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FIAT Ducato (2013 - ) expert van review

FIAT Ducato (2013 -     ) expert van review

By Dan Tye

Price from £24,263 

PROS

Comfortable cabin that fits three people easily

Strong 2.3-litre diesel engine 

Tight turning circle

CONS

Cabin noise high

Quality of cabin could be better

handbrake on the righthand side

RPM and speedo other way round

VERDICT 4 out of 5

“The Ducato has been on sale since 1981 and is now in its fifth generation. It had its most recent update in 2011. It’s built in the same factory as the Citroen Relay and Peugeot Boxer vans (and competes against these), but the Ducato has found more favour with UK owners because it drives well and can be ordered to suit the job you do day to day. The hardest part is choosing from the three different wheelbases and three different heights and eight different load area volumes.” 

EXTERIOR

The Ducato looks the same as the Relay and the Boxer and this is because it’s built in the same factory in Italy. The main difference is all in the front-end and rear-end.  You either like Fiat’s styling or you don’t. It’s certainly got a very distinctive nose design compared to its rivals.

Our rating: 4 out of 5

INTERIOR

It's roomy and the driver’s seat is comfortable. One major upset though is that the handbrake is on the right of the driver’s seat next to the door. We’re all used to reaching for the handbrake with a left hand so if you drive a Ducato, you’ll have to create a new muscle memory to reach down with your right hand. The plus side is that it frees up more space for the centre passenger’s feet and a dash-mounted gear lever helps further. So if you know you’re going to be driving around three-abreast, then the Ducato is ideal. The second annoyance comes from the fold down glove box in the centre of the dash; the USB connector is tucked right inside the back of glovebox and its frustratingly awkward to access. Any device you connect inside gets its lead trapped in the drawer when you close it up. Other than these criticisms, the Ducato is actually one of the better panel vans out there in terms of storage. We don’t like the angle of the dashboard though; it slopes forwards towards the windscreen so you can’t rest items on it. Other vans have a flat area for trays and are much better. There’s a special connection for an optional Blue&Me TomTom satellite navigation but if you don’t buy it, then the connection sits there redundant. Finally, the road noise in the cabin is a lot more noticeable than it is in the Transit and Sprinter and other rivals. It’s shame because the Euro 5 diesel engines in the Ducato are a lot quieter than they used to be.

Our rating: 3 out of 5

PRACTICALITY

The Ducato can pretty much deal with every load application you can think of. Payloads can be between 1,000 and 2,000kg. There are four lengths, three wheelbases and three heights to choose from too. The rear space volumes range from eight cubic metres to 17 cubic metres so there’s a big difference in the size you can buy. As well as a panel van, you can also buy single and double chassis cabs and flatbed versions of the Ducato.  It’s a very practical van, so it just comes down to whether you like the Ducato’s looks or prefer the look of its rivals. 

Our rating: 5 out of 5

PERFORMANCE

Revisions to the engine range in 2011 saw a 2.3-litre being offered in three power outputs pf 110PS, 130PS and 150PS. The mid-level 2.3-litre 130PS Ducato is the best all-rounder and feel fast through town and smooth on motorways.  There is also a 3.0-litre turbodiesel for those who want extra grunt. 

Our rating: 4 out of 5

RIDE & HANDLING

The ride feels firm when it’s not loaded up and this means you tend to feel more bumps in  a Ducato than you do in rival vans. However, this firmness is good when you’re on twisty roads and the firm suspension minimises the body roll and you link corners together. The only downside is the interior noise at motorway speeds – it gets pretty tiring. Where the Ducato wins with its handling is its tight turning circle. It’s just 11 metres for the short wheelbase, which is much less than the short wheelbase VW Crafter, which has a 12.3m turning circle. This makes the Ducato really agile for its size. It also makes it the one of the easiest panel vans to reverse into compact spaces. 

Our rating: 3.5 out of 5

RUNNING COSTS

The Ducato has long 30,000-mile service interval and if you buy from new, it’s protected by a three-year/120,000-mile warranty. Fuel economy is ok but not brilliant at about 32mpg. It can be ordered with stop/start to help lower fuel consumption though. Basic van prices range from £18,795 to £29,695.

Our rating: 3.5 out of 5 

CARGO AREA

The Ducato offers the widest choice of cargo area sizes. This is because there are three wheelbases, four lengths and three different roof heights! There is also a Maxi version that comes with reinforced suspension and 16-inch wheels for those who will be carrying really heavy loads on a regular basis. No matter which cargo area you go for, there are eight fixing hooks in the shorter wheelbase models and twelve hooks in the long wheelbase version. The rear doors on all versions open to 90-degrees and to 180-degrees but you can order rear doors that open to a full 270-degrees as an option to sit flush with the side of the van.

Our rating: 5 out of 5

SAFETY

You get full size driver, passenger and sideairbags. ABS and ESP is standard and so is Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. You can buy Load Adaptive Control too, which works out where the load is placed in the van and adjusts the ESP system accordingly. Hill Holder holds the brake on for a small amount of time after the driver releases it to stop the van rolling backwards.

Our rating: 4 out of 5

EQUIPMENT

You can fit a tow bar, roof rack with ladder access and a reversing camera with drop-down screen mounted in the roof. 

Our rating: 3 out of 5

WHY BUY?

Because you want a workhorse that you can order to your business needs. There as so many older Ducatos on the road and this is because it’s an average all-rounder that does the job reasonably well at a reasonable purchase price. It’s certainly the best van out of the Relay and the Boxer but if you want more refinement go for VW’s Crafter or Mercedes-Benz’s Sprinter or wait for Ford’s new Transit to appear later in 2013.

Our rating: 3.5 out of 5