Fiat Doblò Cargo

Date: Thursday, January 28, 2010

How can we put this without causing offence? Let’s just say that the first generation Doblò Cargo was unlikely to win any prizes in a beauty contest for its external appearance, even after its mid-life refresh. And the cab was idiosyncratic to say the least.

 

Having said that it all worked very well and proved to be a very competent light van contender, although it was only available with one wheelbase option. Enter the second generation Doblò Cargo and it’s all change. New from the ground up there’s a brand new stylish exterior design with a friendly front-end and distinctive flared wheelarches, a completely revamped cab interior, Euro 5 or Euro 4 engines, independent rear suspension and a choice of two wheelbases.

Engines

The engine line-up is now much more comprehensive, if a little confusing, and totals six Multijet common rail turbodiesels and two petrol options. The reason for the confusion is that all the powerplants can be had in either Euro 4 or Euro 5 specification.

There’s a 95hp 1.4-litre petrol, a revised version of the existing 1.3 Miltijet which now produces 90hp (as opposed to 75hp) at 4,000rpm and develops peak torque of 200Nm at an impressively low 1,500rpm (1,750rpm for the Euro 4 version) and a 1.6 which is capable of 105hp (4,000rpm) and 290Nm (1,500rpm). The diesel line-up is completed by a 2.0-litre unit producing 135hp at 3,500rpm and developing 320Nm, once again at 1,500rpm.

The difference between the Euro 4 and Euro 5 variants of each engine is that the latter feature Start&Stop (the engine cuts out when stationary and restarts automatically when the clutch is depressed), a Diesel Particulate Filter (not on the petrol, of course) and a Gear Shift Indicator which recommends when to change gear. Fiat reckons that Start&Stop can reduce fuel consumption and emissions by up to 15 per cent during an urban delivery cycle.

Service intervals for the Euro 4 units remain at 12,500 miles and is extended to 20,000 miles for the Euro 5 versions which will carry a premium of around £800.

Doblò remains front-wheel drive with the 1.4 petrol and 1.3 Multijet fitted with a five-speed manual transmission, while the two most powerful diesels benefit from a six-speeder. A 90hp version of the Euro 5 1.6 Multijet with an automated manual transmission will join the range towards the end of 2010.

Suspension

Front suspension is a conventional McPherson strut arrangement with springs, dampers and an anti-roll bar, but unusually for a van the rear set-up is independent as well. Transverse links connect to the wheels from a central anchor point and instead of leaf springs there are coil springs and dampers, and the heavy duty models also feature an anti-roll bar.

Hydraulic power steering is fitted as standard and the brakes are ventilated discs at the front and drums at the rear. ABS comes as part of the package and ESP, which includes traction control and a hill-old function, will be a £375 optional extra in the UK.

Load Area

The standard wheelbase Doblò Cargo provides 3.4m 3 of load space and a load length of 1,820mm. Move up to the long-wheelbase Maxi and these figures increase to 4.2m 3 and 2,170mm respectively. There is a 4.0m 3 high roof SWB option available with a load height of 1,550mm, but Fiat UK reckons this will be reserved for special applications like wheelchair accessible conversions.

Standard roof variants have a load height of 1,305mm. All Doblòs have a maximum useable load width of 1,518mm and 1,230mm between the wheel boxes. Six load tie-down rings are provided. Various bulkheads are available, including a swivelling mesh affair which combined with a folding passenger seat effectively extends the load length by 1,230mm.


Load bay access is via twin asymmetrical side-hinged doors with the bigger one on the nearside. The rear loading aperture is 1,231mm wide by 1,250mm high and the loading height is 545mm unladen. A nearside or twin sliding side load doors can be specified.

Cab Comfort

Like the rest of the second generation Doblò Cargo the cab interior is all-new. As before the gearstick sits atop a seat-height pod extending from the dashboard centre console and the handbrake is positioned between the seats.

Storage space has been well thought out with a full width shelf above the large windscreen, large door pockets which can take a couple of half-litre drinks bottles and an A4 folder, and there’s a good-sized drop-down lockable glovebox capable of accommodating a 14in laptop, as well as a large cubby above it. In addition there are plenty of other compartments for smaller items likecoins, pens and mobile phones.

The options list contains plenty of goodies to make life easier including a dash-mounted document clip, Blue&Me hands-free connectivity and even Blue&Me–TomTom which adds an integrated sat nav which fits neatly into a powered cradle on top of the dash.

On the Road

We made our way from the launch base at Fiat’s old Lingotto factory — famous for its roof-top test track as featured in the original Italian Job movie — and headed out of Turin through the sprawling suburbs in a long-wheelbase 115hp Euro 5.

Talk about easy to drive. The driving position is excellent, the seats are supportive, the gearstick is within easy reach of the steering wheel and all-round vision is good thanks to large door mirrors which feature indicator repeaters on the outer edge. The TomTom is positioned perfectly, by the way, and doesn’t impede forward vision.

Stopping at the first set of traffic lights kicked in the Start&Stop feature and we must say that we are rapidly becoming fans of this type of technology. It’s not exactly something new, but it does make a great deal of sense. Once out of the city the engine really came alive and we revelled in the seemingly endless torque on tap. It’s pretty refined as well with acceptable noise levels and a lack of vibration.

The independent rear suspension coped admirably with the 400kg of ballast on board, at least on Italian roads. We will have to wait to see how it redeems itself on our disintegrating highways.

There’s bags of feedback from the well weighted steering and there were no obvious drawbacks to the handling; all very safe and predictable.

From its UK launch in March the new Doblò Cargo will be available with a full diesel engine line-up in both standard and Maxi wheelbase and a little further down the line will be joined by five-seater crew cab versions and a platform cab.

Verdict

There is no denying Fiat, or Fiat Professional as the light commercial department is known, has done a great job with the second generation Doblò Cargo. There’s a wide selection of models and we cannot recommend the Euro 5 diesels highly enough.

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