Fiat Professional’s Doblo Cargo without doubt deserves to be a lot more popular among UK light commercial operators. Its many virtues include top-notch handling and a high standard of build quality, helping to make it is a worthy winner once again of our Light Van of the Year Award.
Fiat Professional has had the great good sense to ensure that customers are offered plenty of choice. The range features two roof heights and two wheelbase lengths, delivering load area volumes of 3.4m3, 4.0m3, 4.2m3 and 5.0m3.
Gross payload capacities extend from 750kg to 1,005kg. Sliding nearside and offside doors are fitted to most models, and the cargo bay is available with a host of clever features. They include a rear roof flap through which over-length items such as ladders or planks can be poked. Also on offer are bars that can be mounted just under the roof and which allow long objects to be transported without cluttering up the cargo bed.
Various bulkheads are listed too, all of which look substantial.
To all the foregoing can be added the Work Up dropside pick-up – its under-floor stowage area that can swallow items up to 2m long is a neat touch – and the availability of a platform cab and a crew van.
Four trim levels are listed – Standard, Ecojet, SX and Tecnico – and customers can choose from three different Multijet II Euro6 diesels, all of which are equally impressive. The 1.3-litre produces 95hp while the 1.6-litre cranks out 105hp or 120hp. A 95hp 1.4-litre petrol power plant is available too and may become more appealing as the war on diesel gathers pace.
The diesels have sufficient torque low down on the rev band – which is where you want it – whichever variant you pick. Ecojet versions feature low rolling-resistance tyres, stop/start and a new aerodynamic pack.
They drive CO2 emissions down to as low as 120g/km and allow fuel economy levels of up to 61.4mpg to be achieved according to quoted official test figures.
Handy options include Traction+, which helps keep the Doblo Cargo going in snow, sand and mud without the need to invest in a full-on (and more expensive) 4x4 system.
Safety is assured by the usual collection of onboard electronic devices – ABS, Electronic Stability Control and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, for example – some of which are mandatory. Connectivity is aided by the availability of Gateway, an interface that can be used to collect all the vehicle’s key onboard data, which can then be relayed to a fleet management system.
The intelligently designed bi-link independent rear suspension trumpeted when Doblo Cargo was initially launched some years ago has stood the test of time. Light in weight and space-efficient, it helps deliver sharp handling as well as a comfortable ride.
What Van? has run a long-term-test Doblo Cargo for several months, over many thousands of miles and with a variety of different loads on board. Throughout it all it has proved completely reliable.
A van is only as good as the dealer network that supports it and Fiat Professional should be applauded for pairing approximately half of its dealers with heavy truck dealerships. Typically also representing either DAF or Iveco, they are used to delivering a high standard of aftersales service – hard-nosed hauliers will not accept anything less.
Highly Commended: Volkswagen Caddy
Our Highly Commended choice is Volkswagen’s latest Caddy.
Looking for all the world as though it has been hewn out of a solid block of steel, the Caddy is clearly built to last. Safety levels are commendably high, on-the-road performance has much of the opposition licked, and it boasts as an option one of the best transmissions ever to be installed in a light van: we are talking, of course, about the automated six- or seven-speed Direct Shift Gearbox.
Either a five-speed or a six-speed manual ’box is the standard offering and the Caddy is promoted with an impressively wide selection of engines. The well-regarded 2.0-litre TDI diesel is on offer at 75hp, 102hp or 150hp, while petrol power is delivered by TSI engines at 1.2, 1.0, and 1.4 litres. Power outputs are 84hp, 102hp and 125hp, respectively. The load cube is 3.2-4.2mm3 if you specify the Caddy Maxi, and payload capacities run from 565kg to 736kg.
The Caddy has proved to be fuel-frugal in our hands – low-CO2 Bluemotion Technology with stop/start, low rolling-resistance tyres, and regenerative braking are standard – and has the support of a dedicated light commercial vehicle dealer network.