Fiat Doblo (2015 - 2019) used car review

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

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Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

Buying a van-based small MPV like Fiat's Doblo has always been more about sense than style but the improved post-2015-era second generation version of this Italian five or seven-seat family-sized but still compact people carrier might surprise you with its sophistication.

Models

MPV (1.6 diesel / 1.4 petrol])

History

Cars aren't always aspirational. Sometimes, they're simply about getting the job done practically, affordably and efficiently. Van-based MPVs are a good example of this rather refreshingly uncomplicated approach to automotive design - models like this one, Fiat's Doblo. European buyers first saw it at the turn of the century - and a lot of them winced. Like Fiat's original Multipla people carrier, let's politely say that looks were not a strongpoint. But the Italians learn quickly. A smarter 2004 facelift was followed by a completely revised and, in its own way, rather smartly dressed second generation version, launched in 2010 and substantially updated early in 2015 to create the improved MK2 model Doblo we're looking at here as a potential used buy.

Like all other Doblo MPVs, this post-2015 model was still very much based on a van - Fiat's Doblo Cargo - and as ever, the idea was to make this very affordable 5 or 7-seat family package feel as much like a pricey purpose-designed trendy People Carrier as possible. So there were smoother looks clothing more sophisticated suspension, plus more powerfully efficient engines and a smarter cabin. The overall result still shouted 'sensible' - but didn't say it quite as loudly.

Which was important, given the way that back in 2015, this market segment was leaning. Newer compact MPV entrants like the Ford Tourneo Connect models were showing that buyers in this segment were often prepared to sacrifice a touch of practicality if the end result could be slightly less utilitarian. Ideally though, sensibly-minded family buyers wanted both things from a car of this kind - class leading space from a vehicle that wouldn't cause embarrassment on the school run. That's what Fiat tried to deliver here - there was even an SUV-style 'Trekking' variant; plus high-roofed versions of standard models could be had, making this Doblo popular for wheelchair motability conversions. But none of it was quite enough and UK Doblo sales ended in 2019. A third generation Doblo, a shared Stellantis Group design, arrived in 2022, but it wasn't offered to UK buyers in MPV form, only as a van.

What You Get

Even the most practical people like to dress smartly, something Fiat's stylists forgot when bringing us the quirky original MK1 version of this car in 2000. Still, they subsequently redeemed themselves somewhat, with proof of that provided by the restyled looks of this much improved post-2015-era version of the second generation design (a car first seen in 2010). Yes, in this post-2105 guise this MPV was still boxy: to be class-leadingly practical, it had to be. But thanks to a more curvaceous shape, complete with a trendy 'floating' roof and a large side glazed area, it was no longer an MPV you'd park up with a twinge of embarrassment.

Most of the 2015-era MK2 model updates were to be found at the front, where the design team added distinctive headlamps that sat below a more richly sculpted bonnet and swept into a more boldly-fashioned front grille, complete with its proud, retro-style brand logo.

On 5-seater models out back, the boot offers a segment-leading 790-litres. On top of that, the space is pretty flexible too. Take the neat height-adjustable parcel shelf, which unfortunately was originally optional on most models. It can either hide what was in the luggage compartment in the usual way, or be dropped to a lowered position. In this mode, it's capable of supporting up to 70kg - so the family dog doesn't need to be lumped in with your shopping and graze through it happily all the way home. And if you fold - and maybe also tumble forward - the second row seats, then that same parcel shelf can help you create a completely flat loading area. This can be vast, particularly if you go to the next stage and remove each of the second row seats completely. You'll need to be strong of back and have somewhere to store them but if that's no problem, then you'll end up creating a removal vehicle-style capacity of 3,200-litres.

At the wheel, a smart centre console and switchgear shared with other pricier Fiats means that though the emphasis is on tough durability, you don't feel too hard done by. Front seat folk then, are well looked after. But how will the family fare further back? It's space you access via extra-large sliding doors, so there's no need to worry about the kids denting adjacent cars as they spring out when you're tightly parked at the supermarket. Once inside, a class-leadingly long 2.75m wheelbase means that there's space for three adults in the back for short-to-medium journeys, provided they're on reasonably friendly terms.

It certainly feels big in the second row - large enough in fact to house more than three rear seats. Fiat's designers thought that too, hence the 'Family Pack' option of a pair of folding occasional-use extra seats that clip into the cargo area and play a big part in creating the thirty potential seating configurations you can potentially have in this car.

What You Pay

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What to Look For

The MK2 Doblo Cargo was on sale a long time so its issues are well documented. Look out for slow starting, tapping from the engine bay and dark smoke from the exhaust. We've heard reports of complete electrical malfunctions, one owner had a bumping sound from the rear, while another experienced sudden overheating. Still another reported a knocking noise from the wheels and it's common to have issues with central locking not unlocking the rear doors. On the test drive, look out for wandering through the steering and a bumping noise on cornering - which may or may not be from the suspension which in some instances makes horrible knocking noises over bumps. There were lots of complaints about the gearbox, so check that out on your drive. And a broken throttle is a common. The headlamps fail rather often too. And we had one owner point out that the heating doesn't always work from cold.

Having said all that, build quality is actually quite stout and most of the problems are minor things rather than issues of basic unreliability. Plus you're not paying a huge amount in the first place. As usual with a family MPV, check for crash damage, uneven tyre wear, kerbed alloys, parking dents, ripped or discoloured upholstery and make sure the electrical features such as the infotainment screens work as expected. Be suspicious of models fitted with Fiat's Dualogic' semi-automatic transmission, a set-up having often proved to be less than reliable.

Replacement Parts

(approx based on a 2017 Doblo 1.6 JTD Multijet diesel - Ex Vat) An air filter is around £12. An oil filter is around £3-£4. A fuel filter is around £9. Front brake pads are in the £18-£22 bracket. Front brake discs are in the £43-£86. Wiper blades are in the £2-£8 bracket. A starter motor sits in the £93 bracket. An alternator is in the £138-£256 bracket.

On the Road

By 2015, much had changed since those early Doblo days. The MK2 model of 2010 introduced a segment-exclusive bi-link independent rear suspension set-up complete with dual-rate shock absorbers, high-performance springs and a rear anti-roll bar, all tuned for the ideal combination of ride and handling. It was, in other words, more sophisticated under the skin than many more expensive, more car-like, Scenic or C-MAX-style compact MPVs.

In 2015, with this updated second generation model, Fiat chose to update this recipe with improvements like a lighter, more precise gearchange, a more responsive throttle pedal and better noise insulation. For us, the improved refinement was the most noticeable improved attribute. It's probably the thing that does most to make this vehicle feel more like a car and less like a van. The bi-link independent suspension set-up does its bit in this regard too, pretty much delivering on its promises of a comfortable and forgiving ride. It's certainly no worse than that of many far pricier compact people carriers from this era and considering the high centre of gravity and relatively skinny tyres, body roll is well controlled and grip quite reasonable too.

On to engines: there are two, a 95bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit you'd only buy if you were Doblo dealing on a budget and the 1.6-litre Multijet diesel powerplant that almost everyone else would rather have. Here, 290Nm of torque propels you down the road as quickly as you'd really want to go and in 105bhp six-speed manual gearbox form, 62mph from rest occupies a reasonable 13.4s on the way to the rather modest 102mph maximum that's restricted no doubt by this Doblo's barn door aerodynamics. This unit was also offered in 90 and 120hp guises. Either way, there's overtaking punch throughout the rev range that'll surprise more than a few of your fellow motorists, plus laid-back flexibility around town that you can enhance further on this 1.6 by opting for a model equipped with Fiat's automated 5-speed 'Dualogic' semi-automatic transmission.

Overall

By 2015, more than a million Doblos had been sold since the turn of the century and after a few days with this sensible five or seven-seater, you can begin to understand why it enjoyed European success in its first and second generation forms. Earlier MK1 versions of this car sold on practicality alone: they were cheap, practical - and not a lot else. In this more recent MK2 guise though, this Fiat's curvy boxiness hid a remarkable amount of sophistication, especially in this post-2015-era form.

If that's enough to convince you to try this car, then you might conceivably find that its practical charms will grow on you. Fiat claims to understand families. And after driving this one, you might be inclined to believe them.

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