For the latest incarnation of Test Drive, Gary Squires takes on a new and exciting challenge as he clambers into the cab of Fiat’s flat-bed version of the versatile Doblo van.
The last few Test Drives have been real eye-openers as I have been trying out a few variations on the traditional installer’s van. Not content with road testing a couple of pick-ups (Volkswagen Amarok and Mitsubishi Warrior) in the last few months, this time I’ve really gone off the deep end with the Fiat Doblo Work Up.
When I last tested a Fiat Doblo, I was really taken with its styling – and I’m pleased to say that this model has the same distinctive looks – obviously with the addition of a flat-bed on the back. I like the fact that the design team has really tried to create something unique compared to other vans on the road; and I’m still a huge fan of the large windscreen, which gives a great view of the road and makes the cab feel nice and bright.
On the road
For a small flat-bed truck, it drove quite well. It was better with a load on the rear bed as this took out some of the bounce in the suspension, which in turn made the ride a bit more comfortable. The handling was good and, for normal everyday driving, it could hold its head up high amongst the other vans out there.
Whether cruising on main roads or buzzing around the twisty country roads, it felt solid yet agile. In terms of speed, the Fiat Doblo was fairly responsive and the acceleration was quite good. It wasn’t too noisy in the cab on the motorway, and it could easily keep up with all types of traffic.
The brakes were very good and the steering was crisp, light and positive. The fuel economy registered at 40mpg as an average over various road conditions – including inner city driving and some country lanes. In fact, it even went up to over 50mpg on motorways.
My only real gripe was with the parking. The light steering and good steering lock made manoeuvring easy, but I found that the rear view through the mirror was badly distorted by the load restraint protection behind the Doblo twist For the latest incarnation of Test Drive, Gary Squires takes on a new and exciting challenge as he clambers into the cab of Fiat’s flat-bed version of the versatile Doblo van. cab. Take this out of the equation and it parked easily, although the model I drove would have benefited from rear parking sensors. It would be well worth checking if these could be added to the spec when buying one from new.
Moving inside into the cab itself, the seats were quite comfortable once I finally found the right position. This took a while, but the seats are brilliant because they adjust in so many different ways, making it only a matter of time before I found the correct spot.
The steering wheel adjusts for height and reach so again, after playing around for a while, I found a comfortable position. It’s also quite comfortable to hold and the steering wheel controls are easy to use. The cab interior had a solid feel and everything felt like it was built to last. The Doblo also has good heater controls – essential on early starts and late finishes – and everything was easy to reach.
The interior itself was well designed and is practical, comfortable and has a bright airy feel. This is partly due to the large windscreen and the layout of the controls. Steering wheel radio controls, which are now becoming standard on lots of vans, were a nice addition in this one. The stereo was more than adequate and the interior had a pleasing ergonomic feel. There were plenty of storage areas including an overhead shelf and a small shelf in front of the glovebox for pens etc.
When it comes to this van, your requirements for storage are going to dictate whether it’s a viable option or not. As a gas installer, I personally wouldn’t opt for this model of Doblo because there’s nowhere to lock away your tools and other materials apart from a small lockable storage locker situated at the rear between the lights and under the load body. On the other hand, it would be perfect for a general builder or roofer who wants a small, economical truck that can take all the building materials and equipment needed for a job.
The Doblo Work Up has definitely changed a couple of my views on Fiat vans – for the better. The build quality is top-notch, and the quality of the interior feels very solid and robust.
As an overall package, I can definitely see the appeal of this van and where it would fit in the marketplace. Frankly, there is nothing else like it – it has a unique feel that it successfully combines with a practical slant.
I really like the one-off styling and found it an easy, comfortable and quite nippy truck to drive around. If an easy-to-manoeuvre and economical flat-bed pick-up is what you’re after, this has to be the one to buy.
Comfort – 3.5
Control – 3
Storage space – N/A
Overall – 3.5