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Fiat Doblo Family 1.3-1.9 JTD



THERE comes a time in many people’s lives where competing pressures of pride and price collide.

Most often this coincides with the arrival of a family and all the upheaval it brings, with additional costs that soak up any available cash, no matter what it was originally intended for.

So you opt out of the company car scheme and your few hundred pounds saved is instantly absorbed by nappies and nurseries.

As transport is still a requirement, you need to get as much as you can for as little as possible – which is where the Fiat Doblo comes in.

The Doblo captures the essence of the price versus pride dilemma. Its van-based origins are barely hidden, its snouty front-end takes a lot of getting used to and there are more than a few rough edges in its construction – for example, I counted 13 exposed screw heads from the driver’s seat alone.

But swallow your pride and look at the price. It costs from £9,095 to £11,295 and the seven-model line-up includes the cheapest seven-seater in the UK, the 1.3-litre Family, which costs £10,595.

In addition to the seats, drivers get central locking, height-adjustable steering, twin rear sliding doors, electric front windows, driver and passenger airbags, height adjustable driver’s seat, split-fold rear seats, foglights and ABS with electronic brake-force distribution.

There is only a cassette player, so a CD is £200 extra, but for the money, it is very well specified.

A dash-mounted gearlever helps with driving position, although the look of the dashboard takes some getting used to, some of the materials feel cheap and you need to choose your colour combinations carefully. However, the driving position feels good. Space in the middle row of seats is plentiful and even the rear-most seats are adequate for an average- sized adult, although folding them can be a chore.

Accept the challenge of removing and re-arranging the seating and up to 3,000 litres of luggage space is available – a plus point of its van-based origins.

Both petrol and diesel engines are pretty vocal. The 1.3-litre engine offers 70bhp and needs thrashing to hits its 62mph dash in 16.1 seconds without passengers. But it offers low emissions of 152g/km of CO2 and 49.6mpg.

During town and motorway driving, I found it needed revving hard and preferred the additional torque provided by the Euro III 1.9 JTD diesel, but at £11,195 the pride versus price argument may come into play again.

With more low-down grunt, it hustles the Doblo to 62mph in a more respectable 12.6 seconds while offering 47.9mpg and 157g/km of CO2.

There is little sound-proofing, but it isn’t overly intrusive, although at motorway speeds, the engine seemed to be revving quite high.

While cruising, a change of cog is needed to produce acceptable acceleration. There is also a choice of rear door options, with a traditional but large tailgate carrying the penalty of needing a lot of space behind the vehicle to open, while the twin-door option pretty much obliterated rear vision, especially as only one window had a wiper.

Furthermore with seven seats in place, there is only about two inches of space in the boot for luggage, so a top-box would be in order.

Despite its shortcomings, as cheap, basic transport for lots of people, the Doblo does its job. And it might just be so unusual that it becomes acceptable, as shown by the first Multipla.

And anyway, if you are so strapped for cash because you have so many kids you need a cheap seven-seater – surely that says more about you than your choice of transport?

Engine: 1.3 JTD 1.9 JTD
Max power (bhp/rpm): 70/4,000 105/4,000
Max torque (lb-ft/rpm): 122/1,750 151/1,750
Max speed (mph): 88 105
0-62mph (sec): 16.1 12.4
Fuel consumption (mpg): 49.6 47.9
CO2 emissions (g/km): 152 157
Prices: £9,095 £11,295
On sale: Now

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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