Fiat vans offer a bakkie alternative
14 August 2012 | The Citizen
Driving a Fiat Doblo Cargo recently this proved pretty easy on the open road and things did not get much worse in town.
The 1.6 Multijet diesel engine fitted to the Maxi derivative produces 77kW and 290Nm which makes for a pretty responsive vehicle by light commercial standards. A six-speed gearbox helps provide the excellent fuel economy, but thanks to the torque did not have to be used all that often on the cruise.
I was not carrying to much of a load very often, but I certainly could have been. The load capacity is a full metric ton and the volume under roof is huge. What is more the fact that it is securely under cover means that there is no additional drag, no matter what the shape of the load. Fiat are well aware of the safety advantages of the enclosed van and have made for separate unlocking systems for the cab and the 4.2m³ loadbay.
The asymmetric swing doors in the case of the unit I had were solid panels and the lack of rearward visibility took some getting used to. Otherwise driving the Doblo was much like driving a car.
The cargo area is equipped with sliding side access doors and these make loading far easier. I had been driving the smaller Fiorino the week before and it was fitted with only rear doors. The difference from an access point of view was significant. However the Fiorino can be fitted with side doors if required.
The Doblo’s cabin was quite comfortable and the interior includes a roof shelf and a few other storage spaces. However they were all a bit tight and when I had a passenger I found myself looking for a place for bulkier items that we preferred to have in the cabin for ease of access. The same is often true of single cab bakkies of course.
The Fiorino panel van is conceptually just a smaller version of the Doblo offering the same van over bakkie advantages of cargo security and reduced drag.
The load volume of 2.5 square metres can be increased to 2.8 square metres, with a loading length of 2.5 metres, thanks to a stowable front passenger seat. In the real world that is a lot of space and cargo weight can sefely go all the way up to 750kg.
The 1.4-litre petrol option costs R129 900 and proved to be quite a perky performer. It has 54kW and 118Nm on hand and fuel consumption figures of 6.4l/100 kilometres on a combined cycle route are claimed, it appears reasonably.
A 1.3 turbo diesel is also available.
Although I missed a side door, the rear door hinge can be unlatched for opening beyond the 90 degrees making for extremely good access, far better than a bakkie fitted with a canopy.
Although my test unit was stock standard it is worth mentioning that a one-piece steel roof rack can be used to carry bulky packages and materials.
With a capacity of 80kg it can be complimented by a useful roller for loading long objects. A set of steel bars can also be fitted, offering increased capacity of 90 kilograms. It is not a good idea to lift the centre of gravity of a vehicle unnecessarily, but I was thinking more along the lines of a lightweight aluminium ladder than any real cargo.
Both the Fiorino and the Doblo come with ABS brakes with EBD and dual front airbags. It is great to see manufacturers adding this kind of equipment as standard fitment.
One thing that is not a standard fitment is airconditioning. While that did not prove to be a problem in August it is worth taking into consideration when comparing prices.
Doblo Cargo 1.4 R159 900; Doblo Cargo 1.3mjt R174 000; Doblo Cargo Maxi 1.6mjt R202 000.
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