Fiat Doblo test drive

Installer’s resident “Stig” Gary Squires gets his first turn behind the wheel of the new Fiat Doblo – This is what he thought of it:
Fiat doblo garyAs parking in and around towns becomes trickier and trickier (and rarely free), the smaller van is becoming ever more popular. Manoeuvrable and economical, its plus points are beginning to outweigh the obvious lack of storage space when compared to larger, perhaps more traditional, options.
That said, with a bit of sensible organisation and planning – as well as the fact that more and more merchants are offering on-site delivery of the bulkier items – having a smaller van should never cause any problems with the stock and products needed to complete a job.
On the road
This latest version of the Fiat Doblo handled very well. The steering is responsive and solid. The gearbox is nice and smooth although, personally, I would have liked it to have had an extra gear for motorway driving. The van wasn’t especially quick but this is to be expected with an engine delivering 90bhp. That said, it was perfect for driving around town between jobs, running to the merchant, etc. It’s important to highlight that the brakes were also very good.
As I’ve already talked about, parking is a real reason that installers should consider a smaller van and – fortunately – the Fiat Doblo is nice and easy to park, especially with the rear parking sensors that are fitted to it. The steering is nice and light and it’s got a good turning circle, while a slightly elevated seating position gives good vision through the large windscreen.
The van was delivered with a full tank of fuel so I didn’t need to fill it up and the on-board display showed an average of 45mpg, which included motorway and town driving.
Doblo-Cargo-Maxi-rear From Fiat Dealer Website April 2015Inside story
With previous versions of the Doblo, I couldn’t find a comfortable driving position in the seat and the headrest always seemed to be in the wrong spot. This caused me to lean forward or put it so high that it might as well not be there, but this new model was completely different.
This was actually a very comfortable experience, not least because the seats had every adjustment possible – they adjusted for height and reach, as did the steering wheel. Also, the windscreen is nice and large, giving a good clear view of the road ahead, and the mirrors offer clear views to the side – and include blind-spot lenses which were really helpful.
The designers have obviously been working on the interior and they have come up with a stylishlooking layout. A handy overhead storage shelf is supplied, and all the controls within the cab are easy to reach from the driving seat and have a robust feel to them. The large windscreen creates a bright feeling in the cab, and there are a number of additional cubby holes and shelves for phones, tape measures, loose change, etc.
There are easy-to-operate controls for the stereo system on the steering wheel, and if the right option pack is selected these can work a phone too. Furthermore, there’s a USB socket plus 12V charging point which are very handy for all the gadgets we seem to be using more and more.
The passenger seat has a unique design feature, one which I haven’t seen before. The centre part of the seat cushion lifts up so that things can be placed on the seat without damaging it. This is handy for a number of things – even a takeaway at the end of a hard day’s graft.
For a van of its size, the load space is acceptable and easy to access. The split rear door allows for loading sizable objects without always having to open both doors while the side doors also give good loading access. The reasonably low floor height allows for comfortable loading of heavy bulky objects – though you are restricted on overall length in this model.
The total load length is up to 1820mm but there is a Maxi version that has a load length of 2170mm, so – unusually – this van will take a 633 sheet of plasterboard. However, standard lengths of copper tube and waste pipe won’t fit. Fortunately, Fiat offers its own version of a pipe-holder box in its accessories range.
The Doblo Cargo has a square load area which is really useful if fitting shelving, and this model was lined – again a really nice addition which will hopefully keep the van in better condition.
Doble ratingOverall impressions
To summarise, this is genuinely a pretty good van. It’s simple to use and stylish both inside and out. Personally, I would look at a version with a six-speed gearbox to make motorway-driving easier, but that might not be high on every installer’s checklist.
The cab is very spacious and, crucially, you don’t feel like you’re sitting in a small van. There are plenty of storage areas/pockets, plus a full-width overhead shelf. And, unlike some of the older Fiats I’ve driven, the steering wheel has been centred to the driver’s seat – which further helps to enhance driving comfort.
The fuel economy was good too, averaging between 45 and 50mpg while on test. In fact, the fuel economy and the unusual looks are plus points. The van actually looks like its smiling at you when you walk towards it. Now this might not be to everyone’s tastes but there’s a definite appeal to it.
Overall, I have to say that there have been real improvements made since the last model I tested – not least in the comfort stakes, which can make a real difference if you’re looking at hours behind the wheel, week after week.