The Fiat Ducato was first launched in 1981. This third-generation model came to market in 2006 and the version on test here was facelifted and improved last year.
The models on offer in 2012 are more stylish, more refined and far more economical than their predecessors – who’d have believed 31 years ago that a 3.5-tonne panel van like this could return more than 40 miles per gallon on the combined cycle?
Our test model is the medium wheelbase low roof variant with the lowest power output of 110bhp – we chose this is it is likely to be one of the big fleet sellers.
Weighing in at £22,295, the van features a 2.3-litre Euro5 diesel powerplant with a standard six-speed box.
The Ducato range also features 130bhp, 148bhp and 177bhp models in three lengths and two roof heights but these cost anything up to £29,895, thus adding significantly to company costs.
In the back, the Ducato swallows a healthy 10 cubic metres of cargo weighing up to 1,600kg and this van features what could be a record number of load lashing eyes – 13 to be precise, including five halfway up the sides where they are really needed. Until recently, all vans had lashing eyes only on the floor.
Standard specification includes electric windows and heated mirrors, height adjustable driver’s seat, full steel bulkhead, central remote locking, ABS brakes and a driver’s airbag.
However, we are concerned to note that electronic stability control, which stops sideways skids and has been called the best safety aid since the seatbelt, still remains on the options list at £348.50.
Also among the options which we consider to be ‘must haves’ for any fleet are rear parking sensors at £230.50 and load floor protection at £384.25.
Behind the wheel
When you drive a variety of different vans as I do for a living, you soon begin to sort out the good ones from the not-quite-so-good.
And Fiat will no doubt be pleased to learn that the Ducato, along with its twin brothers the Citroën Relay and Peugeot Boxer, come pretty near the top of my favourites list.
So what makes them so good? For starters, they have amazingly stylish looks for a panel van – not the biggest tick in the list of fleet must-haves admittedly, but they’ll help give your company a stylish and upmarket look if they carry