Fiat's Scudo van is a spacious mid-sized LCV contender that now has efficient Euro5 engine technology. Jonathan Crouch reports
Ten Second Review
If your business is trying to decide between an affordable compact-sized van and a spacious larger one, Fiat's Scudo could prove to be the perfect compromise between the two. It's as spacious as most users will ever need, yet affordable, both to buy and to run. Transit-class buyers need to consider it.
Fiat's LCV sales have been growing steadily over the last decade thanks to a vast investment in new product which now sees its Professional van line-up offer businesses everything from a 1.0m3 Punto van to a 17m3 Ducato. The Transit-sized Scudo model we're looking at here lies somewhere in the middle of this little lot and claims to offer all the benefits of a very large van with the affordable running costs of quite a small one. This generation model is significantly larger than the one it replaced, big enough in fact to compete with a whole new army of larger rivals. Not only the Transit but also tough competitors like Volkswagen's Transporter, Vauxhall's Vivaro, Renault's Trafic and Mercedes' Vito. Taking on this lot isn't something you'd want to do single-handed, so the Italian brand has chosen to share this design with both Citroen and Peugeot, whose Dispatch and Expert models are pretty much identical. You get clever design, proven engines and low running costs in a package that certainly works on paper. Whether it'll cut the mustard day-in-day-out though is what we're here to find out.
Vans have been becoming more and more car-like in recent years - and this one is no exception. The driving position, though not as high-set as you'd find in the marque's larger Ducato model, is nonetheless commanding. And it's comfortable on the move, coping admirably with the atrocious surfaces offered up by poorer sections of the British road network. That relaxed approach also extends to the power steering, electrohydraulically-assisted in the more powerful versions, which at speed, could offer a bit more feel. On the open road, refinement depends a great deal on whether you've specified a full-height bulkhead - or at the very least, specified ply-lining for the load area. As with any van, if you've done neither, then a set of ear plugs will be a boon on a long trip. If you've specified a Standard roof version, then it's worth going for the innovative pneumatic suspension option, able to lower its ride height to just 1.9m, giving this Sudo access to underground and multi-storey carparks normally inaccessible to LCVs of this class. Engine choice in a Scudo is pretty straightforward, provided you've a clear idea of the kind of work you want it to do. Sensibly, all the units on offer are diesels and if your needs are mainly based around lighter loads and short distance urban work, then the entry-level 90bhp 1.6-litre Multijet with its 180Nm of torque will be quite sufficient. For heavier payloads and longer journeys however, you'll be needing the 2.0-litre Multijet model which also gives you a 6-speed gearbox in space of the 1.6's 5-speeder. The 120bhp version is quite sufficient, offering a full 300Nm of torque, quite enough to handle haul a braked trailer grossing at up to 2,000kg. If you do feel the need for more power, then there's also a 163bhp Euro5-compatible version of the same unit on offer boasting 340Nm.
Design and Build
An advantage this Scudo offers over Fiat's smaller Doblo is the standard fitment of a properly sized middle third seat. To free up space for this and make it easier for the driver to slide over to the passenger side of the cab, the gearstick has been taken from the floor and mounted on a protruding moulding in the centre of the dash. It still rather gets in the way if you're trying to slide across the cab and limits the middle person's legroom. Still, the third seat is useful to have - and quite adequate for mates on short journeys or kids you might have to drop off on the way to work. If not required, you can place an order for a single passenger seat version. Those who've to spend their working lives in a cab like this will want to see some evidence of care and attention on the part of the designers and sure enough, this Scudo provides it. The usual shallow bin you get in each door has a moulding designed for a soft drinks can or a small bottle of water, plus there are pull-out cupholders at either end of the dashboard. You can even put drinks on the inside of the lockable glovebox lid, though only if there's no one sitting in front of it to have their knees bashed as it opens. Other storage includes a deep, strangely-sized bin on the top of the dash on the passenger side, cubbies in each corner, a shelf beneath the steering column, a tray beneath the passenger seat and a full-width overhead shelf.
Market and Model
Under the bonnet, most customers choose the 120bhp 2.0-litre Multijet diesel, rather than the entry-level 90bhp 1.6, but Fiat expects an increasing number of businesses to now look at this Euro5-compatible 163bhp 2.0-litre Multijet diesel model. Its extra pulling power is certainly very useful over fully-laden longer trips. All models come with a reasonable spec that runs to twin sliding doors, electric windows, central locking, a decent quality CD stereo with steering wheel controls and a 12-volt powerpoint. The 2.0 litre Euro 5 versions also come with manual air-conditioning, ESP stability control and heated electric wing mirrors as standard equipment. Model-wise, there are two load lengths and two roof heights which you'll choose between to suit the bodystyle you've chosen. Apart from this conventional van or a platform cab, passenger carriers can select from two Commercial Passenger Vehicle variants, a Combi model with between 6 and 9 seats depending on your needs and a more car-like 5 or 8-seater Panorama model. Whatever your choice, payload options of 1,000kg and 1,200kg for van models ensure that the Scudo can cope with a wide variety of weight.
Practicalities and Costs
Looking back, it seems strange to think now that the original Scudo model thought itself big with only 4.0m3 of carriage space to offer, a figure now routinely matched and beaten by many compact little vans. This second generation version is of course, much better provided for, offering from 5.0m3 (if you go for the short wheelbase standard roof version) rising to 6.0m3 if you choose the long wheelbase standard roof model, before culminating at 7.0m3 for those favouring the long wheelbase High Roof version. That latter figure is only 1.0m3 less than Fiat's entry-level Ducato model from the next class up. So far so good: let's check the practicality. A lifting tailgate is an option on the Combi versions and standard on the Panorama, but all vans come with the standard conventional twin side-hinged rear doors I've got here that, as usual, open initially to 90-degrees or back to 180-degrees if you unlock the door stays. Heaving weighty cargo aboard is made easier by a low rear loading sill height that's normally 562mm but with pneumatic suspension fitted, can be as little as 490mm. It also helps that a rear door aperture of 1273mm in width and 1272mm in height (or 1630mm in High Roof guise) should enable you to get most loads in quite easily. And running costs? Well, you can expect to average combined fuel consumption at between 37 and 39mpg, depending on the engine you choose and the type of journeys you're on. To reduce NOx emissions, all the engines on offer are fitted with an Exhaust Gas Recirculation system, one reason why CO2 returns are especially class-competitive, particularly if you go for this Euro5 2.0 Multijet 163bhp model, where they vary between 181 and 185g/km. Service intervals are set at 18,000 miles, insurance groups are 6-8 and there's a 3 year, 120,000 mile warranty, with no mileage limit in the first two years.
There's no doubt that this generation Scudo has what it takes to offer an attractive alternative to the Transits, Vivaros and Trafics of this world, but whether you'd want one over its Citroen and Peugeot design stablemates will depend as usual much upon the deal that you're offered and the proximity and convenience of your local franchise. Which is where Fiat reckons it has an advantage. An increasing part of the company's dealer network is open 24 hours a day for service and repair work to minimise business downtime and even those that aren't, usually feature flexible and extended opening hours. If you're running a business on tight margins, that's the kind of support you're going to need. Added to the excellence of this Scudo, it could just make for a very attractive business proposition indeed.