t PICKUP? ONELL BE ALONG IN A JIFFY

HAVE you seen those mobile sandwich vans about the place – the ones with quilted stainless steel bodywork that seem to haunt industrial estates? Theyre the unmissable product of Jiffy Trucks, a Bradford-based specialist rebodier. Now the company is moving out into the wider commercial world with its pick-up version of Citroens Berlingo van.

This round-nosed, diesel-engined two-wheel driver sells for £8995. Size-wise it occupies a niche created (and so far only occupied) by the French, being bigger than car-based pick-ups like VWs Caddy but smaller than purpose-built one tonners from Toyota and Co. To get a handle on the Berlingos size, think payload; 780kg approaches Hilux territory.

Jiffy conversions start with a van rolling chassis. Into the cabs open rear goes a ribbed glassfibre closing panel, then over the steel floor bolts a galvanised body with drop tailgate and £150 optional meshed ladder rack. If the result looks a trifle unbalanced, dont worry – theres plenty of load space, and the job carries Citroen UKs blessing plus its normal two-year, unlimited-mileage warranty.

&#42 Foot down, Jeeves

The Berlingo is a tall and roomy (if not very vroomy) van, so cab space is generous. The doors are deep and wide and once youve fallen into the soft-cushioned drivers chair, theres enough space overhead to contemplate installing a bunk. Easy access makes the Berlingo good news for anyone whos very tall or a martyr to a bad back.

Interior trim is sombre black. But the cabin escapes gloom courtesy of a deep windscreen, which gives le chauffeur a good view forward. Looking back isnt so good because the bulkhead window is too shallow for shorties.

Citroen has clearly thought about the van drivers lot. The door bins are big, there are boxes and cubbies all over the place and the folded passenger seat does a turn as a table, complete with cupholders. Behind both seats Jiffy has left a worthwhile shelf, while under the passenger chair theres a big box, useful for hiding cartridges and such. Its only a pity that the drivers seat doesnt flip forward for easy access to gubbins stored behind it.

Under the bonnet an unblown 1.9 litre diesel hums away quietly, even when given severe grief. It doesnt have a lot of low-speed pull and only 71hp to its name, so needs to be shown the boot to get somewhere quickly. But theres enough steam to haul a 500kg load with something to spare for hills, so no big complaints.

Neither are there any worries in the transmission and other departments. The Berlingo shifts its five speeds easily, stops well, steers OK, goes round corners tidily and rides rather more smoothly unladen than the potential payload suggests it will. All told this pick-up is a low-effort, low-stress thing to drive. And as production versions use a keyring transponder to work their engine immobiliser (rather than the pain-in-the-neck pushpad on the test car), a Citroenistes life should be simple.

&#42 Big in back

The pick-up bay features a galvanised skin and aluminium tread plate lining, so should last. The same goes for the tailgate, which opens to a comfortable loading height and is held there by two respectable (if sometimes rebellious) cables. Three rope hooks for each side isnt generous, but at least they are strong.

Between the load areas full-length wheel arches theres enough room to drop a small pallet. Bay dimensions are 1.92m long, 1.57m wide and 0.46m deep (6ft 3in x 5ft 2in x 1ft 6in) – thats a surprising 13cm (5in) wider than a Mitsubishi L200s bed, although 32cm (12in) shorter. For maximum capacity the load area has been cantilevered out well beyond the standard Berlingos rear crossmember, giving the test car (Jiffys second prototype) an untidy air below body level. And with a 1/2t bag of seed on board, the offside back wheel graunched the panelling on bumps.

The makers say these niggles have been sorted, confirming that production wheelarches have 25mm more clearance at the critical point and that the underbody area is tidied up and undersealed. Still outstanding is the spare wheel carriers release, which presently lives in the bay floor so is potentially buried under a big load. Jiffy says its working on that one.

&#42 Sum-up

Easy to live with, painless to drive and potentially well put together, this conversion uses its big load bed to bridge the size gap between existing pickup ranges. If you dont need 4WD and can handle ribald comments about the oddball shape, take a good look at a Jiffy – youll have the last laugh.

Bigger than a little pick-up, not as large as a big one – is

a Citroen Berlingo the thing for you? Andrew Pearce

tries it out for size and sees what its made of

Right: Cabin features

low noise,

soft seating and a drivers airbag. A light gearshift and accurate steering make for easy driving.

Above left: Behind the seats is a full-width tray (top). Tipping the passenger seat forward reveals a hidden compartment that extends under the load bay. Above right: Rope hooks are strong if not numerous.

Below: Aluminium tread plate lines a load bay thats wider than some one-tonners. Loading height over the tailgate is comfortably low.

Berlingo conversion might not

be the worlds most elegant

pick-up, but it works.

Loud logos on demonstrator only.

Engine: 1.9 four-cylinder diesel, 71hp.

Transmission: Five-speed manual.

Drive: Front wheel.

Brakes: Disc/drum.

Suspension: McPherson strut, torsion bars.

Weight: 1155kg.

Payload: 780kg.

Towing capacity: 900kg.

Warranty: Two-year, unlimited mileage.

Price: £8995 plus VAT.