Like their cars, Fiat commercials have come an awful long way in recent years with arguably as good a range of vehicles as anyone else out there. Vauxhall obviously thinks so, because one Fiat model the Doblo is now re-badged & sold as a Vauxhall Combo. Fiats largest van the Ducato is built in Italy by Fiat, but the Fiat factory also builds the PSA duo of Peugeot Boxer & Citroen Relay, which are essentially the same van albeit with different engines to the Ducato. The latest Ducato isn’t only looking to put one over it’s French cousins, but also to battle it out for sales against the likes of the Ford Transit, Vauxhall Movano, VW Crafter & the Mercedes Sprinter.
The first thing you notice about the Ductao is that it looks good both inside & out with some nice touches showing the Italian marques flair normally reserved for Alfa Romeo & Abarth. Theres a nice touch of silver around the air vents on the dash which liven up the otherwise bland black layout. At the front of the van, Fiat have designed attractive curving lights which make the Ducato quite pleasing to the eye, not an easy job with a large van. There’s also a positive vibe in the interior as well, with good quality plastics throughout which look & feel hard wearing, although the perhaps not quite up to the level of plastics found in some of it’s German competitors.
The list of goodies that you get as standard on the Ductao includes ABS, ESP, EBD, ESC, a driver’s airbag, a driver’s seat armrest with lumbar support, a dual passenger seat, a fixed full width steel bulkhead, a normal size spare wheel & a radio/Bluetooth/USB/Aux in player. Exterior standard equipment includes electric heated door mirrors, deadlocks, two panelled rear doors, daytime running lights & aluminium 15” steel wheels
There were a plethora of added extras on my test model & these included rear doors which open to 270 degrees (£260), a rear view camera (£300), reverse parking sensors (£230) a 5” touchscreen U-Connect system which incorporates, SatNav, DAB radio, CD, Bluetooth, USB & Aux in ( £470) & cruise control (£160) all of which If I was using one regularly, I would want on my Ducato. Other extras that might also appeal were Start/Stop costing an extra £350 & the Comfort-matic gearbox £1500, which isn’t cheap but I have to say makes the gear changing in the Ducato a real doddle. All in all these extras take the cost of the Ducato to well over 30K, which seems expensive, until you look at the price of any large van nowadays , where it is almost essential to have air con, cruise control, Bluetooth, SatNav & a reverse parking sensor, because so many of the larger load luggers spend the majority of their day driving up & down our motorways & dual carriageways.
Back in the day, driving vans of old was more of a chore than we realised at the time & with all brands now producing higher quality vehicles in a very compeitive market, the Ducato is now much more enjoyable to pilot than any of it’s previous incarnations. Key reasons behind this is include the full sized bulkhead, which keeps the cabin relatively quiet & the Comfort-matic gearbox which is well configured, although there is a tendency for it to tell you to change up earlier than you’d want to. My only criticisms inside the Ducato, as with both the Relay & Boxer is that the 5” touchscreen display is too small making it nigh on impossible to see the SatNav map clearly when you’re driving. Also, it’s location in the dead centre of the dashboard means that you need to reach an awful long way to use the on/off button located on the far left of the console. Furthermore, it’s also a fair stretch to reach the hand brake which is located to the right of the drivers seat & completely disengage it.
More positively, Fiat have made sure that the Ducato has loads of useful storage space. Two deep door pockets, two slimmer ones above these, a full width above the head parcel shelf, a space on the dash above the glove box & a three bottle/cup type holder in the centre of the van below the dash are all useful, as is the dash-mounted clipboard that morphs into a holder for your mobile phone or tablet computer.
A series of steps have also been taken to enhance the durability of the latest Ducato models. Service intervals are up to a lengthy 30,000 miles thanks in part to upgraded brakes, a new clutch system and tweaked front suspension. Additional body reinforcement & upgraded door hinges have also been added to prolong the life of the vehicle.
Once the Ducato is on the motorway & you have set the cruise control, it’s an accomplished motorway performer at 70 mph. Noise levels are considerably lower than those from the equivalent 2.2-litre engine fitted to the Boxer and Relay. Even around town the Ducato is more of a breeze to drive than some of it’s competitors & I would go as far as to say that it feels smaller than it is, although supermarket car parks & the like on a busy day are still hard work in a van of this size.
Those of you who run a van in this class will be interested in the technical info for the Ducato. My test model was the Ducato 35 SH1 2.3 MultiJet II 16v with 130 bhp, at the basic price of £28,828 OTR.
Cubic capacity (cc)
Maximum power bhp @ rpm
130 @ 3600
Maximum torque Nm @ rpm
320 @ 1800
Top speed (mph)
Maximum trailer weight
Gross train weight
Test vehicle load
*FUEL ECONOMY AND EMISSIONS
Urban cycle (mpg)
Extra-urban cycle (mpg)
Combined consumption (mpg)
Combined consumption (mpg) + start stop
CO2 emissions (g/km)
CO2 emissions (g/km) + start stop
Length x Width x Height (mm)
4963 x 2050 x 2254
Front/ Rear overhang (mm)
948 / 1015
Rear loading height (mm)
Load space Length x Width x Height (mm)
2670 x 1870 x 1662
Width between wheel arches (mm)
Rear door width x height (mm)
1562 x 1520
Side door width x height (mm)
1075 x 1485
Turning circle (kerb)
Load space volume ( m³)
Number of seats
Fuel economy on my test model was around 37 mpg on the combined, some way off Fiats claimed 45.6 mpg. CO2 emissions with the addition of Stop/Start have come down from the last Ducato to 164g/km. I found that on the motorway I could get as much as 44 mpg but around town this fell to just under 30 mpg so my overall figure has been based on these readings.
Any negatives ? The Fiat Ducato range does perhaps suffer from a confusing model line up & there may still be some of you reading this who perceive the Fiat brand to be of a lower build quality or not as reliable as some of it’s northern European competitors. In botchy cases, this is a fallacy. The Ducato is driven every day in Southern Europe, by thousands of customers & tackles it’s jobs in searing heat, often on badly maintained roads & in crowded urban areas & it seems highly unlikely that the drivers in tough cities such as Naples, would buy a Ducato if it was badly built or unreliable. In reality, the latest Ducato is an excellent van built for all seasons & it’s more than a match for the Citroens, Peugeots, Vauxhalls & Renaults in it’s sector & in this new guise, is not a million miles behind the new Ford Transit for quality.
As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for & in the Ducatos case you get an awfully big bang for your buck.