Back in 1994, I was waiting for a train to Florence at Bologna Station, when a goods train carrying Fiat Ducato’s went by. The Ducato was already 13 years old in 1994 & in late 2021, the sixth generation of Ducato was launched, a model that Fiat are calling the Series 8. Company Car & Van got it’s hands on one recently, in the form of the 35 LH2 2.2 Multijet 140.
Replacing Fiat’s old 2.3 engine, the Ducato now features a 2.2 litre unit, sported by sister vans the Citroen Relay, Peugeot Boxer & Vauxhall Movano. Series 8 also features a new front bumper, LED headlights & daytime running lights. The other main changes are with the dashboard, tech & on board safety. So, depending on the model you choose, expect a 10″ infotainment touchscreen, wireless smartphone connectivity, a wireless charger, a digital rear-view mirror, adaptive cruise control & automatic lane keeping aids, a far cry from even the previous incarnation.
All versions are FWD only & the latest Ducato comes with four 2.2 power units. A 120hp manual-only model with 320Nm. Our test van the 140hp manual, with 350Nm. A 160hp manual with 380Nm & a 180hp manual with 400Nm. The last three engines are also available with a 9-speed auto gearbox, which increases the power on the 160hp version to 400Nm & on the 180hp version, to 450Nm.
All engines are Euro 6D-Final compliant, with the heavier versions coming with Heavy-Duty type approval. Fiat claim the engine is 7% more efficient than before, primarily because the new engine is 15kg lighter than the old 2.3 unit.
Fiat says it produces over 10,000 versions. With three body heights, five body lengths, a choice of panel van, window van, chassis-cab,, people-carrier, chassis cowl, or other conversions, plus the four engine choices, of which three can be had as manual or auto, this seems infinitely possible.
Entry-level Ducato is the Standard version, which comes with a 5″ screen, DAB, Bluetooth, single USB, Lane Departure Warning, fixed steel bulkhead & radio controls on the steering wheel.
Next up is Tecnico, which adds a 7″ touchscreen with Apple Car Play, Android Auto, a voice control button on the steering wheel, wireless phone charging, air-con, an electric parking brake, a Techno dashboard, keyless entry/start & a rear view camera.
You can also upgrade to automatic climate control, which changes the vans moniker to Tecnico Plus. Finally, at the top of the range is the Business Edition, which adds the 10.0″ touchscreen, sat-nav, 7″ digital instrument cluster & electric-folding heated electric door mirrors.
We tested the Business Edition manual, but even this range-topper doesn’t feature cruise control in any form & which you’ll need to add as an extra, which was a shame.
Payload, load length & load width
Our test van, the 35 LH2 2.2 Multijet III 140hp, offers a payload of 1,472,kg & a load volume of 13m cubed. Gross Vehicle weight is 3,500kg & maximum towing weight 2,250kg. Load length is 3,705mm, load width 1,870mm.
Our test van featured LED load space lighting, 8 lashing rings, twin 180 degree opening rear doors & a sliding side door.
Ducato impresses with storage bins below the centre console, twin centre cup holders, large door pockets with a drinks holder in each & two levels of storage, an overhead shelf & a small covered dash-top cubby. The glove box though is tiny. You also get storage space underneath the dual passenger seat & the centre seat folds-down creating a useful on-board desk. Options include a pop up clipboard/phone/tablet holder, which can be fitted to the centre console. You also get two USB sockets a 12V socket, plus a 250 volt main outlet.
Ducato now comes with both autonomous emergency braking & lane-departure warning system as standard. Choose a version with an automatic gearbox & you have the option to add adaptive cruise control with lane centring. Furthermore, you can also opt for Cross-Wind Assist, Trailer Stability Control & Active Park Assist. These upgrades make the latest Ducato available with ‘Level 2 autonomy’, the first van to achieve this.
Although the tech & general layout of the Ducato’s dashboard is excellent, the quality of the plastic used on the surfaces isn’t up to that which you’d find in a Crafter, MAN TGE or Sprinter. The Ducato also has a very short cab-to-body ratio, so for taller drivers, there’s not much room to push the drivers seat back, which at maximum is up against the bulkhead creating a very upright driving position. At 1.73m, ( 5ft 8″) I found it plenty comfortable & to be fair to Fiat, you can pump the seat height up or down & there’s a drivers armrest which is perfect for the motorway, so it’s not all bad.
Ducato comes with a 3 year/100,000 mile warranty, 1 years road side assistance & 2 years or 36,000 mile service intervals. It’s worth noting that in July 2019, Fiat launched a new ‘555’ campaign, extending the warranty coverage to 5 years or 125,000 miles with 5 years servicing & roadside assistance. This has been extended to all versions of the Ducato from the 2022 facelift.
The good news is that the Series 8 now features electric power steering, so handling has improved straight away. It’s now light, easy to manoeuvre & really shines when you’re driving in town. For example, I drove our test van to my local gym every day.that it was with me. Parking in a bay was really simple, aided by the large wing mirrors & camera built into the drivers mirror. The turning circle is impressive as well, with me having to perform a neat reverse onto our short drive, hindered by vans parked opposite, each day to park.
I took the Ducato onto the motorway, which is where cruise control would have been good. No matter. Once up into sixth-gear the 140hp engine is smooth, quiet & powerful enough to overtake when required. There’s an Eco button on the Business Edition, which we used on the motorway only. I didn’t really notice much change in the way the van drove when we turned this on.
Wireless Apple Car Play features in the Busines Edition & it’s a joy to use, enabling hands-free phone, text & Whats App whilst on the move. The addition of a wireless charger in a van’s also good news. As far as motorway noise is concerned, this isn’t an issue.
I spent my week in the Ducato driving alone & with the loadspace unladen. On even road surfaces it’s splendid, but introduce some poor road surfaces, which currently means all side roads in Trafford & it’s not as happy, with both noise & bounce entering the cabin.
Fiat claim a combined fuel economy of 34mpg & we got close, averaging 32mpg. CO2 emissions come in at 216g/km. You can add an Eco pack, which comes with Stop/Start, a smart alternator & an electronically controlled fuel pump, which should increase economy.
Just getting a new van or even a used van is tough enough at present, but at least when you do order your new Ducato you’ll be pleased to know that Fiat Pro have enhanced many of the vans key components for Series 8. So, new brakes, clutch, front suspension, hinges & seals have been added, meaning they should last longer. Furthermore, the lights are located high up so as to avoid damage & the bumpers are split into three pieces & unpainted in all but top spec versions. All models also get deadlocks as standard, with Tecnico & above trim adding an alarm.
Biggest model choice & most competitive load volume of any large van. New 10″ touchscreen is currently the largest you’ll find in any large van. Great on the motorway. Competitively priced. Recent safety & tech upgrades take the Series 8 right to the top of the class.
It’s old design means that it lags behind some of the competition for cabin comfort & space. Cabin plastics aren’t as good as the competition. We’d like cruise control fitted to all models from Tecnico up. And, there’s no rear-wheel-drive version.
Whilst some of you reading this would have chosen a Ducato based solely on it’s carrying capabilities & price point, many would have discounted one due to its lack of equipment, safety features & perceived quality. This now is not an excuse, as the Series 8 Ducato is now class leading for both safety & tech & in these areas, can now be considered a sector leader. As far as perceived quality goes, we have to concede that even with the added teach, internally, due to the age of the vans design, cabin comfort & finish does suffer.
In reality, we felt that the pros far outweighed the cons & that’s why the Series 8 Ducato is our reigning Large Van of the Year 2022.