The enduring excellence of the Fiat Doblo Cargo and its twin, the Vauxhall Combo, see the models once more share the Light Van of the Year Award.

For the Doblo Cargo, this is the fourth consecutive year the van has finished on top since it raised the bar in the sector when it was launched in 2010. The Vauxhall model it spawned within two years of its arrival, and which rolls off the same assembly line in Turkey, joins it on top of the podium for the second year running.

Both the Doblo Cargo and the Combo impress with their tidy looks, a wide range of derivatives to choose from, solid build quality and reliability, low running costs and more than respectable driveability.

Fiat introduced bi-link rear suspension to the light commercial vehicle sector with the Doblo Cargo and the Combo has inherited the lightweight, compact system that improves ride quality while also lowering load height and increasing the storage space between the wheel arches. In addition, bi-link suspension allows a rear axle load of up to 1450kg. Payloads for both the Fiat and Vauxhall versions go up to a meaty one-tonne – still the best available in the segment. The pair come with 1.3 90hp, 1.6 105hp and 2.0 135hp common-rail diesel engines and are also up for grabs with a 1.4-litre 95hp petrol unit.

The most frugal engine is the 90hp diesel, which boasts official combined cycle fuel consumption of 58.9mpg and CO2 emissions of 126g/km.

Fuel saving devices such as stop-start and dashboard gear change indicators are widely available across both manufacturers’ line-ups.

Doblo Cargo and Combo are both offered with two wheelbases, two overall lengths and two roof heights, meaning load capacities step up from 3.4m3 to 4.0m3 to 4.2m3 with payloads ranging from 750kg to 1000kg.

However, at the end of 2012 Fiat introduced the Doblo XL, which marries the top payload capacity to a cavernous load space of 5.0m3.

Vauxhall has announced that it is going to follow its donor manufacturer by offering a long wheelbase, high roof (L2H2) version of the Combo, which is now available to order.

It matches the volume of the XL derivative of the Doblo Cargo on which it is based and, like the Fiat, it also has a 1000kg payload.

Fiat also offers a small dropside pick-up version of its Doblo Cargo in the form of the Work-up and Vauxhall says this remains a possible addition to the Combo range.

The lower-powered vans from both brands come with a five-speed manual while the larger engines get six-speed gearboxes.

You can specify the 1.6-litre Vauxhall with the firm’s five-speed automated Tecshift system and Fiat makes the same-engined Cargo available with a semi-auto Comfort-matic ‘box as an option. Customers can choose from two trim levels – Base and SX for the Fiat and Combo and Sportive for the Vauxhall.

Asymmetrical rear doors opening to 180 degrees are fitted to both models but a glazed hatch tailgate can be selected if preferred.

The cabins are comfortable with high quality materials and plenty of storage space too.

Fiat is not resting on its laurels with its award-winning light van and has recently added a Maxi Crew Van to the line-up as well as SX 1.3 and 1.6-litre Tecnico versions, which boost standard kit levels with features such as air-conditioning, Blue & Me hands free technology and rear parking sensors.

The more youthful Vauxhall is not standing still either and is now available as a Combo Glazed Crew Van with windows in the second row doors and a glazed tailgate.


Highly Commended

Well worthy of commendation this year is the Mercedes-Benz Citan, which marks the three-pointed star brand’s entry into the light van sector.

Based on the successful Renault Kangoo, the Citan nevertheless adheres to Mercedes’ robust build quality and first rate safety standards. The Citan is available in panel van, Dualiner and Traveliner guises and offered with a 1.5-litre diesel engine with power outputs of 75, 95 and 110hp and a 1.2-litre 114hp petrol unit.