Fiat may be suffering from falling car sales, but it was a very different story last year in the commercial vehicle division, where sales were up 26%.
Now in a bid to capitalise on that success, Fiat has launched revised versions of the Scudo light panel van and Doblo Cargo car-derived van and both were revealed at an international press launch in Genoa last week.
While Doblo Cargo is Fiat's own van, it shares Scudo with Citroen and Peugeot, which rebadge the vehicle as Dispatch and Expert.
Fiat is using the slogan 'Car at Work' to market the new Scudo and it is no idle boast as the van is actually a commercial vehicle version of a car, the old Ulysse MPV.
Outside, the fresh model features a chunky new front end with different shaped headlights and a large open grille which is unique to the van.
There are rubbing strips along the sides to prevent knocks and scrapes and they extend right back to the rear bumper.
Two engines will be available – a 1.9-litre naturally-aspirated unit offering 69bhp at 4,600rpm and 125lb-ft of torque at 2,500rpm and a 2.0-litre eight valve JTD common rail unit offering 109bhp at 4,000rpm and 250lb-ft of torque at 1,750rpm.
There will be no petrol engines, effectively cutting out any chance of LPG variants.
Meanwhile the Combi version, with either five or six seats, will have a 2.0-litre JTD 16v engine, again with 109bhp but with torque of 270lb-ft at 1,750rpm. Oil changes in the JTD engines have been been extended from 12,500 miles to 18,000 miles.
In the cab, the driver's seat has been reworked to give extra leg and back support while the steering wheel is smaller.
Both are adjustable and the middle passenger seat folds down to reveal a handy desk, complete with mobile phone slot and two coffee cup holders. A radio/CD player comes as standard.
Thanks to some attention to the padding of the vehicle, noise in the new Scudo's cab is four decibels lower than the old one at 60mph. This has been achieved by adding an extra layer of PVC under the floor and wheelarches.
Prices for the new model are slightly under those of its twin the Peugeot Expert at £11,200 for the 1.9, £12,600 for the 2.0 JTD and £13,785 for the JTD 16v Combi (all prices ex-VAT). Expert's prices range from £11,240 to £14,010. n See next week's issue for the first drive of the Doblo Cargo
Behind the wheel
THE toll road that runs west from Genoa in northern Italy towards Monte Carlo offers some stunning views along its route.
As it winds its way towards the Cote d'Azur in a series of graceful curves, it dips underground frequently as the mountains roll down to the sea. Blasting out into the sunlight again, magnificent vistas unfold, featuring wooded slopes, attractive Italian villas and a wide chunk of the clear blue Mediterranean.
As I pressed on hard towards my hotel, dodging 40-tonne trucks and suicidal Italian drivers in battered Fiats, my thoughts turned to wondering what the letters JTD stood for. As I showed a clean pair of heels to virtually everything on the road, I figured it must mean 'Just Truly Delightful'.
Fiat may have its shortcomings but common rail diesel technology isn't among them. This 109bhp Scudo felt faster than the Peugeot Expert I had driven the week before, although it shouldn't as both have the same engine.
One of the new items on the revised Scudo is the driver's seat and it is noticeably better than the old one. The seat squab is longer, giving better leg support, and the back is higher and more meaty. With height adjustment and an adjustable steering column it was easy to find the ideal driving position.
Some vans are only just adopting dash-mounted gearsticks but the Scudo has had them from launch in 1995. It is so smooth that you can almost change gear with one finger. It really is like driving a big car.
I normally recommend lower-powered models for fleet purposes. After all, you don't want your drivers blatting about the country using up unnecessary fuel and frightening old ladies. But the JTD unit is so good that it's worth shelling out the extra cash for it. Also bear in mind that fuel consumption is better than for the naturally-aspirated unit and residual values are likely to be higher.
|1.9||2.0 JTD 8v||Combi|
|Load volume (cubic metres):||4||4||n/a|
|Fuel economy (mpg):||36.21||42.80||40.35|
|On sale:||February 14|