First drive: Fiat Ducato's nine-speed auto gearbox is a 'game changer'

"Other new technology allows the driver to set the minimum engine idle speed to ensure there is ample power for additional electric equipment, as well as an LED lighting package for the load area"


From the outside, the 2020 Ducato does not look markedly different compared with its predecessor, but one change under the skin will be a “real game-changer”, according to Richard Chamberlain, head of brand at Fiat Professional.

A titanium-coloured grille and the line of headlights in piano black are the main exterior upgrades, but the addition of a nine-speed automatic gearbox – as well as a new engine range – is the most significant development.

“It will allow us to speak to customers with two-pedal policies who we would not have been able to speak to before,” explains Chamberlain.

This will be offered alongside a six-speed manual gearbox and is the first time the model has been available with a proper torque converter transmission: the previous version was available with a somewhat underwhelming Comfort-Matic robotised-manual gearbox.

With the automatic gearbox, drivers can choose from three driving modes – normal, eco and power. Eco provides a smoother acceleration response and a tailored gear shift pattern to reduce fuel consumption, while power provides quicker shifting for optimal performance in a variety of conditions.

Ducato also now comes with a new Euro 6D 2.3-litre engine in 122PS, 142PS, 162PS and 183PS power outputs, offering greater efficiency than the units they replace. A Natural Power CNG variant offering 136PS will also be available.

These all feature a standard EcoPack which includes a stop-start system, a smart alternator, an eco mode to help reduce fuel use and an electronically-controlled fuel pump which generates greater combustion efficiency. 

NEDC fuel economy for the L2H2 variant ranges from 37.2mpg to 40.4mpg, while CO2 emissions go from 185g/km for the 162PS model to 201g/km for the 122PS.

Full pricing and trim levels for the refreshed Ducato range have not yet been released, but it will start from £24,670 for the 122PS model. It also offers a wide range of safety technology for the first time, including blind spot assist, cross traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition and automatic lights and wipers.

Other new technology allows the driver to set the minimum engine idle speed to ensure there is ample power for additional electric equipment, as well as an LED lighting package for the load area.

We drove the 142PS L2H2 model fitted with the automatic gearbox, and it impressed. The gearbox shifted smoothly, aiding driveability and taking much of the hassle out of manoeuvring in urban areas, while it was also comfortable and easy to drive on the open road.

Visibility was also excellent, while the cabin felt both logical in its layout and hard-wearing. Combined with its new technology and efficiency, these road manners ensure Ducato is well suited for whatever a working life could throw at it.

Also at the 2020 Ducato launch event, Fiat unveiled a fully-electric version of the van, which can be pre-ordered by the end of the year.

Ducato Electric will feature modular battery size options and charging configurations with a range of between 136 and 223 miles on the NEDC cycle.

See Parker's Consumer Review of the Fiat Ducato.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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  • charles - 07/08/2019 21:05

    Nice FCA.Keep the hits coming. Would like one as a motor home though.

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  • John Harper - 13/12/2019 23:14

    “Visibility is excellent” eh? I own two Ducatos and the A pillars, combined with the mirrors, create diabolical blind spots that can hide anything from a pedestrian, cyclist, up to a small vehicle. As this hasn’t changed by a single mm from my oldest van to the latest, I’m curious to know which vans you think have worse visibility... Apart from that, and dire fuel consumption compared to my previous Transit engined LDV Convoys, I love them.

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  • Nigel James - 14/05/2020 22:02

    Fantastic news that Fiat has now a sophisticated automatic, i've been driving my Fiat based motorhome for 8 years now which I have loved but is now due to be changed, I was about to purchase an automatic Ford Transit base vehicle as I don't to drive a manual anymore, but can now stick to my trusty Ducato's. Well done Fiat !!

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  • Christine Eales - 18/05/2020 21:36

    It sounds like the much awaited new automatic gearboxes are a vast improvement on the older manual gearboxes , the blind spot assist sounds good too as that post to the side can be a little frustrating at times . I'd love to hear more about the electric van, because it seems a very interesting development . Last year several friends laughed at me saying it could not be done when I said I'd like to get an electric Ducato to convert to a day van . Going to test drive one past my friends house and laugh back , when there is one at my local dealer to try. .

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