Fiat Doblo review
The Fiat Doblo is a van-based MPV with lots of space that’s better to drive than you might expect
The Fiat Doblo, like other van-based MPVs, offers the ability carry lots of people or stuff for a relatively modest price. There are drawbacks to this cheap and cheerful approach, chiefly around the way the Doblo looks and levels of interior quality that don’t match those of purpose-built passenger cars but the Doblo hides its commercial vehicle roots better than most of it rivals.
Independent rear suspension adds an extra level of composure to the driving experience while light controls and a huge glass area make it easy to use in town. With a 790-litre boot or the optional Family Pack adding two extra seats for £900 this is a vehicle that excels in terms of practicality for the price.
The Fiat Doblo was originally launched in 2000 but this second generation model turned up in 2009 and was facelifted in 2015. The van version is known as the Doblo Cargo while the MPV is just plain old Doblo.
The current Doblo is unique in the van-based MPV sector as it comes with Fiat’s bi-link independent rear suspension. It’s a more sophisticated set-up than you’ll find on rivals and helps the Doblo deliver greater composure on the road while still coping with weighty cargos.
The wider market for van-based MPVs sees the Fiat Doblo go up against the Citroen Berlingo Multispace, Peugeot Partner Tepee, Renault Kangoo, Ford Torneo Connect and others. But buyers may also be considering it alongside small MPVs based on car platforms like the Vauxhall Mervia and Ford B-MAX. Typically these kinds of cars feel a lot plusher than the Fiat but they’re also significantly more expensive and less spacious. The van-based MPV sector is basically a route to maximum interior space for minimum cash.
The Fiat Doblo range kicks off with a 94bhp 1.4-litre petrol engine and from there it’s diesel all the way. There’s a 1.6-litre Multijet diesel that fills out the rest of the line-up in 89bhp, 94bhp, 104bhp and 118bhp versions but only the Multijet 95 (94bhp) and Multijet 120 (118bhp) are Euro 6 compliant. A Dualogic automated manual gearbox is available as an option and that comes only with the 89bhp diesel.
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In terms of trim levels, the Pop opens proceedings with a pretty basic quota of kit. We’d always aim to step up to the Easy version, which has body coloured bumpers, fog lights and steering wheel audio controls. You need to pay £350 for the Easy Air that adds air-conditioning but that’s money well spent in a car with such a huge glass area. Better still is the Lounge with its cruise control, rear parking sensors, upgraded stereo and side airbags. At the top of the range is the Trekking which has mild off-road styling accessories and a Traction + electronic differential to find extra grip on loose surfaces.
The key options to consider on the Doblo are the high roof which extends the top of the vehicle for even more interior space and the Family Pack that turns the standard 5-seat Doblo into one of the cheapest 7-seater cars on the market with two extra seats in the boot.
Engines, performance and drive
The Doblo has a more advanced suspension set-up than we’re used to in van-based MPVs and small cars generally. On the road this translates into a pleasantly supple ride that’s on a par with a reasonably comfy supermini. The high shape means there’s inevitably quite a bit of body-roll in corners, while the steering is very light and offers little feedback.
The engines are quite refined but the lack of sound proofing means that wind and road noise do swirl around the Doblo’s cavernous interior, especially at higher speeds.
The manual gearbox is light in its action to match the steering and good to use but the leather-clad gearknob in our Lounge trim test car had raised stitching that felt uncomfortable in the hand.
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The Doblo has an upright van-style driving position that’s great for getting in and out easily but isn’t particularly comfortable on long journeys, especially in conjunction with the unsupportive seats. In town, the huge windows give a decent view out but there are thick pillars that can obstruct that view at junctions or when reversing.
The fastest Fiat Doblo takes 12.1 seconds to get from a standstill to 62mph so even these range topping 118bhp Multijet 120 models don’t feel particularly rapid. However, you do get a good slug of mid-range torque in the diesel options so they don’t struggle, even with a fully-loaded car.
The petrol model is going to be more of an issue if you plan on using the Doblo’s prodigious capacity. 94bhp and substantially less mid-range muscle mean it’s as sluggish as the 15.4s 0-62mph time suggests.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Fuel economy is another reason not to entertain the entry-level petrol version of the Fiat Doblo. It’s 39.2mpg combined cycle economy is well down on the 54.3mpg achieved by the 94bhp and 118bhp Multijet diesels. The Dualogic automatic gearbox helps the Doblo to its best fuel economy of 56.5mpg and you can improve all of these figures further with the EcoPack and Start&Stop, which is found on Easy models and above.
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The Doblo should be cheap to insure with insurance groups that range from 6E on the 1.4-litre petrol models to 12 for the 1.6-litre Multijet 120 diesel models. The Citroen Berlingo Multispace is a little more costly with groups in the 12E to 15E ballpark.
Depreciation is not a strong suit of the Doblo or any van-based MPV for that matter with used demand for these overwhelmingly functional vehicles best described as limited. The best retained value you’ll get on a Doblo that’s done around 36,000 miles over three years is around 39% and that will be one of the cheaper 1.4-litre petrols. That figure will drop closer to 35% if you opt for a Trekking version with Multijet 120 diesel and 7-seat Family Pack.
Interior, design and technology
There’s no escaping the fact that the Fiat Doblo looks like a van. That brings advantages in terms of the amount of space that the boxy body crams within the confines of a relatively small footprint but also drawbacks in terms of a perceived lack of style and desirability.
Make of the exterior looks what you will, the interior is what the Doblo is all about. The materials are tough and hardwearing but generally not up to the high standard we’ve come to expect from modern passenger cars.
The minor controls are simple to operate but again, there’s a lack of finesse in the design. In fairness, this is common across the van-based MPV segment and the Doblo hides its commercial vehicle origins better than some, you just need to be able to look past the rough edges to the Doblo’s practical strengths.
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Equipment wise, the entry-level Pop model is quite basic with steel wheels, a CD stereo, electric front windows, a split folding rear bench and not a lot else. At Easy level, body coloured bumpers are added along with audio controls on the steering wheel, an extendable load compartment cover and a power socket in the back. Electric rear windows make their first appearance on the Lounge models with rear parking sensors, alloy wheels and cruise control. The Trekking spec adds off-road styling accessories, roof bars and the Traction+ electronic differential for extra grip on loose surfaces.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
There’s no built-in sat-nav system on the Fiat Doblo in the UK, which feels like an oversight. The best you’ll get from the options list is the preparation for an aftermarket TomTom sat-nav system. Fiat’s Blue&Me handsfree infotainment and phone system is fitted on Lounge models and above but there's no DAB radio.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Practicality is what the Doblo does best. Its generous interior space is accessed by sliding side doors on each flank or a lifting tailgate at the rear. You need a huge amount of room behind the car to let the tailgate swing upwards. If you think that might be a problem, a pair of asymmetrically split side-hinged rear doors is available as an option. Inside you get five seats and a big boot or seven seats and a very small boot if you opt for the Family Pack.
Cabin storage is very good with wide door pockets, a small glovebox and a sectioned shelf in front of the passenger. There are further cubbies on top of the dash and cup holders in the centre console. Basically, you won’t be short of places to keep things and there’s even an additional shelf above the windscreen to store even more.
The Fiat Doblo is 4,406mm long and 1,836mm wide, which is a little bit longer and wider than a Citroen Berlingo Multispace. The height is 1,845mm but if you go for the high roof option that jumps to 2,115mm, which will put you in peril of some car park height restrictors. To be honest, the amount of headroom in the standard Doblo is so huge that we’re not sure an extension up top is strictly necessary.
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Leg room, head room & passenger space
While headroom is massive, legroom in the Doblo’s rear seats could be better. It’s just about possible for a 6ft passenger to sit behind a 6ft driver but they wouldn’t want to stay there for very long. The sliding side doors are also quite narrow so, although the outer seats fold and tumble forwards to aid access to the third row in Family Pack versions, it’s quite a struggle to climb back there. The easiest option is to get in to the back seats through the doors at the rear.
Space in the third row is even tighter than in the middle row but these seats are better than the back seats in most 7-seaters of this size and could take a small adult at a push. The windows alongside the third row don’t open fully and there’s only the option of popping the glass panel outwards for extra ventilation.
The downside to choosing a Doblo over a purpose-built MPV is that the seats don’t fold into the floor. You can lift the third row seats out of the car but they’re very heavy and if you fold them up in the vehicle, they don’t leave much boot space.
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You can carry a huge amount in the Doblo. Officially the boot is 790 litres in a 5-seater model but you can get up to a huge 3,200 litres with the seats folded down. The seats may not fold flat like in some MPVs but the Doblo will trump most cars of its size for outright capacity. A word of warning is that, like the Doblo itself, the available space is quite tall so you’ll end up having to stack items in the vehicle if you want to make full use of it all. To help with this, Fiat has designed a load cover that can be positioned at different heights to act as a shelf and increase the boot floor space that’s available.
Reliability and Safety
The Fiat Doblo’s commercial vehicle origins bode well for its reliability. It’s been designed to stand up to some pretty tough treatment in the hands of van operators so we’d expect it to stay the course of family life fairly well.
On the safety front, the latest high tech features aren’t offered but you do get twin front airbags, ESP stability control with a Hill Holder function and ISOFIX child seat points as standard. Anti-whiplash front head restraints are an option.
There’s a 3-year unlimited mileage warranty as standard on all Fiat Doblos and service intervals are set at 19,000 miles.