Occasionally LCV manufacturers do something that is a little surprising, yet nonetheless welcome. That was certainly the case so far as Fiat was concerned when it launched the latest version of its Doblo Cargo – our Light Van of the Year for 2012 – getting on for two years ago.
Unusually, the manufacturer equipped its new offering with a sophisticated bi-link independent rear-suspension system. Aimed at enhancing the ride and handling, it is light – good news for fuel consumption and payload capacity – and compact.
As a consequence, Fiat has been able to fit slim wheel boxes with extra space between them to ease loading and unloading. Nor is there any evidence that the set-up has been incapable of standing up to the hammering van suspensions regularly receive in service.
The Doblo Cargo’s ride and handling certainly have not suffered: far from it. When combined with Fiat’s eager yet frugal Euro5 Multijet common-rail diesel engines they result in a van that is pleasant to drive, yet will not break the bank.
Customers can pick from a 90hp 1.3-litre (with CO2 emissions of just 126g/km), a 105hp 1.6-litre or a 135hp 2.0-litre. All three come with particulate filters and Start & Stop – another praiseworthy move by Fiat – while the 95hp 1.4-litre Euro5 petrol lump gets Start & Stop too. The 1.6 is marketed with an automated Comfort-Matic box.
With a short-wheelbase standard-roof Doblo Cargo you get a 3.4cu/m cargo area to play with. Specify the high roof and the cube goes up to 4.0cu/m, and you will be able to utilise 4.2cu/m if you opt for the long-wheelbase model.
Payload capacities range from 750kg to 1000kg. A five-seater Combi version is also produced and a pick-up model under the Doblo Work Up banner was unveiled recently.
In passing it is worth noting that Fiat Professional – Fiat’s light commercial wing – has strengthened its network by signing up a number of Daf and Iveco heavy truck outlets as dealers. Also worthy of note is the fact that Vauxhall is in the process of replacing Combo with a re-badged Doblo.
Styled conventionally, and none the worse for that, the Doblo Cargo’s roomy cab interior boasts a comfortable driving position with plenty of head and shoulder room plus a decent level of oddment storage space. Good-quality plastic is used throughout and this is much better constructed than some previous Fiats. However, it is not quite as well put together as the Volkswagen Caddy and its long-wheelbase counterpart the Caddy Maxi – our Highly Commended choice.
VW restyled and up-specced both Caddy models late last year, installed new Euro5 common rail diesels and made the Caddy Maxi available with a 4Motion all-wheel drive system for the first time.
You can pick from a 1.6 in either 75hp or 102hp guise – the latter can be ordered with the superb semi-automatic twin-clutch seven-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) – or a 140hp 2.0-litre. The latter can be specified with a six-speed DSG in Maxi.
Also on offer is a 109hp 2.0-litre EcoFuel petrol engine that will run on compressed natural gas.