As far as I know, the van on test here – the Fiat Ducato – has never won a major award and has been largely consigned to the “also rans” category when it comes to sorting out the sheep from the goats.
But I have to admit that the Ducato – along with its twin brothers the Citroën Relay and Peugeot Boxer – have always been among my particular favourites.
They look fantastic, they are pretty cost-effective to run and they have admirable road manners.
While this newly-launched van may look the same from the outside, under the bonnet there is a new set of Euro V compliant engines at 2.3-litres and 3.0-litres, offering outputs from 110bhp to 180bhp. Our test vehicle is the mid-range 130bhp unit with long wheelbase and high roof.
The benefit of Euro V is not only lower CO2 emission figures but increased power, torque and fuel economy. The engine in our test vehicle is reckoned to have 8% more power than the one it replaces and 9% lower fuel consumption. There have also been a few nips an tucks in the cab with new colour combinations for the plastic parts of the dashboard, which are now more uniform and darker.
The central console has been totally redesigned. The upper central part of the dash now leaves space for an optional TomTom unit, which our test model didn’t have.
It did, however, feature the option ESC stability control at £450 with a Traction + system, which offers off-road capabilities without the hassle of a pukka four wheel drive system, plus air-con at £855 and reversing sensors at £230.
Behind the wheel
Every time I am offered one of these vans on test – and there have been many occasions – my heart lifts at the thought as it really is a wonderful vehicle to drive.
But to my delight it’s not only under the bonnet that things have changed – our cab featured a smart new-look silver and black dash and a jaunty set of dual tone seats, which incidentally are some of the most comfortable and supportive in the business.
On the downside though, as with the old cab, there isn’t a coffee cup holder anywhere near the driver’s right hand. The nearest one is in the pull down desk in the back of the middle seat and you have to twist your arm round to recah it while driving.
Our test vehicle thankfully had a reversing sensor added (a must in my view for such a large vehicle) and it’s one which bleeps on the outside too, to warn passing pedestrians of my approach.
I was also grateful too see that Fiat had added ESC stability control to my van, although – as stated in a previous article – it’s a shame the manufacturer doesn’t fit it as standard as per the rivals the Ford Transit, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Volkswagen Crafter and Iveco Daily.
The new engine really is a smoothie. It fires up quietly and efficiently and as all the pedals have a nice light feel, progress in this van, with a six-speed gearbox, is powerful yet efficient.
Whether you go for the 130bhp model or the lower-powered 110bhp depends on what you want to do with the van.
For heavy duty motorway stuff I’d recommend the 130bhp unit. If you are the lcoal florist or baker, the smaller engine will suffice.
ESC problem apart, this van is a sturdy fleet performer and with combinbed fuel economy of over 38mpg, there are now even more reasons to choose it. Drivers will be delighted too with such pleasing road manners