‘The Fiat Doblo – not for agoraphobics.’ It might not be the most sensitive of marketing tag lines but Fiat could do with adopting it. Any car in which you can’t rest your elbow on the door, because it just won’t reach, is seriously spacious.
Realistically, the government could tax it a bit more than other cars, especially since Doblo owners will be hogging a bit more of the world’s oxygen than anyone driving anything smaller than a coach.
It is of course a van-derived MPV, with a typically practical shape as a by-product. Huge, flat side panels give way to large windows that give really excellent visibility all around the car.
It might only be a five-seater but the boot must be one of the biggest on sale today for real world use. Without folding the seats down there’s 790 litres of room; roughly the equivalent of a garden shed. With the seats down you can make that 3,200 litres, or enough to play a game of Twister with room for spectators and a table of refreshments.
Suffice it to say that if practicality is your first need, look no further. Mountain bikers could fit several bikes in the back, and for anyone particularly fond of top hats, you can almost certainly wear one in the Doblo without it brushing the roof.
Then there’s lateral space. Three adults can fit on the rear bench seat with surprising ease, which is not something you can say about many cars at all.
But the stand-out feature that makes all this praise possible is the fact that there are no compromises under the bonnet. Often, van-derived MPVs are fitted with de-tuned versions of engines found in the company’s more traditional cars. The assumption has been that cars like this sell to older people, who in all fairness tend to prefer softer power delivery.
Thankfully Fiat is a company that is absolutely on top of the game in terms of its engines, especially the turbocharged ones. Here the Doblo gets the excellent 1.6-litre MultiJet diesel which is gutsy, smooth and just as you’d find it in, say, a Bravo. It means that in this guise the car feels far more driveable than it would otherwise, giving it much greater appeal to a wider range of potential buyers.
It’s also a very economical engine, returning close to 60mpg on a 60-65mph motorway cruise, which in something the size of the Doblo is excellent going. Cruising revs at motorway speeds are just a little over 2,000rpm.
On motorways its obvious Achilles’ heel shows, though. The incredible headroom on offer also means that it’s a very tall car, and combined with very flat sides it doesn’t respond as kindly to side winds as lower, more shapely cars do. It never feels scary, but the effects of gusting crosswinds are much more noticeable.
It’s a comfortable car in the main, with a suitable set of seats and soft suspension soaking up the bumps in tandem with relatively tall tyres. The size of the open space inside the passenger compartment means that road noise is amplified a little, especially above the rear wheels, but it’s not enough to spoil things.
Inside the Doblo the materials have been chosen for their utilitarian value. Don’t expect soft-touch rubberised dashboards or leather seats, but with certain exterior colours there’s a red option available for the seats and trim inserts. It’s a good, honest thing with only a passing hint of style; just enough to make you aware of it.
Summing up this kind of car is usually a bit of a drab affair, but I actually really like the Doblo. It’s almost comically huge inside, but for outdoorsy types there’s nothing better. If you need a car that can double as a van, again the Doblo is ideal. It’s a car that you can have adventures with friends in, and thanks to an excellent engine the driver won’t feel like they drew the short straw.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Fiat Doblo 1.6 MultiJet Eleganza, £17,400 on the road.
Engine: 1.6-litre turbodiesel producing 105bhp and 214lb.ft of torque.
Transmission: 6-speed manual gearbox driving the front wheels.
Performance: Top speed 102mph, 0-62mph in 13.4 seconds.
Fuel economy: 54.3mpg.
CO2 rating: 138g/km.
- Power3 (average performance)
- 0-60 mph
- Economy4 (better than average fuel economy)
- Insurance groups4 (lower than average costs)
Motors.co.uk value verdict: