Winner of the 2011 Light Van of the Year category is the hugely impressive new Fiat Doblo Cargo. Now that its light commercial business is run as a separate division under the Fiat Professional banner, the manufacturer is upping its game in the UK market and the Doblo is leading the charge.
Redesigned from the ground up and launched in early 2010, the Doblo is so good it came close to taking the 2011 Van of the Year award too.
It features a revised line-up of Euro4 and Euro5 engines, a choice of two wheelbases, a bi-link independent rear suspension system (that we’ll come to later) and new styling both outside and in.
The Doblo is offered with three Multijet 16-valve four-cylinder common rail diesel engines.
First up is a 90hp (4000rpm) 1.3-litre generating 200Nm of torque at 1750rpm in Euro4 guise or at 1500rpm in Euro5. In Euro5 mode it achieves 58.9mpg on the combined cycle when fitted into the short-wheelbase version that offers a payload of 750kg. CO2 emissions are a respectable 126g/km.
Next in line is the 105hp 1.6-litre, also available as Euro4 and Euro5. Opt for the Euro5 and you get 54.3mpg and CO2 output of 136g/km on the combined cycle.
The Doblo flagship engine is the Euro5-only 135hp 2.0-litre that returns 50.4mpg with CO2 emissions of 148g/km on the combined cycle when serving the short-wheelbase version. Start/stop technology is fitted as standard on the 2.0-litre model and all Euro5 variants get an indicator on the fascia to highlight the most economical gear-changing moment.
A 95hp petrol unit is also offered. It comes with a five-speed gearbox, as does the 1.3 oil-burner. The 1.6- and 2.0-litre diesel powertrains are mated to six-speed transmission, while the 1.6 is also offered with five-speed Comfortmatic automated manual gearbox.
The short-wheelbase Doblo comes with standard roof offering 3.4cu/m loadspace, or a high roof, which provides 4.0cu/m.
The long-wheelbase Cargo Maxi gives you an increased load space of 4.2cu/m.
Payload capacity ranges from 750kg-1000kg and gross weights go from 1990kg to 2410kg. Towing weights range from 1000kg to a meaty 1500kg.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned bi-link rear suspension not only enhances ride and handling but also results in slimmer wheel-boxes with more space between them, which eases loading and unloading.
The Doblo comes in two trim levels: base and SX. All models have twin rear doors, while long-wheelbase variants and SX versions have sliding side doors as standard.
Big handles on the rear doors can be operated with a single finger, and the cargo area includes six floor-mounted tie-down points. An optional removable torch can also serve as an extra light. A further useful option is transverse bars that can be fitted close to the roof to allow often redundant space to carry ladder and pipes; they are more secure and aerodynamic than a roof rack.
All vans are equipped with height-adjustable steering wheel, driver’s airbag, electric front windows, central locking, bulkhead and a tray under the passenger seat. A 12V power point is provided too, as well as an MP3-compatible radio/CD player.
On the road the Doblo handles well and copes serenely with the UK’s disintegrating road surfaces.
Highly Commended for 2011 is Volkswagen’s accomplished Caddy, revised in late 2010 and now sporting excellent new 1.6- and 2.0-litre diesel engines.