Fiat Ulysse

8 Dec, 2004 12:39pm Matt Joy

Family comes first at Fiat. The historic Italian firm has one of the widest MPV ranges on the market. With the new Idea, practical Doblo and facelifted Multipla, there is a people carrier to suit most budgets.

Verdict

With a high cabin specification, good carrying capacity and well matched engine and transmission, the Ulysse has plenty to offer buyers in the market for a full-sized people carrier. But the quality and more modern design of rivals, such as Renault's new Espace, could convince potential customers to look elsewhere.
Family comes first at Fiat. The historic Italian firm has one of the widest MPV ranges on the market. With the new Idea, practical Doblo and facelifted Multipla, there is a people carrier to suit most budgets.

However, it's easy to forget these models' big brother - the Ulysse. The full-sized MPV is no spring chicken, sharing proven technologies and design elements with the Citroen C8 and Peugeot 807. But that doesn't mean it is without appeal. A constant programme of improvements has lifted it from the bottom of the class to a point where it is well worth a look, particularly the range-topping, six-seat Prestigio.

Starting at £24,950 and sporting goodies including air-conditioning and satellite-navigation, the car offers impressive value for money in the class. Inside, it is well equipped to cope with busy families. Clever and useful touches such as the child-surveillance mirror and removable waste bin make carrying several passengers easier.

With plenty of leather and Alcantara trim, the Ulysse's luxury intentions are clear. Some plastics aren't up to rivals' standards, but it all looks good and the high-mounted gearlever and central instrument binnacle put you in the middle of the driving experience.

The six individual seats, complete with armrests and adjustable backs, fold, slide or can be removed altogether for maximum carrying capacity. Beware that they are heavy, though, while with all six in place there's only 324 litres of luggage space.

On the road, the Ulysse is a capable cruiser. New for this model, the 2.2-litre JTD diesel has 314Nm of torque, and combined with the decent six-speed manual box, it makes for brisk performance. At speed, the engine feels refined and on motorways can return 38mpg.

The suspension balances acceptable ride and body control during cornering, although its stiffness spoils progress when compared to newer rivals. In fact, it's ultimately the steering and chassis that betray the car's appeal, rather than its fit and finish or styling. Still, the price and engine are hugely tempting; both should ensure the model remains part of the Fiat family for some time to come.

Key specs

* Six, seven and eight seats
* 2.0-litre petrol and JTD oil-burning engines also available

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