Doblo square in shape but not character

ANDY RUSSELL says the Fiat Doblo may not be pretty but it's pretty practical.We christened it the Marmite mobile. With its 'Neoclassical Bordeaux' paint which had a definite look of brown in the sunlight and boxy body, this was definitely one of those love-it-or-hate-it cars.

ANDY RUSSELL says the Fiat Doblo may not be pretty but it's pretty practical.

We christened it the Marmite mobile. With its 'Neoclassical Bordeaux' paint which had a definite look of brown in the sunlight and boxy body, this was definitely one of those love-it-or-hate-it cars.

The second-generation Fiat Doblo may be more stylish than its predecessor but by no stretch of the imagination can it be called pretty, whichever way you look at it. However, it is pretty practical.

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The Doblo is one of the breed of passenger cars which has its roots in a van - Peugeot, Citroen, Renault and Volkswagen are also in the space race with their own 'budget' multi-purpose vehicle - where interior space and practicality are more important than how it looks on the driveway.

Yes, it's basically a van with seats but it's ideal if you regularly need to lug a lot of kit. After all, packing cases are large, square boxes - you wouldn't expect them to have rounded-off corners!

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And the Doblo is certainly square - in shape rather than character - with its upright sides, huge slabby tailgate and flat roof - although the front end rounds things off a bit.

The new styling is such that the new Doblo has clearly evolved from its predecessor, not a bad thing given its reputation as a budget holdall, but what is surprising that it retains just 3pc of the previous model's parts.

For a start it's 137mm longer with an extra 172mm between the front and back wheels and that means even more space inside the cavernous cabin.

The Doblo is simply huge, so if you want a capacious multi-purpose vehicle and are on a budget this could tick all the boxes.

I drove the five-seat version - there is also a seven-seat option - and while legroom is comparable with a spacious mid-size family hatchback, it is enough for six-footers to feel comfortable.

The big selling point though is the huge boot, offering a whopping 790 litres - bigger than many estate cars. Fold the 60/40 split rear back rests flat and tumble the seats upright and you have a class-topping 3,200 litres which just swallows loads.

Practicality is further boosted by plentiful cabin storage with a big glovebox and doorbins and a full-width shelf above the passenger and driver's head.

Sliding rear side doors makes getting in and out or putting children into car seats a doddle, especially in tight parking spaces and the high-rise tailgate, though quite heavy to pull down again, gives full access to the loadbay with no chance of banging your head on it.

It may look like a van on the outside but once behind the steering wheel it feels extremely car-like with a smart fascia, simple controls that are intuitive to use, a high-level audio system and large, clear instruments. OK, the driving position is more upright than a traditional car, but there is good adjustment for the steering column and seat and the bonus is the higher seating position and large windows provide first-rate all-round visibility.

Three new engines - a 95bhp 1.4-litre petrol and 105bhp 1.6-litre and 135bhp 2.0-litre MultiJet turbo diesels - produce more top-end power and considerably more low-down torque than their predecessors but give more miles per gallon with lower emissions.

I tried the bigger diesel which pulls willingly and cleanly from low revs and has plenty of mid-range punch for strong acceleration yet still returned 48mpg in mixed driving. Overall running costs are also reduced by servicing intervals of 21,000 miles but, that said, most owners will find the 1.6-litre diesel enough and benefit from even lower running costs.

The Doblo may look bulky but it doesn't feel it to drive. The platform is adapted from that of the latest-generation Punto Evo and while this is not the sort of vehicle you are going to throw into corners it holds the road well so you can make good progress on cross-country routes with body roll kept in check and not overly noticeable. The ride is generally composed and comfortable but can be caught out on pockmarked roads at low speeds with some noise as the suspension goes about its business.

Available in Active, Dynamic and Eleganza trim levels, all models get the fuel-saving stop/start system, remote central locking, power steering, electric front windows, split rear seats, anti-lock brakes, stability control with hill-holder to stop you rolling back when pulling away, front and side airbags and radio/CD. Dynamic adds air-conditioning, luggage cover and height-adjustable driver's seat while Eleganza gains electric rear windows, rigid parcel shelf, MP3 player and Bluetooth phone connection with controls on the steering wheel.

The Doblo is not the most stylish MPV but it offers a lot of space for the money and, for many families, they're big selling points.


Price: �17,145 (range starts at �12,370)

Engine: 1,956cc, 135bhp, four-cylinder turbo diesel

Performance: 0-62mph 11.3 seconds; top speed 111mph

MPG: Urban 42.2; extra urban 55.4; combined 49.6

Emissions: 150g/km

Benefit-in-kind tax rate: 22pc

Insurance group: 13

Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles

Will it fit in the garage? Length 4,390mm; height 1,845mm; width (excluding door mirrors) 1,832mm

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