Iveco’s first foray into the UK’s car-derived 4x4 light commercial vehicle market with the Massif was due to begin at this year’s CV Show. The event has now been cancelled and Iveco has decided to postpone the Massif’s UK debut until the end of this year.
It’s already on sale in mainland Europe as a pick-up and a van and was recently joined by an upmarket four-seater passenger version called the Campagnola. Older readers may be suffering from a bout of dèjá vu at this point, but fear not; this isn’t one of those ‘senior moments’. The Campagnola branding was used by Fiat (Iveco’s parent company) from 1951 to 1987.
Fiat’s little Campagnola off-roader was inspired by the World War ll Willys Jeep and was very successful as a go-anywhere utility vehicle as well as a ‘lifestyle’ passenger car. Iveco’s take on the Campagnola is firmly aimed at the latter with the regular Massif taking care of the former.
For those not familiar with the Massif it owes its heritage to the Land Rover Defender. Spanish company Santana used to build Defender under licence and subsequently built and sold it under its own name. Iveco became involved, re-engineered the product, updated the factory and the Massif was born.
Just like the other Massifs, Campagnola is powered by the same 3-litre turbodiesel as found under the bonnet of the bigger Dailys and it’s more than up to the job. Capable of generating 176hp (3,200rpm-3,500rpm) it provides peak torque of 400Nm over a 1,250rpm to 3,000rpm plateau; the sort of torque figure to make any self-respecting off-road driver’s mouth water.
Four-wheel drive is selectable, there’s the option of high or low range gears and in two-wheel drive mode the rear wheels are driven via the manual six-speed gearbox. A rear diff-lock is fitted as standard on Campagnola for when the going gets really tough.
The two rear seats are accessed via the side-hinged rear door — there are no rear side doors — which is a bit of a scrabble, but the driver and front passenger are well taken care of with regard to comfort. This high-spec model gets all the electrical goodies as well as leather upholstery and full climate control.
Despite the Campagnola being a passenger car we took the opportunity to spend more time driving Massif, fully expecting Massif to be going on sale in the UK in a couple of months. Best laid plans and all that.
The off-road route in the Italian alps with Mont Blanc (or more correctly Monte Bianco as we were on the Italian side) as a background proved to be a puny challenge for this highly competent 4x4. What impresses most, however, is the suitability of the 3-litre Daily engine for powering through the rough stuff. It enables the Massif to simply walk over anything you throw at it thanks to the immense torque, providing there’s enough ground clearance, and at very low revs to boot. All very sedate and controlled. Steep downhill stretches were a doddle thanks to immense amounts of engine braking in low ratio.
It’s no slouch out on the open road either. It has no problem keeping up with fast motorway traffic, the steering is pretty direct for an off-roader and the ride is not bad either, despite a leaf spring set-up at the rear.
We are not convinced that the high-spec Campagnola passenger version will be that popular in the UK, but we can’t wait for the more prosaic Massif versions to reach these shores. If the UK’s utility companies and farmers can dispense with their Land Rover badge blinkers they will discover a formidable package.