With the growth of internet shopping, the van market continues to thrive, as more and more customers have parcels delivered to their homes & place of work. Parcel delivery has grown rapidly and the demand for new vans to cater for this has grown alongside. However, whilst electric vans are already here, their limited range on a single charge, typically 50 – 100 miles, means that for most companies, diesel is still the preferred choice. With many European cities now charging drivers who enter them, especially if they’re in older diesels, whilst allowing cleaner newer powered vehicles in free of charge, the van manufactures have had to move fast in updating their old Euro 6 diesel unit. Fiat Professional did this in 2019, with their large panel van the Fiat Professional Ducato, currently the Company Car & Van Large Van of the Year for 2021.
The best-selling Fiat Professional vehicle the Ducato, is now offered with a range of improved Euro6D engines, including a new 9-Speed automatic transmission with latest-generation torque converter. Fiat have also taken the opportunity to upgrade the safety & tech on the range, adding advanced ADAS driving assist systems, the latest-generation infotainment system and they’ve also revised the exterior.
In its sector, Ducato has been the European market leader for the last six years, as well as the leading vehicle as a base for motorhomes in Europe, with approximately three in every four motorhomes sold being based on the Fiat Ducato
The Ducato’s new range of MultiJet 2 engines, come with a variable geometry compressor, which Fiat told us, results in a smoother drive, increased flexibility at low speeds and improved fuel consumption, no matter which power output. The engine features a new turbocharger that adapts its fluid dynamics to the speed of the engine and to driving styles thanks to the implementation of a series of mobile blades situated along the radius of the turbine. This controls the flow of exhaust gas and consequently the speed and force of the compressor, to provide the right performance at all times.
The entry level Ducato produces 120hp from the 2.3-litre MultiJet 2 engine at 2,750rpm with a maximum torque of 320Nm at 1,400rpm. It is teamed with the manual gearbox, which improves power and torque delivery by 10% compared to the previous 2.0-litre engine.
The 140hp version offers 350Nm torque at just 1,400rpm and is offered with a choice of 6-speed manual gearbox or the new 9-speed automatic transmission. The 160hp variant reaches peak power output at 3,500rpm and distributes up to 400Nm torque at 1,500rpm in the automatic version.
The range topping engine boasts 180hp, with peak power coming in at 3,500rpm and 400Nm torque from 1,500 to 3,000rpm, with manual gearbox. Combined with the new 9-speed automatic transmission it produces 450Nm torque, 12% more than the previous model placing it best-in-class in terms of torque in its category.
The new 9-Speed automatic transmission offers drivers a choice of three different driving modes: Normal, Eco and Power, with two operating modes, Drive and Autostick. In Drive the control module automatically selects and shifts into gear according to the various driving conditions. In Autostick the driver can change gear manually.
The Ducato MY20 also comes as standard with the new EcoPack. Which includes Start & Stop, smart alternator and electronically-controlled fuel regulator.
The new Ducato also adds new safety & tech, including blind spot assist, rear cross path detection, lane departure warning, traffic sign recognition, high beam recognition & a rain and dusk sensor.
A new infotainment system is now available in Ducato. This features a 7″ touchscreen by Mopar®, USB port, DAB & SatNav. The new system includes integration for Apple CarPlay and Android AutoTM.
We had the opportunity to spend some time driving a couple of the new models and came away impressed. First up we tackled a 140hp manual LWB version. On a route that took in city and country roads plus the motorway, in and around Fiat HQ in Turin, this version proved very capable. With two passengers and a 1 tonne load on board, this version will be the most likely most popular engine of choice in the UK.
Despite the LWB dimensions, when we headed out of Turin onto some rural B roads south of the city, this Ducato handled the typical Turin rush hour tragic with aplomb, dealing well with errant parking and sudden stops from other drivers, by utilising the new on board safety features. The addition of Lane Departure Warning gives the driver a quiet nudge when the road narrows, or you are forced off line, but unlike in many cars and vans we’ve driven, it’s not intrusive. There’s also a reversing camera built into the 7″ screen. This provides further assistance when performing a 3-point turn, which we tried out at an industrial estate outside the city centre.
We followed a circular 35km route around the city following the built in SatNav. Of course, if needed, you can connect your phone via USB to utilise Google Maps, but the built in SatNav worked just fine, even offering a reassuring beep when you take the correct exit off a roundabout.
The interior has also been redesigned and our test model featured a clever notepad cum iPad rest which can be lifted up to allow your tablet to rest on it. There’s a couple of decent sized closing glove boxes on the passenger side, two deep door pockets, storage on top of the dash, twin drinks holders in front of the centre passenger seat and two more storage areas, which are also located in front of the third passenger seat.
The load area features a new addition, which is a large LED light, which sits in the middle of the roof inside the loading area. The twin rear doors fold almost flat to the side of the van and there’s also a single sliding side door, both allowing better access to the rear of the van.
The ratios in the six-speed manual gear box make changing up or down simple and the Ducato also benefits from a light clutch. All three pedals are easy to reach, with room to rest your foot on the motorway as well. The steering wheel will only adjust up or down though.
Next up, was the more powerful 160hp unit, matched to the new 9-speed auto gear box. This offers a manual shift if you prefer. However, for stop/start driving especially on the motorway, the automatic is a blessing in disguise. And of course, in Turin’s famed congestion, with the air-con turned up and with the outside temperature nudging 32 degrees, the auto-box helps you keep you more calm and relaxed than the manual version.
The extra 20hp that’s on tap also gives the Ducato a bit more pull, especially at the top end. Where the 140hp version tends to fade after 2000 revs, doing all of it’s work lower down, the 160hp version keeps pulling all the way up to 3,500rpm.
The driving position in the Ducato is excellent, with a clear view of the road ahead and to left and to right, thanks to the large windows and windscreen. The driver’s seat adjust’s fore and aft and up and down, so getting comfortable was easy.
Any negatives ? In reality, the basic design of the Ducato is now 9 years old & whilst the upgrades are excellent, it’s still a reactively old vehicle. This means for example, that the handbrake is still located to the right of the driver rather than in the centre, which has always been a little annoying. And, although the new tech is much improved, I can’t help but feel that a larger screen than the 7″ one offered would make life easier still.
Quality wise, the interior feels better than before, but it does still feature some cheap looking plastics in places. On the plus side, the seat fabric looks & feels hard wearing and there’s a pretty good choice of new colours for your Ducato, including a Farrell & Ball-like Expedition Grey, the colour we got to drive with.
By updating & improving the latest Ducato, especially with the addition of the new cleaner diesel engine’s, Fiat Professional have given themselves the opportunity to remain number one in Europe in the large panel van sector for some time to come.
Prices for the diesel Ducato, start at £26,305 (excluding VAT) for the lowest-powered, short wheelbase 120hp version climbing to £41,600 (excluding VAT) for the range-topping long-wheelbase LH2 crew-cab variant.