Road Test: Fiat Doblo Cargo Maxi 1.6 Multijet

It’s a rare occasion that we review a commercial vehicle, but Ray Leathern loved the Fiat Doblo so much, we wonder if he shouldn’t trade in his Polo shirt for something a little more blue collared.

Fiat Doblo Cargo Maxi

I don’t know the first thing about them, but I do love a good commercial vehicle. There’s not a lot to know really. They aren’t space ships and the people who use them aren’t rocket scientists. If it can do the thing you need it to do, it’s good – the end. Having worked in the film industry for a few years, even to the point where obtaining my code 10 truck license seemed like a necessary adjunct to furthering my work, I spent hundreds of sweaty hours for two years, piggybacking heavy film equipment to and from Cape Town’s rarefied film locations. A call time of 6 AM for ‘the talent’ meant I had to be on set at 5 AM, which meant I had to collect all the gear at 4 AM. You want utter dependability from a commercial vehicle that early in the blurry eyed morning, trust me.

Then, after one shot of the actress sampling a low fat yogurt on a desolate Noordhoek beach as the sun came up, we’d have to pack every-bloody-thing up again and move location hundreds of kilometres away to a paddock, in Ceres, just to get a shot of a horse hoofing through some hay. Ah yes, it’s all flooding back to me now. I have fond, ‘those were the days’, recollections of that time, even though most of it was spent on the flat bench seat of an un-air conditioned commercial vehicle.

Fiat Doblo Cargo Maxi

I suppose part of me misses that sense of really having suffered for your day’s wages. Sun burnt, exhausted, puffing on a cigarette out the window, beer in hand (if it weren’t illegal), you couldn’t help but cast your eye over the traffic on your way home after your 18 hour day, knowing you worked harder than anyone else that day. You know that peculiar look the guy in the cargo van gives you at the traffic lights as you sit there in your air-conditioned Mercedes-Benz. That’s actually an: “I’m better than you” smirk. This is perhaps all a little wistfully irreverent and irrelevant, I’ll admit. When it comes to a van like the Fiat Doblo Cargo Maxi, it’s unlikely the purchasers of it will ever actually have the experience of driving it. That’s a shame though because in my estimation of a commercial vehicle it’s actually jolly good.

For business owners out there, let’s just get down to the nitty-gritty shall we. The Doblo Maxi with the long wheelbase, like I had, features a 1 000 kg capacity as standard. The dimensions are 4 740 mm long, 1 832 mm wide, 1 880 mm high and with a wheelbase of 2 755 mm. The Doblo Maxi’s maximum cargo dimensions are 2 170 mm long, 1 714 mm wide and 1 305 mm high, allowing a maximum volume of 4.2 cubic meters. The cargo area has been designed to offer maximum accessibility thanks to its square, regular design. It’s equipped with sliding side-access doors and generously-sized rear doors to make light work of loading stuff. The door handles have been designed to operate in an upright fashion, to be used with either hand and sized for use with gloves. The asymmetric swing doors are available panelled or glazed.

Fiat Doblo Cargo Maxi

Once you’ve loaded all your cargo in the voluminous rear end, there is a roof shelf, side door holders to accommodate two half-litre bottles as well as an A4 sized folder. The glove box with lock and key can accommodate items 14-inches wide, such as a small laptop, and there’s a radio/CD/MP3-player to keep you company. It’s much better than the agricultural vans I used to pilot back in my day. Giving the Doblo surprisingly good dynamic behaviour and comfort is quite an advanced bi-link independent rear suspension. This really does give the Doblo a good ride quality, may be even class-leading, but of course we haven’t tested its competitors, so we can’t say for sure. All we know is that it isn’t far off that of a passenger vehicle.

The Doblo Cargo is designed and built to have high active and passive safety levels, with equipment such as electronic stability control (ESC), ABS (anti-lock brake system) with EBD (electronic brake-force distribution), structurally engineered crumple zones and two front airbags.

The 1.6-litre Multijet turbo-diesel engine makes 77 kW and 290 Nm of torque, which sends power to the rear wheels. Fiat claim an average fuel consumption figure of 5.4 L/100 km and CO2 emissions of 143 g/km, but this will obviously vary depending on the heavily laden the vehicle is. I managed to average around 6.0 L/100 km throughout the week of testing, which amounted to just shy of 1 000 km on the single tank of diesel.

Fiat Doblo Cargo Maxi

All this sophisticated, economical and safe load carrying capability can be yours for just R202 000. It’s not as cheap as some of its van-man comrades like the Volkswagen Caddy Maxi 2.0 TDI or Peugeot Partner 1.6 HDi, but it seems value enough to me, considering if your business went bust you could easily just live in the back of the van.

With that said, if that’s a bit too rich for you, there are cheaper 1.4-litre petrol and 1.3-litre diesel models in the Doblo range. The petrol model in particular might offer a better sticker price and cheaper servicing of its petrol engine, as opposed to the Multijet diesel’s turbos and injectors, etc. The Fiat Doblo Cargo Maxi comes with a standard 3-year/100 000 km warranty and a 4-year/60 000 km service plan.

What we like…

  • Interior quality, comfort and chunky handles.
  • Pretty good get-up-and-go from the 1.6 litre diesel engine.
  • More space than you can fill in the rear cargo area.
  • It was really economical and a joy to drive everyday.

What we would like…

  • Not having any rear visibility took getting used to. Would rear PDC be too much?
  • Someone to promise it won’t break down all the time or cost loads for servicing.
Quick Facts
Base Price R202 000
Warranty 3-year/100 000 km
Engine Capacity 1 598 cm³
No. Of Cylinders 4-cylinders, in-line
Aspiration Turbocharged
Power 77 kW @ 4 000 r/min
Torque 290 Nm @ 1 500 r/min
Transmission 6-speed Manual
Drive type Rear-Wheel Drive
Acceleration Not available
Top Speed 164 km/h
Fuel Consumption 5.4 L/100km (claimed combined)
CO2 Emissions 143 g/km



Ray Leathern

About Ray Leathern

Ray Leathern has been test driving and critiquing cars for over five years now. He won the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists (SAGMJ) 'Highly Recommended for Internet' prize in 2012, is a member of the SAGMJ committee, as well as being a member of SA's 2012 Car of the Year jury. Ray's passion for motoring knows no bounds. What Ray writes, we read and we suggest you do too. Follow Ray on Twitter.

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