Refinement, power, added economy and cleaner emissions – all are part of the common rail revolution, but until recently the technology has been restricted largely to cars rather than vans.
Now, though, many LCV ranges feature common rail and Fiat has joined the fray with common rail JTD engines as standard on all diesel Ducatos.
The newest of these is the 2.3-litre JTD unit, packing a 110bhp punch at 3,600rpm and a solid 199lb-ft of torque from 1,800rpm.
The 2.3 JTD engine replaces the old naturally- aspirated 2.8D engine and betters it with more power, greater refinement and fuel consumption reduced by 16%.
Added to that are reduced service costs, thanks to a service interval that has risen from 6,000 miles on the 2.8 to 18,000.
The 2.3 sits between the existing 84bhp 2.0 and the 127bhp 2.8 JTD units, while a 2.0-litre petrol unit is also available offering 110bhp.
But as with all LCVs, the vehicle is only as good as the service back-up it receives.
In response, Fiat Auto UK has appointed 50 specialist van dealers to handle some fleet deals, although every Fiat dealer nationwide sells and services commercials.
The 50 specialist dealers are supported by a team of fleet sales specialists at Fiat Auto’s UK headquarters, which should give a much more solid infrastructure than before.
Paul Knowlson, Fiat national fleet CV manager, said: ‘We have a stunning line-up of vans and we need to support these models with the right infrastructure.
"The 50 dealers each have a dedicated display area with all the models on show and there will be dedicated trained staff on hand to deal with enquiries.’
To sample the new-look Ducato, we tried the 2.3 JTD in the biggest Ducato version available – the Maxi LWB Gran Volume at £18,945 (ex VAT and delivery charges).
The sight of the new-look Sevel vans – Citroen Relay, Peugeot Boxer and Fiat Ducato – is becoming more familiar after over a year on sale, and there is not a great deal of difference in the way each looks.
That said, the Ducato seems imposing with its well-defined grille, massive front bumper, generous door mirrors and side rubbing strips.
Thicker steel in crucial load-bearing parts, plus greater depth of paint on high-wear areas such as door thresholds and a generally stiffer structure answer the criticisms of the previous model and give the new Ducato a much better prognosis for a long service life.
In the front
One of the best parts of the Ducato is the cab, where plenty of thought has gone into the dash design and general layout. The twin passenger seat (a no-cost option) with two triple-point belts doubles as a table when folded forward, and the dash is well provided with cubbies and storage bins as well as a handy document clip on the top.
Unusually, the steering wheel adjusts for angle and gives a wide range of seating positions with the excellent driver’s seat, which moves in every direction.
Our test van was fitted with a full steel bulkhead with window (a £260 ex-VAT option) which limits rear travel, however, and proved a bit of a problem: taller drivers – me included – will find this causes discomfort in the accelerator foot after even a short time at the wheel.
Although central locking and electric windows are standard on Ducato vans, our test vehicle included remote locking operation at an extra £265 ex-VAT, a boon for multi-drop work, while air conditioning (£985 ex-VAT) is desirable but pricey.