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Officially a winner of a ''small van of a year'' accolade fairly recently, the van version of Fiat Doblo (Doblo Cargo) was what I was offered when hiring a van for our recent move, following a write-off of our family car.
I wanted something big enough to carry our house stuff (not furniture) to the storage facility while at the same time small enough to drive as a vehicle for moving about. I also wanted a cheap hire, and as small vans seem to be the cheapest kind of vehicle there is (a car equivalent would be some tiny 3-door puddle jumper). In all honesty I was a little worried at first, as I expected a car-sized vehicle like an Astra van or a Berlingo. The Doblo is car-sized lenghtwise, but it's quite a bit wider than a normal sized car. Still, that's what I got and I was very positively surprised. I had the Doblo for 10 days, and used it for general driving around as well as transporting stuff. I would have kept it for the whole period we need the hire car but I needed a car for taking children to their old school and the Doblo van has only two seats (thus came the era of the Miserable Micra, see review).
All in all, I was very happy with this van. In fact, if I was hiring a car for a longer journey for one or two people and looking for a cheap hire price I would much rather have this than a Group 1 small car which was equivalent in price from the hire companies I checked at the time.
The new Doblo has a 1.3 MultiJet diesel engine which gives enough oomph for most normal driving situations and copes well even with the van loaded (the payload by the way varies by model, from 750 to 1,000kg). The driver's seat was nice and high, with good visibility, quite comfortable and easy to adjust to my liking, together with an adjustable steering column. I am quite finicky about my driving position and I was able to get it right in the Doblo. We didn't do any longer stretches in this van but I felt it wouldn't be difficult. Steering was good, though not particularly tight and the controls felt intuitive and comfortable.
As most vans, the Doblo lacks the internal mirror, but the two large wing mirrors provide in fact lots of visibility and are perfectly sufficient for normal driving and overtaking. Obvioulsly reversing is always an issue unless you have lost of practice, but that's the way with vans.
The cabin is fairly basic and a bit Spartan but doesn't feel cheap and nasty and it provides loads of room for the driver and lots of room in the passenger seat too, with nooks and crannies for storing stuff and even a large, lockable ''glove compartment'' thing, ideal for hiding smaller pieces of more valuable stuff you might not want to keep in the back or carry around.
There is really loads of space inside the Doblo for stuff, and the back door, opening asymmetrically, gives good access (and it's easy to just step into the car even for a fat middle-aged woman), while a sliding side door gives extra access to the forward section of the cargo space.
In summary, a basic but not cheap-and-nasty small van with a surprising amount of cargo space and quite comfortable cabin; altogether recommended.
NB if I was buying one for myself I would certainly pay extra for remote locking as gong back to having to lock the doors manually (even with a central lock) was a real hassle.
The Fiat Doblo JTD ELX. I bought my Doblo a month or so ago, having seen it in a Fiat showroom a year ago and having been compelled by the weirdness of the thing. In those days it came without a proper engine, being offered with only a 1200c.c. inboard petrol motor or a clunky old diesel. Neither appealed and I walked away. I was, however, drawn to the cleverness of the design and the delightful cabin. Well, a two-hour drive in the new turbo diesel was 110 minutes more than I needed to be won over, and within a week I owned one. This is one fine car/van type thing. Common sense writ large (very) in steel and aluminium with absolutely no attempt to sucker in the buyer with visual appeal. Buying a Doblo requires self-confidence and a love of driving. Given those attributes the buyer will revel in a machine with a driving environment that cannot be beaten easily by any estate car at any price, combined with an unsurpassed ability to carry, er, stuff. The driver?s seat has lift and tilt adjustments which, when combined with the lumbar support, offer the best seat I have sat in in any car ? and I have been in a few, believe me - some very expensive as well. Now add in a truly inspired gearchange with a close-coupled quick-throw, light, gearbox combined with a deliciously progressive clutch and you are on the way to driving nirvana. Keep going. You will discover a throttle that needs only a gentle kiss to spin that wonderful motor up to, well, to what? The fact is you?ll discover torque a-plenty almost immediately, which will propel you onwards positively exponentially. And the steering; perfectly weighted and so very quick ? sports cars are duller than this. All right, this is just a diesel van-type-thing, but that motor is astonishingly responsive and provides (within an admittedly narrow rev band) a power surge that belies the quoted 0-60 time 0f 12.4 seconds. This car doesn?t need to wor
k for any of those seconds either, they whiz by. It doesn?t sound strained either. Combine these attributes with well-suppressed noise and a fabulous view out and you have true comfort. Real comfort of a type becoming rare in a world where gizmos are supposed to compensate for crampedness and rotten visibility. So, the Doblo is quick and comfortable. Well, it is also big, with lots of sensible places to store things (two bottles of wine, plus water for the gym), also a boot fit for a baby Hippo. It has a radio. Mine has no CD, just a tape player, which I prefer as I can?t cope with discs in cars. The option is there to upgrade. Speaking of which, anti-lock doesn?t come as standard; silly this, but it will soon. But what is wrong with the Doblo you ask? Well, the throttle pedal is too close to the clutch. There is plenty of room available, but this is the Fiat way, apparently. Change your way Fiat, say I. Don?t worry, you?ll manage, but it has taken me a month and 1500 miles to stop noticing. Worse is the indicator switch, which has a mind of its own and also suffers from laryngitis, so you can?t hear the thing. This also I have become used to, but my last car was better in this respect. And that is about it. A pretty inexpensive, solid (no rattles at all), and cleverly designed car that handles very well indeed (I forgot to mention that driving it is fun all the time) and has room for all your things and your friends too. There are clever lights that stay on for seeing you home, and a radio that does the loudness increase with speed thing; also a shelf over the window for, er, more stuff. I know other manufacturers provide similar offerings, but none offers a really fun drive into the bargain; and I love driving. A great car. Buy one and enjoy. Oh, and I love the looks too: sorry.