The What Van? Small Van of the Year accolade for 2017 goes to Fiat Professional’s latest Fiorino, which is now known as the Fiorino Cargo.
The key difference between old and new models has been the introduction of Euro6 engines, and the company should be applauded for achieving the standard without having to install an AdBlue reservoir for its diesels.
Externally, the new Fiorino can be distinguished from its predecessor by a reworked front bumper, and some modest changes have been made to the interior to help keep the little van looking fresh. They include new and well-lit graphics for the instrument panel and a redesigned steering wheel.
None of these styling modifications grace Citroen’s Nemo and Peugeot’s Bipper, its sister vehicles.
With a gross payload capacity of up to 660kg, the Fiorino is on offer with a 1.3-litre Multijet II diesel engine at either 80hp or 95hp. Service intervals are set at two years/21,000 miles. A 77hp 1.4-litre petrol power pack is up for grabs as an alternative.
Specification levels are Standard, Ecojet (with an eye on minimising CO2 emissions) SX and Adventure. Designed to keep you rolling in moderately slippery conditions, the last in the list comes with mud and snow tyres, raised suspension, a front bumper with a skid plate, a Traction+ electronic diff lock, and extra body protection.
The front-wheel drive Fiorino is also available as a four-seater crew van and as a four- or five-seater Combi.
Rear access to the van’s 2.5m3 load bay – it goes up to 2.8m3 if you fold down the passenger seat – is by means of twin, opaque, asymmetric doors, with the narrower of the two on the offside. A sliding nearside door is fitted to most models, with a sliding offside door available as an option.
All the doors are fitted with big, easy-to-grasp vertical handles, and lock automatically at above 10mph. Rear loading height is 527mm.
ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Electronic Stability Control, Hydraulic Brake Assist, Anti Skid Regulation, Hill Holder and a speed limiter all come as standard.
A new five-inch touchscreen and Bluetooth are standard on the majority of variants. While, on the face of it, the screen may seem a touch small, it remains large enough to play host to the optional satellite navigation system’s maps and instructions.
The cab is less cramped and offers a bit more storage space than might appear to be the case at first glance, and the seats are surprisingly comfortable.
The Fiorino is lively and huge fun to drive. Mid-range acceleration is strong – especially if you opt for the 95hp diesel – and the compact little Fiat goes around corners as if on rails. Even the tightest of bends fails to shake its composure, and the generous amount of feedback through the steering gives the driver oodles of confidence. Nor does the Fiorino get out of shape when making a sudden change in direction.
Small vans tend not to ride all that well but this one rides better than most. It certainly seems capable of coping with most of the imperfections of Britain’s battered road surfaces.
There is a school of thought that says that small high-cube vans with a payload capacity of half-tonne or thereabouts no longer have a role to play in the marketplace. It is not one we can subscribe to, however, given their manoeuvrability and practicality the urban settings that best suit the Fiorino, which, with city use in mind, is also available with an optional automatic manual transmission under the Comfort-matic banner.
Highly Commended: Ford Transit Courier
Ford’s Transit Courier claims this year’s Highly Commended prize, and although it is the smallest model in the Transit line-up, it should not be underestimated.
With a load volume of 2.3m3 and a gross payload capability of 660kg, it comes with a 1.5-litre diesel at either 75hp or 95hp, and a 100hp 1.0-litre petrol engine.
Highly manoeuvrable, the Courier offers exemplary handling, copes well with uneven road surfaces, and a slick, quick gear change enable drivers to get the best out of some willing engines. Decent fuel economy should help keep operating costs down and a Ford badge usually means healthy residual values.
Growing and largely unwarranted hostility towards diesel among big-city authorities could enhance the petrol model’s appeal, while the 1.4-litre petrol engine offered in the Fiorino may benefit in the same way.