What Car? says...
Few would argue that the Fiat Doblo Cargo is a peculiar-looking thing. Since its launch in 2000, it has spent much of its time lurking in the shadows of the small van segment, being purchased by fleets and the occasional tradesperson.
Following a revision in 2010, when the Vauxhall Combo also adopted the platform, and again in 2015, the Doblo has grown in popularity but still struggled to break onto the shortlists of many buyers. The latest version is, however, an accomplished van with a smart appearance, better, Euro 6-compliant engines and improved suspension.
Powering the Doblo is a choice of a 1.4-litre petrol engine producing 95bhp and three turbocharged diesel engines: a 95bhp 1.3-litre unit and 103bhp and 118bhp 1.6-litre units.
Unusually, Fiat has also taken the step of producing not only a long-wheelbase (LWB) version of the Doblo but also a high roof model (XL). There’s a crew cab version capable of transporting five people as well as a platform version and a dropside/pick-up truck model called Doblo Work-Up.
Fiat also offers the Doblo Cargo as an Ecojet model, with improved fuel efficiency that adds start-stop, low-rolling-resistance tyres and aerodynamic aids to help give an additional 5mpg extra over the most efficient 95hp 1.3-litre model, taking the Doblo’s best official fuel consumption to an impressive 61.4mpg – fractionally less than the best-performing Volkswagen Caddy Bluemotion.
There's no option of an automatic gearbox, but a five-speed manual is standard on the petrol and lower-capacity diesel, with the 1.6-litre engine getting a six-speed manual gearbox instead. Traction+, which improves handling and safety on uneven ground, is also available and uses the electronics to transfer power from a spinning wheel to the one with the best grip. There’s no weight penalty and it operates at speeds of up to 19mph.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Once upon a time, the Doblo had the most confusing engine line-up of any small van. Fortunately, the options are now a lot simpler. To kick things off, the 1.3-litre diesel is supported by a 1.6-litre unit with two power ratings. Of the three options, we’d definitely recommend the 1.3-litre engine. With better fuel economy and little in the way of power advantage, the 95bhp unit is a good blend of power and performance with the lowest running costs. While this engine isn't lightning fast, it's more than capable of moving a fully laden Doblo around with ease.
Compared with rivals such as the Ford Transit Connect and Volkswagen Caddy, the Doblo is no second-rate van when it comes to how it performs on the road. The Doblo has a unique rear suspension set-up for a small van, with a multi-link rear axle that gives improved ride comfort and roadholding.
While the ride quality difference is slight (your load is more likely to feel the benefit than you are), it adds noticeably to the handling of the Doblo, which is easily on a par with the Caddy's but not quite as responsive as the Transit Connect's, due to that van's superior steering feel and feedback. The Doblo is, however, a top van to drive with low levels of noise penetrating the interior and excellent all-round balance and poise.
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