Fiat Doblo Family

Starting from £12,900, the Italian makes a great no-frills choice

The Doblo Family is the cheapest seven-seat MPV money can buy – but will it leave customers feeling short-changed?

One look at the tall and boxy Fiat is all it takes to see the car’s commercial-vehicle roots. Its vertical body sides and tall roofline are straight from the Doblo van, and the ungainly front end is unlikely to win any admirers.

Beauty is more than skin deep, though, and the uncompromising looks come with many benefits inside. For the driver, it means a commanding view and a comfortable upright seating position, but it’s the passengers who gain the most.

A pair of sliding rear doors make getting in and out easy, and there’s a huge amount of headroom. There’s also more legroom in the second row than you get in the Peugeot, and three adults can sit in reasonable comfort across the middle. Climbing into the third row is simple. A lever folds the backrest of the seat in front flat and releases the base, which you then tilt forward. This creates plenty of room to climb in, and there’s more footspace and shoulder room than in the Tepee’s third row.

The bench is fine for teenagers, although adults might struggle on longer trips, and bootspace with it in place is severely restricted. Even if you fold and tumble it forward, it takes up lots of room and the area of flat floor left is minimal. It is also heavy and bulky if you decide you want to take it out.

The final drawback to the Doblo’s design is its huge tailgate. It provides useful shelter from the elements when it’s open, but stops you from parking tightly against walls or other vehicles.

The optional twin rear doors, which are split vertically and cost only £100, make more sense. Equipment levels are spartan (air-con is £650, roof bars £200) and interior quality workmanlike, but this is par for the course with such a low price tag.

There’s no skimping under the bonnet, though. The 85bhp 1.3-litre MultiJet diesel delivers surprising pace. With light loads, the Doblo feels much faster than its 0-60mph time of 15.1 seconds suggests.

Only when you load it up is its lack of punch evident. With seven passengers on board, it took 17.8 seconds to do 0-60mph, 2.7 seconds longer than it recorded with two people on board. The soft suspension allows plenty of body roll in tight bends, but the Doblo rides smoothly and provides impressive grip. The light steering and snappy gearchange also combine to make the budget MPV fun to drive, although there’s lots of wind noise at cruising speeds.

If you can look beyond its van-based design, the spacious and practical Fiat is a great-value budget MPV.

Details

WHY: Quite simply, the Doblo is the cheapest seven-seater on sale. But is it bargain basement, or too good to be true?

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