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2015 Fiat Ducato And Doblo Review: Big Boxes, Easy To Drive Photo:
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Tim O'Brien | Dec, 04 2014 | 4 Comments

What’s hot: Lots of space, easy-to-drive, comfortable and well-featured
What’s not: Doblo is not the latest model, neither van available with side windows
X-FACTOR: Reliable, low-cost ownership: that's what Fiat - a giant in commercial vans in Europe - is promising for these new commercials

Pricing (plus on-road charges):

2015 Doblo
1.4 litre petrol: $22,000 (manual only)
1.6 litre turbo diesel: $27,000 (manual); $29,000 (auto)
2.0 litre turbo diesel: $31,000 (manual only)

2015 Ducato
SWB low roof: $38,000
MWB low roof: $40,000
LWB medium roof: $48,000
Extra-LWB medium roof: $52,000
Cab Chassis: $44,000

 

OVERVIEW

If you’re in the market for a box on wheels, Fiat has a couple of big empty spaces to show you.

The updated Ducato is as big as a ballroom in the back (depends how big your balls are, I suppose), and the Doblo - new here, but not “new” - is the smallest of Fiat’s Australian commercial range, but pretty damn big.

Fiat now has three box-vans on offer: the Doblo, the mid-sized Scudo, and the enormous Ducato.

 

Doblo Overview

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The Doblo comes in two wheelbase lengths: 4390mm with a 750kg payload, and the 4740mm ‘Maxi’ capable of carrying a full tonne, 1000kg.

The rear box is accessed via double sliding doors and rear barn doors; easy in and easy out.

With a PVC floor-liner, ‘both sides’ access, car-like accommodation up front and a very reasonable $22,000 (plus on-roads) entry point to the range, you would have to think it will find a lot of favour with caterers, florists and small deliveries.

The Doblo range tops out at $31,000 for the 2.0 litre diesel (99kW and 320Nm) and six-speed manual. (A five-speed auto, robotised manual, is available with a smaller 1.6 litre diesel at $29,000.)

 

Ducato Overview

The Ducato is immense. It’s a commercial box, there is no escaping it, but its feature-list, accommodation and comfort is actually very good.

Long hours on the road here - either as a commercial hauler or when pressed into service as a motorhome - will be pretty cruisy.

The new Ducato comes with three wheelbases on offer, two heights, a cab chassis and just one engine: a 3.0 litre turbo-diesel producing a stout 130kW and 400Nm.

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The Maxi we drove, with a wheelbase of 4035mm, is immense inside.

In its shortest configuration it offers 3000mm between the axles, still plenty big, and is the entry to the range with a starting price of $38,000 (plus on-roads).

With the Ducato, the features and accommodation are common across the range; essentially, the more you pay, the bigger the tin.

The range tops out at $52,000 for the extra-long wheelbase and raised roof.

Over all those configurations, the Ducato offers a total load area of from 8.0-18.0 cubic metres.

It also offers payloads from 1480kg to 2110kg for the boxed versions, and more for the cab chassis (up to 4005kg, depending upon the build).

Inside the Maxi, that’s easily enough for, say, a Fiat 500 Abarth - if you can't find anywhere else to park it.

Both vans, the smaller ‘but not so small’ Doblo, and the big-box Ducato, are serious work rigs. But what surprised us most is the appealing interior and how comfortable and ‘liveable’ we found each on-road.

That latter quality is going to sell a lot of these vans.

 

INTERIOR

2015 FIAT Doblo

  • Power steering, electric windows and door mirrors, central locking
  • Trip computer, multi-function steering wheel
  • Air-conditioning
  • ‘Blue&Me’ Bluetooth with voice control
  • CD/radio/MP3/USB with 4-speaker audio

For diesel models add:

  • Cruise control
  • Rear park sensors
  • Stop/start system (only with 5-speed robotised automatic)

The black textured dash on the Doblo looks and feels pretty good. At its $22k entry price, it gives some pricier SUVs a run for their money for quality feel and standard features.

The wheel is rake adjustable, has a sculpted rim for extra comfort, and multi-function buttons for the audio, voice control, Bluetooth and cruise control (the latter on diesel models).

Seats are also good; certainly wide enough and with an appealing cloth texture. Door trims too neither look nor feel like base commercial fare.

The centre stack features a piano black surface, rotary controller and a well laid-out array of button controls above a high-set stubby gear shift.

The floor mats are practical rubber, and drinks containers and nooks abound: there’s a storage compartment under the passenger seat cushion - just right for a laptop - and even a shelf above the windscreen.

2015 FIAT Ducato

  • Power steering, electric windows and door mirrors, central locking
  • Trip computer, multi-function steering wheel
  • Air-conditioning and cruise control
  • Rear parking sensors
  • 5-inch touchscreen ‘Blue&Me’ Bluetooth with voice control
  • CD/radio/MP3/USB with 4-speaker audio
  • Cruise control

This is a really nice interior; comfortable, well laid-out, and with a quality look and feel that gives the lie to its commercial origins.

It also comes with a reasonable standard feature list.

The seats are good, access in stepping up is also good (though the door is pretty narrow), and there’s a third seat for Lenny or Knackers or whoever has come along for the ride.

At the wheel, because everything is big and wide and ‘in your face’, it feels a bit like driving a train. But it is amazing how quickly it shrinks.

Visibility, never a strong-point in boxy, windowless vans, is not too bad in the Ducato.

It’s great from the front of course - this is a real ‘command-position’ captain’s chair - but not too bad around the perimeter of the van thanks to the large, split wing-mirrors.

You can keep an eye on all the corners and don’t need to feel too stressed about manoeuvring in tight city streets. There are rear park sensors as standard but a rear view camera will likely figure in your calculations.

The Ducato comes standard with a steel bulkhead separating the cabin from the box on the back, but there’s a viewing window for keeping an eye on things or for using the rear-view mirror.

 

ON THE ROAD

FIAT Doblo

  • 1.4 litre petrol: 70kW/127Nm; 5spd manual
  • 1.6 litre diesel: 77kW/290Nm; 6spd manual or 6spd robotised automatic
  • 2.0 litre diesel: 99kW/320Nm; 6spd manual
  • Bi-link independent rear suspension; MacPherson strut independent front suspension
  • Safety features: ABS brakes, electronic stability program, hill hold, four airbags (front and side), anti-whiplash head restraints

Certainly nothing wrong with the way the Doblo drives, and rides.

We did a ‘toy run’, delivering a Santa’s sack of toys to the Smith Family for their work with disadvantaged kids. (Good work, Fiat Australia!)

There wasn’t any weight in it, but it gave a good chance to do a run around the city and along the freeways.

The Doblo does, as Fiat claims, ride like a car and drive like a car.

We sampled only the 2.0 litre turbo diesel with six-speed manual, and found it to be a very feisty and eager unit.

With 320Nm on offer, this diesel pulls like a train and has a smooth-running sound that disguises its diesel heart.

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The manual gearbox has a nice feel to the shift (Italians rarely get that wrong), and well spaced ratios.

You would have no trouble driving this Doblo between capital cities with a good-sized load on board and have no trouble overtaking or dealing with hills.

You would also emerge pretty fresh. We quite like the driving position, the carlike feel at the wheel and good suspension travel (utilising a bi-link independent rear, and Macpherson strut front-end).

For fuel consumption, Fiat is claiming a low 4.9 l/100km for the smaller diesel with the robotised automatic.

Access to the back via the twin sliding-doors or rear baker-van doors is very good, and the space itself is low, flat and square.

The Doblo might have a nose only its Mum could love (“...about that nose dear, I know a good plastic surgeon...”), but, on the basis of this drive, this surprisingly roomy commercial would seem good buying.

FIAT Ducato

  • 3.0 litre turbo diesel
  • [email protected]/[email protected]
  • Transmissions: 6-spd manual/6-spd robotised automatic
  • Safety features: ABS brakes, reverse sensors, electronic stability control (rollover mitigation), load and centre of gravity detection, hill hold

Mechanically, the Ducato is easy. There is just one very strong 3.0 litre turbo diesel on offer, driving through the front wheels.

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Transmissions? There’s just two: a six-speed manual, or six-speed robotised automatic.

With 130kW and 400Nm on offer - the latter from a very low 1400rpm - it is the most powerful front-wheel-drive van in the segment.

(Front-wheel-drive allows a flat low floor; so while it loses a little in dynamics when loaded up, it gains in ease of access and volume.)

And this is a strong drivetrain. It pulls the big Ducato around with no effort at all; claimed average fuel consumption is a low 7.7 l/100km.

We had a tonne in the back, a 1000-litre tank of water strapped behind the bulkhead.

Except for the occasional sloshing, we forgot it was there. (“Did someone put a whale in the back...?”)

The wheel is about right under the hand (not too heavy), and the turning circle surprisingly tight.

We also found it reasonably quiet on-road, the diesel intruding only under acceleration and road and wind noise pretty low.

We found the bumpstops a couple of times on street ‘humps’, but the suspension would seem up to the task with a laden van.

 

VERDICT

Right now, Fiat Chrysler Australia (FCA) has the champagne corks popping and they’re all (possibly) dancing naked around a golden totem fashioned loosely in the shape of his omniscient wondrousness, Fiat Chrysler boss-of-bosses Sergio Marchionne.

That’s because FCA Australia’s sales are up 33.1 percent this year - growth built on the back of pretty good products like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, new Cherokee, and Fiat commercials.

FCA has chalked up sales of 39,587 YTD - up 9,000 units on 2013. This result makes the group the fastest growing in the country (in a market that has shrunk by 2.2 percent).

These two big empty boxes, the Ducato and Doblo, will add to the joy in FCA.

These are better than average commercial vans: strong, powered right, very well-featured and priced exceptionally well.

We’ll be giving both a longer test with some ‘real world’ graft in a week or two. This might mean getting out of bed before midday and engaging in actual work.

We’ll report on the outcome (after a good lie-down of course).

MORE: Ducato | Doblo | Fiat
MORE: LCVs | Vans

 

PRICING (excludes on-road costs)

2015 Fiat Ducato

  • SWB LR - $38,000
  • MWB LR - $40,000
  • MWB MR - $44,000
  • LWB MR Comfort-matic - $48,000
  • XLWB Comfort-matic - $52,000
  • MLWB Cab chassis - $44,000

2015 Fiat Doblo

  • 1.4 Petrol - $22,000
  • 1.6 diesel 105 - $27,000
  • 1.6 diesel 90 Comfort-matic - $29,000
  • 2.0 diesel 135 - $31,000
 
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