This is a car that one buys with the 'head', rather than the 'heart'. Sports car she is not! However I have to say that it's the best purchase I've ever made. It suits my needs perfectly.
The cabin has loads of room, great adjustment on the front seats for people of all shapes and sizes. Driver's armrest is also a nice touch. The layout is sensible, and the dials are all clear and functional.
The only slight disappointments are the lack of reach adjust on the steering; the wheel does move up and down for height though. Also the absence of the external temperature with ice warning. Fiat left this as optional at £150 quid, which frankly is a stupid price. It also makes no sense when all the other features on the computer remain, one particularly useful feature is the speed warning function normally only found on much more expensive cars. The modes also feature trip function, average MPG, instant MPG, journey time and secondary trip function for additional info.
The one really stupid thing about this car is that the sun visor does not unclip to be turned to the side to filter the sun?!? Bizarre and frankly stupid, as I discover every winter when low sunlight first appears and driving in winter sunshine I pass trees being blinded by the flickering light. Fiat, where is your logic on that decision?
The other minor irritation is the positioning of the switch for indicator auto cut off. At times getting a left indication when exiting a roundabout for example is difficult, as it will not always allow you, owing to the position of the steering wheel and the switch cut off, meaning you select the signal 2 or 3 times!
The load capacity is huge; I have 3 Dobermans that all go in the boot at the same time. The rear windows 'pop' out, which keeps the boot cool when parked. The Fiat dog guard frame and fixings are quality items, and do not rattle like after-market options. However the mesh that appears to be metal in the catalog is in fact lace mesh and not chew proof. My Doberman came crashing through on the A12!! Not at all good for the price it cost. If the inner mesh was metal, then the design would have been excellent. I have resolved the issue by getting poly-carbonate sheet cut to size and drilled. I then zip tied it to the guard frame, making it solid and secure. I also added an extra section taking the protection up to the roof, as the guard stops short of the roof, meaning the dogs kept putting their heads up over the top before. The cost of the adaptions was around £70.00, but it's worth it. It's also clear and better for rear view than the mesh was in the beginning.
The split folding parcel shelf is a great idea when loading and unloading, as the boot is so deep, folding it back allows for reaching items towards the rear seat. The boot floor is also a low height, with the tail lights on the edges makes for a wide load area also, so lifting heavy or bulky items in and out couldn't be easier. The monthly food shop looks lost when loaded, unlike others scratching their heads rearranging and continuing to struggle, which then results in putting bags in the back at the supermarket. The boot in fact is so big, that I managed to put a fully build duck house in by just pushing the rear seats slightly forward; they didn't have to be folded down, The dog guard stayed hung in place and just tilted forward. The duck house was over 3 feet 2 inches deep!!!
If the family go out in the car, the kids all have loads of space, the seats are good quality in the back also, and the dark glass on Dynamic models is a nice touch for any rear seat passenger. The air-conditioning is a 'must have' item that's missing on lower models. Anyone with mobility problems needing easy rear access will find the sliding rear doors and head height invaluable, my main reason for considering a Doblo in the first place.
The engine is very frugal and quite nippy, and its V.E.D. emissions are also quite low for a car of this size, £130 for a years tax, however you do have to work the gear box and keep it in the turbo 'peak' to get the best out of it. It's worth noting that earlier models of this 1.3 Multi jet diesel come with less power; these should be avoided in my view, as 85BHP is about the minimum this body needs to be carried with any sufficiency. Especially when you consider the weight of passengers and loads etc. It is fair to say that you notice the additional weight when carrying five passengers and their belongings, although this 1.3 still slugs along. It's mostly the initial pull away that it's most obvious.
Generally when driven quite hard, it returns 46 MPG, and on a steady 'run' to the sea side (motorway) she managed 57 MPG!!! Which is in my view great for a car of its size. Especially when you factor in 3 dogs, 2 kids and 3 adults, and all the luggage!! It's when fully loaded, and big hilly roads that make you appreciate the frankly amazing 200NM of torque from this tiny engine. When using a different style of driving, (coughs) lane 3 foot down, expect figures of 41 - 42 again; impressive for the size of this car. This little 1.3 is also willing to motor along and slugs up hills well at speed, without that tail off you get with hills from small petrol engines.
This little power train is fab for snow, allowing full use of high gears, and that thing us experienced drivers crave, torque!! But the peaky turbo can make pulling out from a junction a little tricky when driving in ice, as it will torque steer, gentle has to be the order of the day for that situation. The car does wear front tyres fairly quick due to the turbo and of course powered steering and being front wheel drive.
Now back to every day motoring... This car as a result joins motorways with short hilly slip roads easily, much better than my old 1.6 petrol, which overall was more powerful, but useless until revved up, by which time the short slip road had ran out. For a diesel, it is also not too noisy, although it does struggle a little with wind noise. The gear change is very smooth and responsive.
The handling for such a tall car is also surprisingly stable, although the ride can be a little bouncy on an uneven surface. Having owned Fiats before, the cabin is a refreshing change in build quality, and feels very well put together, and remains durable. It is fair to say that the plastics are not as plush as other MPV's on the market, however they are considerably more expensive. The new Doblo seems to have made progress into bridging that gap. We have covered over 23k now together, hence the updates.
Owning one of these, you will get used to van jokes, ice cream salesman jokes, taxi, oh and the odd 'Pope' gag, but s*d em! If you need like me, space and practicality with affordable running costs, this car is perfect. Another major point to note is that most people change their minds when they have been out in this competent, spacious, practical car. I have to say that owning one now for 29 months 23k, I like the fact that this car doesn't attempt to hide its routes, e.g. the Combi Van, essentially that's what makes it so practical and useful. Other MPV's I feel offer a lot of pretence, and as a result are less real use and value. In a perfect world I'd have one of these in the garage, and a sporty number for those days when all of the above situations don't matter, but as us MPV owner's realise, those days are few and far between...
To summarise, despite her letting herself down with one or two minor but random issues, 'My Doblo remains a winner!' Style icon she ain't but remember what your mother once said, summit about Books and covers - you decide....