Fiat Doblo Van Review
|Facts At A Glance|
ENGINE OPTIONS:1.4 77bhp (petrol) / 1.3JTD 75bhp, 1.9JTD 105bhp (diesel)
WILL IT FIT IN YOUR GARAGE?:Length/Width/Height 4250/1720/1810mm
FiatDoblo Cargo Van Range- CARGO COULD GO FAR
Fiat’sDoblo Cargo Van now has the style to go with its undoubted substance.
Looksdo matter, even when we’re talking commercial vehicles and anyone whotries to tell you otherwise should be politely reminded of Fiat’s DobloCargo. A highly capable van in almost every respect, the little Fiatwas held back from achieving the recognition it deserved in themarketplace by styling that could best be described as challenging.Despite this, the vehicle’s underlying qualities still shone throughits gawky façade to help it rack-up 310,000 worldwide sales and, nowthat the thorny cosmetic issue has been addressed, today’s versionlooks equipped to build on that success.
The Doblo wasn’t the first Fiat to be slightly scuppered at the initialdesign stage. The whole saga mirrors that of the Multipla MPV whicharrived to widespread critical acclaim in the press but sporting one ofthe most ungainly vehicular front-ends in living memory. Everycorrespondent who waxed lyrical about its ground-breaking packaging andsupreme practicality then felt obliged to insert the caveat that nobodywould buy the car because it looked so odd. It’s a little sad but truethat we Brits prefer the staid to the extraordinary when it comes tothe way our cars look and the same goes for our commercial vehicles.Fiat’s Doblo Cargo (along with its Doblo passenger car sibling) wasnever quite as visually outlandish as the Multipla but the chunkylatticework grille, the horizontal bar that split the headlamps andthat snout-effect sloping bonnet line meant it stood-out big time fromits rivals. As with the Multipla, Fiat eventually caved in andcommissioned a thorough facelift.
Today’sDoblo Cargo unceremoniously ditches most of the design cues that madeits predecessor the most distinctive small van on the UK market. It’sstill striking to look at by van standards but in a more uniform andsubtle way. The large headlamps curve round into the vehicle’s flanksat the corners and the frontal aspect is dominated by the clean planesof the oversize bumper inserts. These sit either side of a highlyAudi-esque grille and under-bumper arrangement. The Doblo’s rounded-offside windows remain, as do the side mirrors with their body-colouredstripes. There are hefty side rubbing strips to protect the bodyworkand the rear lights have been tweaked too.
"Engineshave never been a problem for the Doblo Cargo, at least since Fiat’sJTD common-rail diesel units came on the scene"
Lessobvious to the casual observer is the fact that the current Doblo Cargois a teensy bit bigger. Measuring in 91mm longer, 6mm wider and 10mmlower than its predecessor while riding on a 2,583mm wheelbase that’sincreased from 2,566mm, it has expanded in every direction. In standardform, this growth translates into a 3.2m3 load volume that can be grownto 3.8m3 if you opt for a high roof derivative. These load volumessignificantly outstrip rivals like Citroen’s Berlingo and Renault’sKangoo, while the Doblo Cargo’s payload capacity of 730kg is classcompetitive. The loadbay is accessed through the asymmetrically splitside-hinged rear doors and if you upgrade to the SX trim level, a pairof sliding side-doors are also added.
Engineshave never been a problem for the Doblo Cargo, at least since Fiat’sJTD common-rail diesel units came on the scene. Refined, flexible andutilising the latest Multijet engine control technology, theentry-level 16-valve 1.3-litre JTD unit is a second-generationcommon-rail diesel. There’s 75bhp at 4,000rpm on offer here and140lb/ft of torque as low as 1,750rpm making the Doblo feel quickerthan its performance figures suggest. You should also be able toaverage over 50mpg. The 8-valve 1.9 JTD remains at the pinnacle of theDoblo Cargo range. This 105bhp engine is of the first generationcommon-rail configuration and utilises Fiat’s Unijet injection system.It’s not as advanced as the 1.3-litre but it’s faster and nearly aseconomical. Maximum torque is 147lb/ft and it arrives at 1,750rpm.Buyers looking for real pace might feel like holding fire until twomore engines arrive in the near future. An 85bhp version of the1.3-litre unit and a 120bhp 1.9 JTD will add some real spice to theline-up when they come on stream.
Thefinal engine choice is the cheapest in the range, a 1.4-litre 77bhpunit. Petrol is often viewed as a dirty word amongst commercial vehiclebuyers but this engine is feisty and provides respectable economy.There’s not as much torque as with the diesels but the petrol is morerefined and could be enough to tempt a few buyers away from the blackpumps. Regardless of the engine fitted, the Doblo Cargo handles sweetlywith good weight and feel to the steering plus plenty of grip.
Internally,the Doblo is a vibrant proposition with some particularly lurid trimcolours available to match the 12 different exterior paintwork options.This vivid approach certainly livens up the driver’s workingenvironment and makes a change from the traditional CV choice of greycloth or wipe-clean vinyl. The fabric seems suitably hardwearing andthe plastics tough. There’s a shelf above the windscreen providingextra storage, along with decent sized-door pockets. Dashboard-mountedgearlevers are usually included to let the driver slide across and exitvia the passenger door but the Doblo’s console sticks out too far tomake this an easy manoeuvre. Otherwise, there’s little to criticisehere: the unusual styling theme carries over well from the exterior butnot at the expense of functionality. The driving position is uprightand visibility is good, combining with the tight 10.5m turning circleto make the Doblo Cargo a very malleable small van.
Ifyou’re one of the small van buyers who shunned the Fiat Doblo Cargobecause of its ugly duckling appearance, now’s the time to revisit it.The transformation is hardly in the beautiful swan league (it’s more acase of significantly smartened-up duck) but that will be enough tosatisfy most. This practical, well engineered, fine driving and, now,good looking van could be about to take its deserved place on centrestage.