"Van-based Fiat Doblo is ideal for families on a budget, as it offers maximum space for minimal outlay."
Those seeking space and practicality could do a lot worse than the Fiat Doblo. It's based on the Doblo van, so the boxy lines mean plenty of space inside, but the rounded styling of the latest model is less van-like than before. Entry-level cars offer more space for your money than nearly anything else on sale, while the optional upgrade to seven seats doesn’t cut cabin space too severely. The range uses the same engines and gearboxes as the Punto Evo supermini, so the Doblo is easy to drive, while diesels return excellent fuel economy.
The engine line-up includes a 95bhp 1.4-litre petrol, and 105bhp 1.6-litre and 135bhp 2.0-litre Multijet diesels. The latter feel quick, even though they only claim 0-62mph in 11.3 and 13.4 seconds respectively. The larger diesel is well suited to motorway use, but all engines have to be worked hard and are noisy on start-up, as well as when the revs climb above 2,500rpm. Despite the Doblo's van roots, it corners well. The steering is precise, handling is sharp, grip is good and body roll less pronounced than in the previous car. A huge front windscreen ensures there's excellent visibility.
Soft springs mean the Doblo soaks up bumps in the road easily, while the cabin doesn’t suffer from wind noise on the motorway. There's plenty of head and legroom inside, even if you upgrade to seven seats, and the seats themselves are soft and comfortable.
In the past, Fiat hasn’t had a great reliability record. However, newer models are proving more hard-wearing. The Doblo is built in Turkey, and early signs are that interior build quality could be better than in previous cars from the company.
It's hard to top the Doblo for practicality. The boot boasts a class-leading 790-litre capacity; remove the seats and that rises to an enormous 3,200 litres. The sturdy parcel shelf is capable of supporting up to 70kg, while sliding rear doors make access easy. Fiat offers a Family Pack option that adds two more seats to turn the Doblo into one of the cheapest seven-seaters on the market.
Value for money
Prices for the Doblo are in supermini territory. It undercuts its Skoda Roomster and Citroen Berlingo rivals, so you get a lot of car for your cash. But the entry Doblo doesn’t get air-conditioning or electric rear windows. The top-of-the-range Eleganza is better equipped. All in all, you’ll struggle to find a cheaper seven-seater.
Economy and emissions are impressive across the Doblo engine line-up and competitive for the class. The 1.4-litre petrol returns 39mpg and emits 166g/km, resulting in an annual road tax bill of £250. The 1.6-litre diesel is the highlight of the range, promising 54mpg and 138g/km (£110 road tax), while the larger 2.0-litre diesel is good for 50mpg and emits 150g/km (£125).