Fiat Doblo Cargo Van Review
International Van of the Year 2011
By Kieran Reid.
The van tested is the Fiat Doblo Cargo 1.3 SX.
The Fiat Doblo Cargo Van was awarded the International Van of the Year accolade in recognition of its importance to the business community in difficult times, as the recession continues to place financial constraints on companies and service providers. All businesses need reliable transport to ensure their smooth operation, and now more than ever, keeping down the costs is more a matter of survival than good business sense. This is where the Fiat Doblo has to be considered as a part of any companies’ fleet.
The van we have tested is the SX model, which adds €1000 on to the price of the standard van, and in our opinion the extra outlay is well justified when you see the extras you get. An extra side sliding door, front fog lights, electric & body coloured door mirrors, fabric covered bulkhead soundproofing, the drivers seat can be adjusted for height & lumbar support, a hidden storage compartment in the passenger seat cushion, pvc lining in the load area, remote central locking and MP3 compatible cd/radio, all add to make the van a more user friendly vehicle. There are other options available, but personal choice will determine their usefulness and value.
The external appearance of the Doblo is pleasing on the eye, helped by its softer, rounded shape, which gives it a modern and up to date new look. The front grille and deep bumper help to give the van a bigger look that belies its size, and the extended wheelarches married into the lower body panels add to the overall appearance of the van. Black side rubbing strips and body coloured mirrors with integrated indicator repeaters, along with the large body shaped headlights work well to create a visually attractive van. The door handles are large and will be appreciated by delivery drivers who are usually in a hurry and do not have time to spend on rooting for fiddly, small car like types.
Not as big as the VW Caddy or the Ford Transit Connect, it still makes the step up from the car-derived van models and will suit users who need to carry a certain amount of tools or make light deliveries. The load area on this model is very accessible by virtue of a sliding door on each side and twin rear doors that open to 180˚. There are 6 hooks to tie down cargo in the floor, which has a very durable PVC mat and handy side pockets built in over the wheelarches. Fiat give measurements for the load area that I could not relate to the van, all I could say is if measurements are critical to what your intended cargo is, you would be well advised to check it out for yourself. For example, Fiat gives a load compartment width of 1714mm, but my measurement is 1500mm of useable area i.e. the width that you could fit cargo into, not the width from exterior panel to panel. The overall height is 1290mm and the length is in the region of 1800mm. The width between the wheelarches is 1290mm and will allow a europallet fit in comfortably, and the load volume is a respectable 3.2cu/m. The opening of the side doors is 1175mm high by 700mm wide but it has to be said that the bulkhead does protrude quite a bit into the load area and this does impede access in this area. The rear doors open to give an aperture of 1231mm wide by 1250mm high with a ground to floor height of 545mm. A point worth noting is that the larger nearside back door can be opened from the inside by a small button, but there is no handle or any where to grip the door which could prove troublesome if opened in high winds or when the van is parked on an incline, resulting in damage to the door from nearby vehicles or walls, or worse still it could strike a pedestrian.
The cabin is a decent size for a small van and well finished. The seats are good and firm and give good support, and the drivers seat has an armrest that can be swung up out of the way. The steering wheel is a good size and height adjustable with a textured feel to it allowing a good grip at all times and does not impede on the visibility of the dials, which are clear and not over fussy. Storage is adequate and includes a lockable glovebox, dash top and lower open trays, door pockets that can accommodate a half-litre bottle and A4 paperwork, two cup holders in the centre console and an overhead shelf that is quite large but difficult enough to reach into. The passenger sun visor has a vanity mirror, there is a 12v outlet and the seatbelts are height adjustable. Electric windows and central door locking are standard.
Probably the one area where the Fiat Doblo excels over its rivals is under the bonnet. The 1.3 litre Multijet common-rail diesel engine with turbo and intercooler is a very economical power unit and on our test returned 4.86litres/100km or 58 mpg which included some brisk accelerating and while some might consider the engine on the small side, (it develops 66kw or 90 hp @ 4000rpm), it is perfectly adequate for the size of the van and the payload of 750kg. The driving position is high enough to give excellent visibility and the large door mirrors are perfectly sized. The Doblo is firm on the road and the power steering and tight turning circle of 10.5m make it a very manoeuvrable and agile van ideally suited to town and city driving, although it is quite happy to cruise along on the motorway at 120kph. ABS with Electronic Brake Distribution is standard, as is a driver’s airbag. Service intervals are a lengthy 30,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first. Fiat offers a 2 year unlimited mileage warranty along with breakdown assistance and there is also a 3 year paint warranty. The price of our test van, the Fiat Doblo 1.3 SX Diesel, is €16,250.
By Kieran Reid