First Drive: Fiat Doblo Cargo

Date: Wednesday, April 01, 2015   |   Author: James Dallas

Fiat Professional’s facelifted Doblo Cargo light van, which it revealed at the Hanover CV Show last September, went on sale in the UK in March.

The Doblo has been the jewel in the crown of the brand’s portfolio in the UK, its enduring excellence illustrated by its four- year winning streak until 2014 in the Light Van category of the What Van? Awards.

The model impressed with its tidy looks, a wide range of derivatives – which now stretches to 1000 configurations, according to the manufacturer – solid build quality, low running costs and more than decent driveability.

Fiat won plaudits for introducing bi-link rear suspension into the Doblo Cargo, and the lightweight compact system improves ride quality while also lowering load height. Bi-link suspension allows a rear-axle load of up to 1450kg, and the Doblo, as well as the Vauxhall-badged Combo it spawned, offer astill class-leading maximum payload of one tonne, although Ford has now matched this with the Transit Connect. Not surprisingly, the bi-link system is retained in the 2015 van.

The new model will also be the first LCV in the range to carry the Fiat Professional logo, which distinguishes the products in the CV division it established in 2007 from Fiat’s passenger cars, although the logo was not attached to the early vans on the launch event. Henceforth, all new LCVs will wear the badge.

Fiat launched the Doblo Cargo in 2000, added the long- wheelbase Maxi in 2005 before introducing the next-generation model five years later.

The cornerstone engines in the line-up remain the 1.3- and 1.6-litre turbo-diesels, but the brand claims it has improved efficiencies by up to 12%.

In the case of the 1.3-litre Multijet II engine, for example, Fiat says responsiveness has increased by 40% compared with the model it replaces and we found this has, as Fiat claims, resulted in greater flexibility for more relaxed and efficient driving as well as livelier performance.

The 90hp 1.3 Multijet II and 105hp 1.6 Multijet II engines are also now available in new Ecojet versions, priced £500 more than basic models at £14,445 and £16,245 respectively.
These offer a reduction in fuel consumption and emission levels thanks to the use of stop- start, low rolling-resistance tyres, low-viscosity oil, an intelligent alternator, a variable- displacement oil pump, and a new aerodynamic pack.

The manufacturer says the 1.3 Ecojet achieves fuel consumption of up to 64.2mpg (60.1mpg for the 1.6) with emissions of 115g/km.

Fiat has given the revised Doblo a more muscular design in line with its larger stablemate, the Ducato. The bonnet and headlamps are more bulbous and sculpted while the grille is bolder and the front bumper sleeker than before. At the rear of the van are new light clusters.

The interior will look familiar to anyone who knows the current Doblo because it has not been altered in right-hand drive mode. Fiat admits this is due to cost restrictions because Vauxhall is not yet updating its Combo model, which runs alongside the Doblo on the production line in Turkey. However, this is not necessarily a drawback – the cabin is functional with plenty of storage space including an overhead shelf, cup holder, lockable glove box and decent-sized door bins.

Having driven the new Doblo with both the 90hp and 105hp engines, we can attest to the effectiveness of the additional soundproofing, which Fiat claims has cut cabin noise by 3dB.

The 2015 van also benefits from a crisper clutch action coupled with a more precise and shorter gear change that has resulted in a more responsive driving experience.

The introduction of mandatory electronic stability control (ESC) to the pre-facelift van in June 2014 brought on board electronic brake force distribution (EBD), anti-slip regulation (ASR), hydraulic brake assist (HBA) and hill- holder assist, which stops the van rolling backwards on hill starts. A passenger airbag, lateral airbags and, new to the facelifed Doblo, a tyre-pressure monitoring system are available as options.

The Doblo’s bi-link suspension not only contributes to the van’s sharp handling
but also enables another of its selling points: a flat load floor with minimal wheel-arch intrusion and a practical squared off shape in a load bay that tops out at a class-leading 5.0m
3 in XL versions. The cargo box is accessed via rear doors opening to 180° and a nearside sliding door. A nice touch is the vertical handles on the rear doors that can be easily opened with a single finger if you are carrying something at the same time. New options include a Gateway telematics fleet management system, power-folding door mirrors, DAB availability for aftermarket-fitted audio systems, and the Traction+ grip control function, which is already offered with the Fiorino and Ducato models.
The Doblo Cargo range comprises four body-styles, two roof-height options and two wheelbase lengths, plus five engines, ranging from 90hp to 135hp, as well as four trim levels: Standard, Ecojet, SX and Tecnico, with a step up of just £150 from Ecojet to SX but a sharper rise of £1630 to the top spec.

The 135hp 2.0-litre diesel and 95hp 1.4 petrol engineare only expected to account for very low volumes, however. A Comfort-matic semi-auto gearbox is available with the 1.6 diesel unit.

Standard features on all models include a full-size spare wheel, full bulkhead, overhead storage, electric windows, central locking, full wheel trims, side rubbing strips, full- height twin panelled rear doors, sliding side door (plus a twin sliding side door on Maxi and XL models), and a speed limiter (upon request).

The SX model has bulkhead soundproofing and load area PVC lining, as well as front fog lamps, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors with body-coloured covers, remote control central locking, height- adjustable drivers’ seat with lumbar support, in-cushion storage in the passenger seat, and an upgraded stereo with MP3 compatibility. The range- topping Tecnico model adds air-conditioning, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth connectivity, remote steering wheel controls, and a dealer-fitted satellite navigation system.

We got behind the wheel of a 90hp 1.3 Doblo Cargo SX. This engine is expected to account for up to four out of five sales and is only available in the SWB bodystyle that will command 60% of volume. With a third of the 750kg payload employed, the engine performed impressively on winding country roads, motorways and in town. In fact, the snappy five-speed gearbox and precise steering mean the experience of driving the 1.3 is similar to putting a hatchback passenger car through its paces. Perhaps only the new Ford Transit Connect matches it for driveability.

The driving position is good, with a height-adjustable driver’s seat that includes lumbar support and a steering wheel that is height-adjustable as well. As previously mentioned, storage provision is decent with even the dinky SWB version getting the overhead shelf. The efficient stop-start system was a £225 option on our van as were the £185 parking sensors, useful on a van, and £595 air- conditioning. A steel bulkhead protects cab occupants from objects that may come loose in the 3.4m3 load box.

Verdict

Revised Doblo offers good engines and a wide choice of variants, keeping it a strong contender in the light van sector

 

 



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