Fiat Doblo: driven
- All new MPV
- On sale March
- Price from £12,250 (est)
Fiat is great at building great small cars: the 500 is a huge success and the rejuvenated Punto is bursting with clever technology. What happens when the company turns its hand to something bigger?
Doblo is bigger on the outside
The all-new Doblo is certainly that. It's longer than the old car - and key rivals like the Citroen Berlingo Multispace and Peugeot Partner Tepee - and it's wider and taller than before.
In the metal, its bulky shape makes it appear even larger, but despite its size - and the fact that it shares much with the Cargo van version - the Doblo moves away from the old car's van-with-windows look. The upswept window line, blacked-out front pillars and glossy tailgate give a hint of SUV, and the extra sophistication isn't just on the surface.
How does it drive?
Underneath, the Doblo now has multi-link rear suspension instead of a dated leaf-spring arrangement. There's also a new range of engines, all with lower emissions and a start/stop system as standard.
The suspension gives a generally comfortable ride, and although the steering feels rather artificial, the Doblo doesn't feel bulky or unwieldy on the move.
There'll be a choice of four engines available from launch – 1.3-, 1.6-, or 2.0-litre diesels and a 1.4-litre petrol. We've tested the 104bhp 1.6 Multijet diesel engine, which provides lively performance and is reasonably smooth.
Engine noise does echo around the boxy body when you work it hard, however, and there's also a fair bit of wind noise on the motorway.
What's it like inside?
On the whole, the Doblo is civilised and the cabin materials and design don't betray its commercial origins. It's practical, too, up to a point. There's masses of headroom, and the sliding side doors aid access, while a flat floor makes things more comfortable in the back.
A reclining seatback and the high ceiling mean that no-one will struggle for space, but there's no more legroom than you'd find in a VW Golf.
Seven-seat version available
Unusually, there'll be the option of a seven-seat model – at extra cost – with two extra seats that fold up from the boot floor. Limited legroom means these are for occasional use only and you have to remove them if you want to carry anything more than a couple of bags.
For more space, the middle row folds in half and then tips forward, which leaves a flat but not especially long load space. Better-equipped versions have a two-stage boot floor, however, which creates a flat space when it's in the higher position and storage space for smaller items underneath.
Tailgate needs strong-arm tactics
Every version suffers from the same problem that afflicts similar vehicles – a huge and heavy tailgate that requires a strong (long) arm and plenty of space behind you to open and close it.
Prices and equipment
Prices haven't been confirmed, but are expected to start at around £12,250 for the entry-level 1.4 petrol model. Standard equipment for the UK hasn't been finalised, either, but you're likely to have to upgrade to more expensive trims to add air-conditioning, electric door mirrors and rear windows, and an upgraded stereo system.
Extras on top-spec models are expected to include alloy wheels, more colour-coded exterior parts, rear parking sensors and climate control.
All versions will come with twin front airbags and side airbags that also cover the windows. There's no option for curtain airbags that cover the rear windows, but stability control will be standard across the range.
On sale March
Price from £12,250 (estimated)
All-new MPV is bigger and better than before
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