Fiat Scudo Panorama — June 2007
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Fiat is in a bit of a strange position in the UK passenger car market. Unlike Citroën and Peugeot with the C8 and 807 respectively, it doesn't market its version, the Ulysse, of the shared-platform Sevel people-carrier on this side of the Channel.
This leaves somewhat of a gap in its range above the rather idiosyncratic Multipla when it comes to satisfying the requirements of the buyer with a large family or someone who wants greater versatility and more load space than can be provided by a traditional estate car.
Fortunately there is a solution from its LCV range in the form of the latest generation Scudo. Available in two wheelbases it's designed primarily as a load-carrier, but the original brief specified that it should also be configurable as anything from a five- to nine-seater people-shifter. Enter the high specification Panorama versions.
The 90 bhp 1.6-litre turbodiesel from the Van and Combi ranges is dispensed with for the Panorama, leaving two 2-litre engine options; a 120 bhp and a 136 bhp. Peak torque figures are 221 lb/ft and 236 bhp respectively.
In both cases the front wheels are driven via a six-speed manual gearbox with no automatic option at the moment. Disc brakes are fitted all-round with those at the front ventilated. ABS is fitted as standard on all Scudos, but rather oddly ESP remains an optional extra at £316.
Power steering is electro-hydraulic and the turning circle between kerbs is 12.2m for the short- and 12.6m for the long-wheelbase.
Passenger-car buyers are not going to feel short-changed by the cab environment. Central locking, electric windows and door mirrors are standard features and the driver's seat is height adjustable. The steering column is tiltable. A single passenger seat is 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 passenger. This provides a chilled compartment if air conditioning is specified.
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.
A radio/CD player with six speakers is supplied as standard, but this can be upgraded to include sat nav if desired.
In the case of the Scudo Panorama the load area, of course, has seating. A second row of three individual seats is supplied and they have a double folding action or can be removed completely. Access to the rear compartment is excellent thanks to the large standard-fit twin sliding side doors. The whole affair is lined with a fully carpeted floor area.
A third row of individual seats can be specified, taking it up to an eight-seater configuration. Once again they are double folding/removable and the cost is £630.
Thanks to its van derivation and its relatively high roof height Fiat has been able to raise the level of the rear seating slightly so that rear passengers have a better view out and feel less claustrophobic.
Luggage space is dependent on whether the chosen model is short- or long-wheelbase and what seats are left in or folded forwards, but versatility is the name of the game here. The configuration can be changed at will to suit the requirements. Just remember not to leave seats at home if they are going to be needed later on in the day!
On the Road
We are already familiar with the excellent 120 bhp engine so we decided to give the 136 bhp version a whirl. It too is fitted with a variable geometry turbocharger which, apart from being more efficient, means that torque delivery is very smooth.
Even in van form the Scudo handles well and has a good ride, but the weight of the extra seats and side glass in the Panorama — the test vehicle had eight seats — helps to settle it down even more.
Refinement levels are high thanks to the seats, carpet and compartment lining absorbing most of the racket evident in a van version without a full bulkhead.
The mere fact that the Scudo works well in 'car' trim speaks volumes about the design, build quality and fit and finish of the latest generation Scudo. Van operators would be better off looking at a more basic Combi version if extra seating is required, but the Panorama can more than hold its head high in the car market. A very versatile and well built piece of kit.