Fiat Scudo — January 2007
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Scudo, and the other two for that matter, has gained a loyal, albeit relatively small band of customers, but we reckon this is all about to change for the better with the introduction of an all-new model range.
Fiat's Scudo is the Italian manufacturer's take on the small panel van resulting from a long-standing relationship between itself and PSA Peugeot Citroën. It's a similar set-up to the one which produces the Fiat Ducato, Citroën Relay and Peugeot Boxer, but in this case the PSA equivalents are the Dispatch and Expert.
The main restriction on sales of the current offerings is that one size suits all; there is one wheelbase and one roof height. The new Scudo provides customers with the choice of short- and long-wheelbases, and the latter is available with a high roof option.
All three engines are the same across the three manufacturers' products and are supplied by PSA. They are all state-of-the-art Euro 4 common rail turbodiesels and in Fiat trim carry the Multijet JTD badge.
The smallest engine on offer is a 1.6-litre — also found in the Citroën Berlingo and Peugeot Partner — which produces maximum power of 90 bhp and develops peak torque of 133 lb/ft at a very low 1,600rpm.
There are two 2.0-litre units to choose from with outputs of 120 bhp and 136 bhp, and peak torque figures of 221 lb/ft and 236 lb/ft respectively. Both develop maximum torque at 2,000rpm and all three of the engines' top power output occurs at 4,000rpm.
The 1.6-litre features a fixed geometry turbo while the 2.0-litre units benefit from a variable geometry arrangement. The most powerful offering is fitted with a self-cleaning Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF).
Servicing intervals are recommended at a healthy 20,000 miles or two years, which ever comes around first.
Scudo remains front-wheel drive and the 1.6 comes with a five-speed manual transmission; the 2.0s get a six-speeder. Front suspension is independent with MacPherson-type struts, springs, dampers and an anti-roll bar while the rear is kept under control by a dead 'torsion axle' arrangement with a Panhard bar. Self-levelling air suspension will be an optional extra.
The power assisted steering varies depending on the engine fitted. The 1.6 comes with a hydraulic system while the 2.0s use an electrohydraulic set-up. Irrespective of the system utilised Scudo's kerb-to-kerb turning circle is 12.2m for the short- and 12.6m for the long-wheelbase.
Disc brakes are fitted at all four corners, with those at the front ventilated, and we are pleased to report that ABS is fitted as standard across the range. Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) will be available as a cost option, but it is unknown at the time of writing if it will be standard on any of the UK-specification models; probably not.
Go for the short-wheelbase Scudo and its standard roof height, and you are provided with 5.0m3 of load space with a maximum length of 2,260mm. Load height is 1,440mm and maximum width is 1,160mm, narrowing to 1,240mm between the wheel boxes.
The standard roof long-wheelbase extends the load length to 2,600mm and results in a load capacity of 6.0m3. Add the high roof to the equation, increasing the load height to 1,750mm, and the load potential rises to 7.0m3. The best the previous generation Scudo could manage was 4.0m3.
Rear loading height is 560mm — 490mm with air suspension fitted — and eight load restraint rings are provided.
As before, all Scudos are fitted with two sliding side doors and rear access is via twin side-hinged doors which can be opened to 180°, once the retaining stays have been released.
Gross payloads range from 1,000kg to 1,200kg which compares well with the previous generation's 815kg to 900kg.
We suspect that a ladder frame bulkhead behind the driver's seat will be fitted as standard with a glazed or unglazed one on the options list.
Passenger car-like seems to be an often used phrase these days when describing the cab interiors of new van ranges, but in this case it is very apt.
The driver's seat is height adjustable and the steering column tiltable so that just the right driving position can be set. A two-seater passenger bench will be standard in the UK.
The dashboard is big and quite imposing, and the gearstick is housed in a large pod which projects from its centre, effectively ruling out any cross-cab movement.
Storage space is pretty good with a large lockable glovebox in front of the outermost passenger. This provides a chilled compartment in vans specified with air conditioning.
There's a large, deep indentation on top of the passenger side of the facia and there are small cubbies at each extremity beneath pop-out cup holders. A couple of lidded shelves are provided above the windscreen and there are pockets in the doors with mouldings for a bottle of water.
Standard specification in the UK is expected to be high with remote central locking — incorporating deadlocking — electric windows and door mirrors, and a radio/CD player.
As it will also be on sale as a people-carrier combi (see separate panel) the options list will be extensive. Rear parking sensors, an alarm, cruise control, the aforementioned air conditioning, automatic wipers and headlights, and a dazzling array of info-telematic kit are just some of the goodies that will be up for grabs.
One option that may be of particular interest to plumbers or anyone else having to transport long items such as pipes is a windscreen to rear door 'tunnel' mounted at ceiling height. It requires the fitment of a full bulkhead for support.
On the Road
We were able to try a couple of the new Scudos — a short-wheelbase 1.6 and a long-wheelbase high roof 120 bhp 2.0 — on routes to the north of Turin (Fiat central) and were generally impressed, especially with the latter.
The 1.6 felt underpowered and lacking in torque and would recommend that this engine is really only suited to stop-start urban delivery work.
The 2.0-litre 120 is a completely different proposition and seems to have bundles of torque over a wide spread of revs, accompanied by the six-speed 'box which has a sensible selection of gear ratios to play with.
Speaking of gears, the stick is perfectly positioned for easy changes with minimal travel from the steering wheel, but as was eluded to earlier, the pod it sits on top of means that cross-cab movement is virtually impossible.
The driving position and seats are excellent and although there are a couple of blind spots thanks to the wide A-pillars visibility is generally good. The door mirrors are large with two-section mirrors.
Both our test vehicles were fitted with full bulkheads so noise levels were low with minimal intrusion from the engine bay, although the 1.6 did seem to be slightly more vocal.
Handling was well up to par, with even the electro-hydraulic assisted steering fitted to the 2.0-litre providing plenty of feedback and a fast reaction time. Manufacturers seem to have overcome the inherent problems of this type of system.
We will have to wait until we get our hands on a UK-spec example and drive on our generally crumbling road network before we can definitively access the ride quality, but unladen in Italy it seemed to cope pretty well.
As with all Fiat light commercial vehicles, the new Scudo will be covered by a three-year/100,000 miles mechanical warranty.
The new Scudo has all the credentials to be a success and the addition of long-wheelbase and high roof versions should mean that it can now take on the likes of the long-wheelbase Ford Transit Connect and Mercedes-Benz Vito.