21 May: New Fiat Ducato

… First Drive … New Fiat Ducato …

Having driven the new Peugeot Boxer two weeks ago, there were few surprises left at the first drive of its sibling, the new Fiat Ducato. Built in the same Sevel Sud factory in central Italy, the only visible changes were to the front grille and bumper, and the badging.

Except that, under the bonnet, Fiat has chosen to use its Phase II Multijet engine range, as opposed to the Peugeot/Citroen HDi engine, with one additional wee surprise. Although not available at this week’s continental drive event, Fiat has introduced an entry-level 2 litre version of the LCV Multijet II from its saloon car range.

This addition to the current 2.3 litre turbo diesel stalwarts gives those seeking a more light duty choice the option of even better fuel economy and lower emissions. This new 2 litre engine delivers 115hp and generates 207lbs/ft of torque. However, there is no guarantee that this engine will be offered in the UK market.

On that basis, most interest will centre on the 2.3 litre range of 110hp, 130hp (236lbs/ft) and 148hp (258lbs/ft) Euro-5 engines. In addition, the four cylinder, 3 litre unit with 177hp (295lbs/ft) will still be available for those with heavy duty needs, particularly for blue light operators such as ambulance and police. Stop/Start will only be available on the 130 and 148 engines.

Given the fact that the Multijet engine can trace its roots back to an original Iveco power unit, this latest Phase II version of the Multijet demonstrates that significant improvements can still be found in such a long lasting, strong and reliable power unit. For a start, it is much more refined than previous engines. It’s almost whisper quiet at times, and that’s down to improved aerodynamics and some new body structure re-designs and improved suspension mountings, as much as the engine.

All vans come with 6 speed gearboxes as standard, but there is a ‘Comfort-Matic’ automated 6 speed transmission which Fiat claims can offer up 5% better fuel economy than the manual ‘box.

The biggest changes to the new Ducato come in electronic form with Fiat offering a full range of ‘driver aids’ and additional tools. The standard spec includes electric windows and heated door mirrors, remote central locking with deadlocks and a 30w audio system with MP3 playback and USB/AUX ports. More importantly the van comes with ESC as standard which includes Hill Hold Control and all the other braking/control aids such as ROM, RMI, LAC, ASR, MSR and EBA. In other words the driver shouldn’t be able to lose control even if the vehicle is badly loaded!

Moving up to the ‘Tecnico’ model, the base van gets such added extras as air-conditioning and a DAB radio with 5 touch touchscreen which is linked into a SatNav unit which offers ‘One Step Voice Entry Destination’. The screen is also connected to a very effective reversing camera and includes reversing sensors. The upgraded instrument panel contains additional information dials and displays, and there is Cruise Control with a Speed Limiter. On that point, any van can be pre-figured with a Speed Limiter set at 56, 62, 70 or 81 mph, but this is a workshop job.

Taking this a stage further, Fiat have been working with Mopar to create a range of approved professional accessories to make working life easier, more efficient and perhaps a little more stylish. In addition to the expected range of roof bars, ladders, loading rollers and protective floor coverings are such things as colour trims for the dashboard, skid plates, darkened headlamp units, alloy wheels and even chrome plate number-plate surrounds!

Prices for the new Ducato start from £19,995 for the L1H1 van with an 8cu.m loadbox, all the way up across three wheelbases, four lengths and three heights to 17cu.m of load volume. Payloads range from 800 kgs to 2100 kgs with the introduction of a new 4.25t GVW single rear wheeled van.

On the basis of this first taste, the new Ducato promises to be a big improvement over the old one.