Fleet News

Roadtest: Fiat Doblo Cargo/Combi

THE 1.8-tonne van sector is filled with funky little performers like the canny little Renault Kangoo, the cheeky Citroen Berlingo and the feisty Vauxhall Combo. But for sheer panache, none can quite match the Fiat Doblo Cargo – it oozes style both inside and out.

Now Fiat has refreshed the van with a new engine and improvements inside which should make it an even more tempting choice for fleets.

The big news is the introduction of a new 1.3-litre Multijet 16 valve diesel powerplant, which will be available in the UK this summer.

The new engine is the smallest and most advanced second generation common rail unit and offers 70bhp at 4,000rpm and 133lb-ft of torque at 1,750rpm.

It measures 50cm in length and 65cm in height and weighs just 130 kg, but will propel the van to a top speed of 90 mph and should return 51 mpg on the combined cycle. Oil changes are only necessary every 18,000 miles.

Meanwhile, the 'old' 1.9 JTD engine gets a power boost from 100 bhp to 105 bhp at 4,000 rpm, making it the most powerful performer in the sector. Top speed is 105 mph and the van is capable of returning 48.7 mpg on the combined cycle. Fiat may have its faults, but its motors are not among them.

In the cab, Doblo Cargo has a new dashboard with new graphics, a trip computer function, digital multifunction display and rev counter.

In the back, the Doblo Cargo has a load volume of 3.2 cubic metres, rising to 3.8 cubic metres for the high roof version.

The other big news is that the Doblo Combi will be available as a seven-seater. Powered either by the 1.3 or 1.9-litre units, the car comes with standard driver's airbag, ABS brakes and two sliding side doors. The middle row of seats are individual so the two side ones can be folded down for access into the rear and the back row can be folded down and removed if required.

Behind the wheel

MY test drive of the Doblo Cargo, complete with its new dinky 1.3-litre diesel unit, came on a balmy January day in Genoa, northern Italy. For one glorious afternoon, I ripped off my coat, donned my Oakley sunglasses, hung my left arm out of the window and bathed in sunlight.

I had been thrashing round Loughborough in the wet in a Ford Fiesta van just days before so, believe me, I was happy.

But it wasn't only the weather that put a song in my heart – the Doblo Cargo has long been my personal favourite in the 1.8-tonne sector and this new engine is a real sweetie.

Don't be fooled by the fact that it offers 35bhp less than its bigger brother – it fairly flies along if you work round the gearbox properly and I had no trouble at all keeping up with a fellow journalist in front of me, who was doing his best to lose me in a Fiat Scudo with a 2.0-litre JTD engine with 110bhp on offer.

Despite its chunky exterior look, the van is a nimble performer and seems to enjoy being thrown around the bends – although whether this is a plus point for the fleet manager is a moot point. It is he or she, after all, who will be picking up the bills for all the tyre and brake wear. Apart from the new engine, the Doblo Cargo is as pleasing a vehicle as it ever was.

Driving verdict

FLEETS looking for a van which is funky, functional and extremely cost-effective need look no further – the Doblo Cargo fits the bill exactly.

Fact file
1.2 petrol 1.3 Multijet 1.9JTD
Power (bhp/rpm): 65/5,500 70/4,000 105/4,000
Torque (lb-ft/rpm): 102/3,500 132/1,750 151/1,750
Load volume (cubic metres): 3.2 3.2 3.2
Fuel economy (mpg): 37.6 51.4 48.7
Price: £8,295 n/a £8,965
On sale: Feb 21 Multijet summer 2004

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