The thought occurred to me recently when I spent a week behind the wheel of a Fiat Doblò JTD.
The windows in the sliding rear doors are split vertically and slide to open, just like an ice cream van where you point to a sticker displaying the ice cream of your choice. The van version of the Doblò (the Cargo), from which this small/budget-MPV is derived, has no windows in this position, which is a shame because its shape and size would probably lend itself to the role of ice cream vendor rather well.
However, like the van this new Doblò comes with a 100bhp version of Fiat's 1.9- litre common rail diesel engine. Before this summer the Doblò came with a standard 1.9-litre diesel which is both low on power and high on emissions. Alternatively there is a 65bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine, which does not sound up to the job – at least on paper.
However, the JTD puts the Doblò in a strong position against the trio of French rivals from Citroen, Peugeot and Renault. Only the Citroen Berlingo Multispace can boast a common rail diesel engine with a similar output, but is 10bhp short at 90bhp.
The Renault Kangoo is available with a 65bhp 1.5-litre dCi engine – while the more expensive four-wheel drive Trekka comes with 80bhp. Meanwhile the Peugeot Partner Combi comes with a traditional 1.9-litre diesel.
The Doblò JTD starts at roughly the same price as the Kangoo 1.5 dCi and is a little cheaper than the Berlingo Multispace 2.0 HDi Forte, when specified in SX trim.
Out test car, an ELX, costs £10,629 on-the-road, and came with standard alloy wheels, front fog lamps, three rear head restraints, height adjustable driver's seat, a split folding rear seat, air conditioning, electric front windows, remote central locking and driver and passenger airbags.
The luggage compartment is huge, but the vehicle's compact dimensions restrict the length so that even with the rear seats folded it can carry an adult's bicycle only with a wheel removed.
However, for more conventional items, the Doblò would be ideal.
The exterior design is not everyone's cup of tea, with some unkind people comparing it to a Pope-mobile and others to a carriage for the disabled. To me it brings to mind my ice cream van.
The Doblò is easy to drive with huge door mirrors and excellent all-round visibility. The engine is indecently pokey and the gearchange short and sweet. Body roll is significant, but it would be in such a tall vehicle, although grip is reasonable from the front tyres. The brakes are almost devoid of feel, however, to the point that I suspected they could be made of wood.
Having said that the Doblò is supremely practical and rather fun to drive. It does turn heads and I was sorry to see it go after a week of driving.
Fiat Doblò 1.9 JTD ELX
Price (OTR): £10,629
Engine (cc): 1,910
Max power (bhp/rpm): 100/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 148/1,500
Max speed (mph): 104
0-62mph (secs): 12.4
C02 emissions (g/km): 168
Fuel consumption (mpg): 44.1
CAP residual value (3yrs/60,000-miles): £3,425/33%