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Fiat Professional's facelifted Doblo Cargo light van goes on sale in the UK this month, and it looks a more muscular design: the bonnet and headlamps are more bulbous and sculpted while the grille is bolder and the front bumper sleeker than before. At the rear of the van are new light clusters.
The interior, though, will look familiar to anyone who knows the current Doblo because it has not been altered in right-hand drive mode due to cost restrictions. But this is not necessarily a drawback: the cabin is functional with plenty of storage space.
The cornerstone engines remain the 1.3- and 1.6-litre turbodiesels, but the brand claims it has improved efficiencies by up to 12%. In the case of the 90hp 1.3-litre Multijet II engine, for example, Fiat says responsiveness is up by 40%, resulting in greater flexibility for more relaxed and efficient driving as well as livelier performance.
The 1.3 and 105hp 1.6 Multijet II engines are also available in new Ecojet versions, priced £500 more than basic models at £14,445 and £16,245 respectively. These offer lower mpg and CO2 thanks to technology such as stop-start tech and low rolling-resistance tyres. The manufacturer says the 1.3 Ecojet delivers 64.2mpg (60.1mpg for the 1.6) with emissions of 115g/km. A Multijet II 135hp 2.0-litre diesel engine and a 95hp 1.4 petrol engine are only expected to account for very low volumes.
The range comprises four bodystyles, two roof heights, and two wheelbases, as well as four trim levels: Standard, Ecojet, SX and Tecnico, with a step up of just £150 from Ecojet to SX but a sharper rise of £1630 to the top spec.
We drove a 90hp 1.3 SX. This engine is expected to account for up to four out of five sales and is only available in the SWB bodystyle that will command 60% of volume.
With a third of the 750kg payload employed, the engine performed impressively on winding country roads, motorways and in town. In fact, the snappy five-speed gearbox and precise steering mean the experience of driving the 1.3 is similar to putting a hatchback passenger car through its paces.
The driving position is good, and we can attest to the effectiveness of additional soundproofing, which Fiat claims has cut cabin noise by 3dB.
The 3.4m3 loadbay box is accessed via rear doors opening to 180° and a nearside sliding door. A nice touch is the vertical handles on the rear doors that can be easily opened with one finger when carrying something at the same time.
Alongside the standard kit on all models, which include, for example, electric windows and full-height twin panelled rear doors, the SX adds the likes of front fog lamps, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors with body-coloured covers, and an upgraded stereo with MP3 compatibility.