Is contract hire reducing the choice of vans available to businesses? That is one conclusion that could be drawn from pronouncements made by Citroen earlier this year.
It sees no long-term future for the compact Nemo other than as an outright purchase it says because the bigger Berlingo is on offer at lower contract hire rates thanks to its better residual value. Peugeot has made the same point about the near-identical Bipper.
Both owned by the PSA group, the two brands will introduce Euro6 versions of their respective models but look set to allow them to fade away over the next couple of years. Look forward to compact variants of the next incarnations of Berlingo and Peugeot’s Partner to plug the gap.
Fiat Professional’s stance is very different.
The front-wheel drive Fiorino has shared the same basic design as the Nemo and Bipper up until now. However, Fiat has recently introduced a face-lifted model with a revamped interior and some external changes, including a reworked front bumper, as well as Euro6 engines. The re-styling is modest, but the Nemo and Bipper will not be getting the Fiorino’s understated new suit of clothes.
Now known as the Fiorino Cargo in van guise, perhaps in the hope that some of the bigger Doblo Cargo’s undoubted lustre will rub off on it, the latest Fiorino is marketed with a 1.3-litre Multijet II diesel at either
80hp or 95hp.
A 77hp 1.4-litre petrol power pack is available as an alternative. Specification levels are Standard, Ecojet (put together with low CO2 emissions in mind), SX and Adventure. The last-named comes with raised suspension, mud and snow tyres, a front bumper with a skid plate, extra body protection, and a Traction+ electronic diff lock, all of which should help keep you going in moderately snowy and muddy conditions.
The Fiorino is also available as a four-seater crew van and as a four- or five-seater Combi.
Rear access to the 2.5m3 load bay is by means of twin, opaque, asymmetric doors – the narrower of the two is on the offside – which can be swung through 90°. Release the easy-to-undo stays and they can be swung through a full 180°.
An alternative means of access is provided by a sliding nearside door. Our demonstrator was fitted with an optional sliding offside door too, so you can get at whatever you are carrying from three directions. All the doors are equipped with large vertical handles that are easy to grasp.
Whichever way in you choose, you will see six floor-mounted tie-down points – four would surely be sufficient given the cargo bay’s modest size – and a floor and sides in sore need of a protective plywood lining. External side rubbing strips defended our demonstrator’s extra-cost metallic paint finish against minor damage.
It’s good to see a stout-looking, full-height, unglazed steel bulkhead. It is an option that replaces the standard ladder-style partition. However, the way in which it bulges backwards into the load area to accommodate the van’s front seats means that it intrudes a little way into the side door apertures.
Also, the rubber trim around the rear door aperture was starting to work loose – something we do not expect to see on a brand-new van.
Cab and equipment
Quality control needs to be addressed in the, slightly cramped, cab given that the glove box lid didn’t fit properly on our demonstrator. That said, the glove box itself is roomy and lockable.
So far as further storage space is concerned you will find a shelf at the bottom of the dashboard plus a bin in each door, complete with a moulding designed to hold a small bottle of water or a soft drinks can. There is a split tray on top of the dashboard plus another tray and a couple of cup-holders between the seats, which are surprisingly comfortable on long journeys.
A driver’s airbag is included in the deal as are electric windows and electrically adjustable and heated exterior mirrors. Both the re-designed steering wheel and the driver’s seat are height-adjustable and the latter comes with an adjustable lumbar support and an armrest.
Aside from new and better-lit graphics for the instrument panel, the dashboard features a new five-inch colour touchscreen. With seven-inch screens now a lot more common it feels a little on the small side, but is still just about big enough to accommodate the optional satellite navigation system’s maps and instructions.
It forms part of an infotainment package that includes a radio, Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port. You will find remote controls on the (in our case, leather-trimmed) steering wheel.
The screen also shows what is behind you when you engage reverse if you specify the rear-view camera.
Other options fitted included reversing sensors, air-conditioning, and an additional USB point between the seats and next to a 12V power socket.
ABS is standard as are electronic brakeforce distribution, electronic stability control, hydraulic brake assist, anti-skid regulation, hill holder and a speed limiter.
Maximum power kicks in at 4,000rpm while the four-cylinder in-line 16-valve common-rail direct-injection diesel delivers its maximum torque of 200Nm at 1,500rpm. Married to a five-speed manual gearbox, it boasts a variable geometry turbocharger plus an intercooler.
It’s good to see that Fiat has managed to achieve Euro6 without having to oblige drivers to top up an AdBlue reservoir every so often. A diesel particulate filter is installed, however, which will need keeping an eye on to ensure it does not get blocked.
Chassis and steerin Independent MacPherson suspension is fitted at the front while torsion beam suspension helps support the rear.
Our demonstrator’s optional, newly introduced, 15-inch burnished alloy wheels were shod with Continental ContiEcoContact 3 185/65 R15 tyres. The full-size spare wheel provided is steel.
Disc brakes are installed at the front, drums provide the stopping power at the back, and hydraulic power-assisted steering offers a tight 9.95m turning circle between kerbs.
While the Fiorino can sometimes be a little slow away from the start line, any initial hesitancy soon disappears to reveal a lively little van that is huge fun to drive.
Mid-range acceleration is strong and the compact Fiat goes around corners as if on rails. Even the tightest of bends fails to shake its composure and the generous amount of feedback through the steering gives the driver oodles of confidence. Nor does the Fiorino get out of shape if there is a need to make a sudden change in direction.
Small vans tend not to ride all that well but this one rides better than most. Nor is in-cab noise a particular issue other than an intermittent – and irritating – creaking from the bottom of the bulkhead in our case and a bit of harsh engine noise under heavy acceleration.
While the lack of a sixth gear might, on the face of it, be an issue when it comes to motorway cruising, in practice the lack was not all that much of a problem so far as driveability was concerned. That said, its absence is bound to have an impact on fuel economy.
Buying and running
Service intervals are set at two years/21,000 miles and the Fiorino Cargo is covered by a three-year/120,000-mile warranty with no mileage limit in the first two years. Turning to fuel consumption, the vehicle averaged 62mpg – respectable given the time spent in big-city traffic with the air-conditioning on full blast – but some way behind the 72.4mpg official combined figure.
That is despite the fact that our van was fitted with stop/start, which is why it sported an Ecojet badge, even though it was in SX trim.
Press a button on the dashboard and you can switch off the stop/start. Do bear in mind, however, that official fuel figures are almost always woefully inaccurate so far as light commercial vehicles are concerned.
|Price (ex VAT)||£13,015|
|Price range (ex VAT)||£11,315-£13,665|
|Load width (min/max)||1046/1473mm|
|Load bay height||1205mm|
|Rear door aperture||1060x1140mm|
|Side door aperture||644x1041mm|
|Gross vehicle weight||1750kg|
|Braked trailer towing weight||1000kg|
|Cost per mile||29.8p*|
|Engine size||1248cc, 95hp @ 4000rpm|
|Torque||200Nm @ 1500rpm|
|Fuel economy||72.4mpg (combined)|
|Fuel tank||45 litres|
|Insurance group||30 (est.)|
|Price as tested (ex VAT)||£15,965|
|* After 4yrs/20,000mls|
Fiat’s Fiorino has roots that stretch back almost 40 years, to a high-cube van marketed as the Fiorino with a box body mounted on a Fiat 127 platform. The name is derived from that of an old Italian coin, which is usually translated into English as ‘florin.’
A second-generation model debuted in 1988 and followed the same format, but used an Uno platform instead. It disappeared from Fiat’s UK line-up in 2001.
In more recent years (see picture, below) the Fiorino name has graced a third-generation LCV that initially broke cover in 2007 as a joint venture between PSA and Fiat. It is assembled by Turkish manufacturer Tofas at its Bursa plant.