Fiat Doblò Cargo

Date: Thursday, April 01, 2010

Fiat has redesigned Doblò Cargo from the ground up. It gets a revised line-up of Euro 4 and Euro 5 engines, a choice of two wheelbases, a cleverly-designed bi-link independent rear suspension system and all-new interior and exterior styling.

 

Engine Choice

Customers are offered a choice of three different MultiJet 16-valve four-cylinder common rail diesels. The range starts with a 90hp (@4,000rpm) 1.3-litre generating 200Nm of peak torque at 1,750rpm if you go Euro 4, or at 1,500rpm if you choose the Euro 5 route.


In Euro 5 guise it returns 58.9mpg on the combined cycle when slotted into the 750kg-payload short-wheelbase van. CO2 emissions are a modest 126g/km. Next up is a Euro 4 or Euro 5 105hp (@4,000rpm) 1.6-litre with 290Nm of torque on tap at 1,500rpm. It replaces the 1.9-litre that used to be fitted, with servicing costs reduced by 40 per cent says Fiat. Specify it at Euro 5 in the 750kg short-wheelbase and you’ll get 54.3mpg (combined cycle) out of it while CO2 output is 136g/km.


The range is topped off by a Euro 5-only 135hp(@3,500rpm) 2.0-litre pumping out 320Nm of torque at 1,500rpm. An evolution of the 1.9-litre, it returns 50.4mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions of 148g/km, again when fitted to the 750kg short-wheelbase.


So what do the designations Euro 4 and Euro 5 actually mean? They refer to the exhaust emissions rules the engines meet. Compliance with the tighter Euro 5 rules is voluntary at present, but if you choose to comply you get a particulate trap included in the deal. Start&Stop is also standard on the Euro-5-only 2.0-litre.


When neutral is selected it causes the engine to cut out when you’re stationary in traffic or while you’re waiting at the lights, saving precious fuel to the tune of 15 per cent according to Fiat and cutting exhaust emissions and noise. You restart it by dipping the clutch. Euro 5 models also feature an indicator on the facia that tells you when is the optimal time to change gear.


The Euro 5 versions of the 1.3 and the 1.6 diesels will arrive in the summer. At present Fiat cannot say how much more they will cost than the Euro 4 models.


There’s also a 95hp 1.4-litre petrol lump and along with the 1.3-litre with its variable geometry turbocharger is married to a five-speed gearbox while the 1.6-litre and the 2.0-litre take a six-speeder. The 1.6 will be marketed with an optional five-speed Comfortmatic automated manual gearbox later in the year.

 

Weight Matters

The short-wheelbase (2,755mm) Doblò Cargo van is produced with either a standard or a high roof offering 3.4m3 or 4.0m3 of load space respectively. Its long-wheelbase (3,105mm) Cargo Maxi stablemate gives you 4.2m3 to play with.


Van payload capacity ranges from 750kg to a high 1,000kg depending on the model selected. Gross weights run from 1,990kg to 2,410kg while towing weights extend from 1,000kg to a hefty 1,500kg. Fiat’s new front-wheel drive baby is also offered as a Maxi platform cab and as a passenger-carrying Combi.


The bi-link rear suspension hasn’t been fitted solely with the aim of enhancing the ride and handling. The fact that it is compact means slimmer wheel-boxes with more space between them. That makes Cargo easier to load and unload.


The suspension is light too, which spells a higher payload than might otherwise be achievable. Independent suspension with MacPherson struts is installed at the front along with an anti-roll bar. An anti-roll bar is fitted at the back too depending on the model.


Two trim levels are up for grabs; base and SX. All vans feature twin rear doors, but short-wheelbase models do not have a sliding side door as standard. Specify a sliding nearside door on the entry-level model and it will cost you an extra £225 (excl VAT). SX versions and the Cargo Maxi have one on each side.

 

Load Area

Good to see big door handles that can be operated with either the right or the left hand. That’s the case even if you’re wearing thick gloves and the rear door handles are designed to be opened with a single finger.


Six floor-mounted load tie-down points are fitted and cargo area options include a removable torch that doubles as an extra light. An optional set of transverse bars is on offer too that can be positioned close to the roof. They allow ladder and pipes to be transported in what is often dead space.


From the security viewpoint they make more sense than fitting a roof rack. Remember too that a roof rack can wreck your van’s aerodynamics and bump up fuel consumption.


All vans have a load area with a maximum width of 1,714mm narrowing to 1,230mm between the wheel boxes. Maximum height is 1,305mm rising to 1,550mm with the high roof. Maximum length is 1,820mm increasing to 2,170mm with the Cargo Maxi. Rear loading height is 545mm on all models.


ABS is standard along with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution but it’s a shame that Fiat hasn’t decided to include Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) in the deal. It’s a £375 (excl VAT) option and includes Hill Holder to stop you rolling backwards if you’re trying to move away on an incline.


Disc brakes are fitted at the front, but drums feature at the back. It’s surprising that Fiat hasn’t opted for discs all round instead.

 

Cab Comfort

All the vans are equipped with a height-adjustable steering wheel, a driver’s airbag, electric front windows, central locking, a bulkhead and a tray under the passenger seat. Other in-cab storage features include a lockable glovebox that will take a 14in laptop and a bin in each door that can take a half-litre bottle of water and an A4 clipboard.


You also get a tray on top of the dashboard and a shelf above the windscreen. A 12v power point is provided too plus an MP3-compatible radio/CD player.


Move up to the SX and you benefit from electric mirrors, remote central locking, front fog lights, a 12v power socket in the load area and a height-adjustable driver’s seat with a lumbar support.


Options include climate control, cruise control, parking sensors and a Blue&Me hands-free package. We’d be inclined to make the latter standard. Another option is Blue&Me TomTom. Developed by Fiat, TomTom and Microsoft, it features a colour touch screen that acts as a hub for a satellite navigation system, a mobile phone and a trip computer.


Available on left-hand drive models, a fold-flat passenger seat with a mesh bulkhead that swivels out of the way so that long items can be accommodated has yet to be offered on right-hand drive variants. It’s a possibility for the future.


As for maintenance, diesel-powered models only need servicing every 21,000 miles. This cuts the 1.3-litre’s servicing costs, for example, by 34 per cent over 75,000 miles says Fiat.

 

On the Road

We took to the roads around Slough in a 1.6-litre Cargo Maxi; and we were impressed. Independent suspension front and back allowed the Fiat to ride easily over Britain’s potholed and in places completely disintegrating road surfaces. Noise levels were well-suppressed, the gearchange was slick and with 105hp to play with and no weight in the back, performance certainly wasn’t an issue.


Cargo Maxi handled well, with plenty of feedback through the steering. A relaxed drive gave us plenty of time to appreciate the comfortable driver’s seat, the roomy cab and the top-notch build quality. Gone are the days when you had to take a carrier bag with you whenever you drove a Fiat to collect the bits that dropped off along the way.


After that we went out in a short-wheelbase standard roof 1.3-litre Cargo with a 400kg test load in the back. With a bit of weight on board the ride was even better, but acceleration from rest was a touch sluggish.

 

Verdict

One of the most impressive vans we’ve driven over the past 12 months, the latest Fiat Doblò Cargo has an enormous amount to recommend it. OK, we’d query some of specifications — why not standardise on ESP for instance? — but any quibbles have to be set against the exemplary ride, the sharp handling and the vehicle’s overall performance. And the positives far outweigh any negatives.



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