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Byline: Brian Twomey

IF YOU were to liken cars to food what you have here is a cheese and butter sandwich. There's no relish, no sprig of parsley and nothing is 'drizzled' on anything.

No, like two slices of bread with some butter to keep the cheese in place, the Fiat Doblo is designed to do a job as efficiently and as unpretentiously as possible. The thing is that the Doblo was originally designed to be a van; surely trying to package it as a family holdall is pushing it too far? First things first, the design and styling.

Well, it certainly looks a lot like its commercial sibling but flared wheel arches and a shapelier nose distract attention from the boxy shape. It's not designed to seduce an onlooker which is something I rather like. The roads could use more cars without pretence and as a result the Doblo has a certain likeable character to it.

Fiat only offers two engine choices; the 1.3 Multijet which is good but somewhat overworked in a large car like the Doblo or the more suitable 105bhp 1.6 Multijet diesel. Previous Doblos were, to put it bluntly, hopeless in the performance department but things are much better nowadays. It can cope with a motorway four-up, it can overtake, it actually feels rather sprightly even if hard revving sends engine noise reverberating though the cabin.

Another area of improve-ment is in the ride quality. The old Doblo was a bit bouncy whereas this is more control. Big bumps will send a shudder from the rear springs through the cabin but it compares well to 'normal' family cars and it's quite comfortable.

Start throwing the Doblo about and you will find it is prone to body roll and is susceptible to mild understeer. Precise steering, strong brakes and a slick gear change means it surprisingly pleasant day-to-day, however, and it is a commercial vehicle underneath it all so it will take quite a hammering and it is quite user-friendly.

I never thought much of the old Doblo's and while I have taken rather a shine to this new model all Doblo variants had one thing that set them apart from more obvious offerings; space. Honestly, the last thing I drove that had more headroom than this was a motorcycle. The space is vast, four adults with a load of luggage is no problem for the Fiat and because of its solid background the Turkish-built Doblo is trimmed in the sort of material that can withstand a direct assault by a troupe of sugar-laden seven-year-olds. This blend of sturdiness and space makes the Doblo almost unbeatable as a rugged family car.

Our Doblo, an Eleganza complete with alloy wheels, parking sensors, cruise control and other niceties weighed in at EUR20,595 although the less plush 1.3 Active gets the ball rolling EUR17,995 while the EUR19,595 Dynamic is probably as much as you could need.

Its commercial background actually works the Doblo's favour; it's boxy but it is roomy, rugged and good value.


MODEL: Fait Doblo

ENGINE: 1.3 or 1.6 multijet diesel

POWER: 105bhp

PRICE: EUR17,995 (1.3 Active model)

VERDICT: Boxy, roomy, rugged and good value


Believe in Fiat... Their superb Doblo van is the man for all occasions
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 30, 2010

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