Fleet News

Fiat Doblo/Doblo Cargo

Fiat

Review

OPINIONS about the merits or otherwise of the Fiat Doblo invariably fall into two distinct camps – drivers who care more about style than practicality wouldn’t be seen dead in one, while those who count pennies rather than brownie points just love it.

You can see both points of view – the Doblo is not exactly the Claudia Schiffer of the car world.

But it certainly has its plus points. In ‘Family’ format it’s the cheapest seven-seater you can buy and there is a choice of two sweet diesel engines to choose from.

And now, with a new model due to be launched next month, there may be even more reasons to cast an eye towards this wacky contender.

The Doblo, and its van brother the Doblo Cargo (see below), first broke cover in 2000 and since then Fiat has sold 460,000 of them worldwide. Indeed, on our test drive round Turin you could hardly move for Doblos. Italians, unlike us Brits, do love to buy home-grown cars.

In its second incarnation, the Doblo boasts a reworked front end featuring a large grille which drops down from bonnet to bumper, giving a chunkier look. There are also new bumpers and tail-lights and extra side protection strips, along with new seat fabrics and a slightly reworked dashboard.

From launch there will be a choice of two Multijet diesel engines – a 1.3-litre with 85bhp and 1.9-litre with 105bhp. For 2006, there will also be a 1.4-litre petrol engine with 77bhp and a 120bhp 1.9-litre diesel.

Standard equipment includes twin airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, remote central locking, height adjustable driver’s seat and steering wheel, twin side sliding doors and electric front windows. The Dynamic version adds a CD player and air-conditioning.

Prices will be announced nearer to launch, although expect similar ones to the out-going version, which means from £9,000 for a five-seater and £10,500 for seven.

At the launch, Fiat’s president of commercial vehicles, Lorenzo Sistino, said: ‘This is a vehicle with two souls – a roomy versatile car and a functional van. The Doblo is the intelligent alternative to the MPV with seven seats and a maximum load capacity of 3,000 litres – a record in its category.’

The new model also sees the introduction of a Maxio long wheelbase, but it won’t be coming to the UK. Fiat doesn’t sell enough Doblos to warrant a right-hand drive version.

Behind the wheel

YOU’LL either love or hate this vehicle – and I happen to love it. A roomy, feisty, stylish seven-seater for around £10,500 – how could anyone pass that by?

Many people do, of course, either because they don’t need seven seats or because they are put off by the Doblo’s rather curious exterior.

There is a reason for the boxy shape – it is made to be a van too, so every square inch counts. The plus side of this is that the Doblo is more sturdily built than your average car so should still be plugging along happily long after a lot of its brethren have been consigned to the scrap heap.

Climbing aboard at our test drive around Turin, the interior revealed itself to be as chic and stylish as ever. The seats are supportive and comfortable and there are plenty of cubby holes dotted about. There isn’t exactly a lot of legroom for the third row of passengers but the seats can be removed to create extra luggage space if necessary, although it is by no means an easy job dragging a whole row of seats into your garage. The 105bhp 1.9-litre diesel powerplant in our test car was lively and quick and never felt underpowered.

Driving verdict

THE Doblo really is a car that needs to be tried out. Once those bums are on seats, I’m sure a lot of drivers would choose it over more conventional models.

Model: 1.3 Multijet 1.9 Multijet
Max power (bhp/rpm): 85/4,000 105/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 147/1,750 147/1,750
Max speed (mph): 97 102
Average fuel consumption (mpg): 51.4 48.7
CO2 emissions (g/km): 145 153
On sale: December
Prices: TBA

Award-winning start for Doblo’s commercial vehicle brother

THE new Fiat Doblo Cargo – the Doblo’s commercial vehicle brother – went on sale, rather appropriately, on November 5.

And there were certainly some fireworks to welcome its arrival – it has been voted International Van of the Year 2006 by a panel of 19 European judges.

Outside and in, the Doblo Cargo invites comment – although not always complimentary. Some label it funky and space-age while others scoff and mutter that it’s as ugly as sin. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but what can’t be ignored is the Doblo’s superb working credentials.

The old one had the most powerful diesel engine in its class – 105bhp – and the biggest load volume at 3.2 cubic metres.

From launch there will be a choice of three engines – 1.4-litre petrol with 77bhp, 1.3-litre diesel with 75bhp and 1.9-litre diesel with 105bhp.

For 2006, there will also be an 85bhp 1.3-litre diesel engine and a 120bhp 1.9-litre diesel.

Payload increases slightly, either 730kg or 850kg, up from 635kg and 805kg in the old model.

The van will be offered in base and SX trim levels. A driver’s airbag is standard across the range while ABS brakes, CD player and sliding side doors, electric windows and central locking are standard on SX models.

Prices start at £8,570 for the petrol and rise to £9,195 for the 105bhp diesel (all prices ex-VAT).

The big news at the launch was the introduction of a Maxi version with a longer wheelbase and four cubic metre load volume, but, as with the Doblo, it won’t be coming to the UK.

Fiat is aiming to increase its market share in the UK from 4% to 5% next year and believes that Motability and taxi firms will be interested in the van, along with local authorities and small businesses.

Fact file

Models: 1.4 petrol 1.3 Multijet 1.9 Multijet
Gross vehicle weight (kg): 2,040 2,120 2,130
Payload (kg): 730/850 730/850 730/850
Load volume (cu m): 3.2 3.2 3.2
Max power (bhp/rpm): 77/6,000 75/4,000 105/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 84/3,000 140/1,750 147/1,750
Prices (ex-VAT): £8,570 £8,870 £9,195

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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