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The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: Fiat Doblo

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

An Irrelevant look at a certain car.

Fiat Doblo. 2005-2009

What’s boxy, rather wild on the limit, has to be driven enthusiastically and comes from Italy?

No, not an Abarth something or other, we are talking about the Fiat Doblo van. A van that, despite its looks, won the 2006 “International Van of the Year” Admittedly that award came some six years after its launch with a facelift and like the Doblo, it’s a grower, not a shower, so eventually it gets there. 

Shame about the facelift really because the 2000-2005 model had quite a nice purpose built front to it. And model maker Norev thought so too and made a nice 1/24th scale model of it that until recently, you could buy from Home Bargains for just £2.99 Probably not one of Norev’s greatest achievements because their models often retail for around six times that price.

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And so to the real van, and what a van and how very Fiat with some of Fiat’s idiosyncrasies missing. Namely, the rubbery gearshift that afflicted Fiats for so long. The gear shift in the Doblo, mounted high up on the dashboard, was within a flick from the steering wheel and selected gears as good as any race-bred machine from sister company, down the road in Maranello.

And things got better with the engine. The lively FIRE (Fully Integrated Robotised Engine) 1.4 petrol was an absolute peach. It developed 76hp and my word, it feels like it has more. It’s 5 star award is its eagerness to please like a dog that has just thrown up your dinner that it stole from the coffee table. 

And then things get even better for Dobby the Doblo. The handling is quite remarkable and highly entertaining, boarding on crazy, dangerous and downright outrageously good fun. You see, the rear end has a solid axle, suspended with some of those old fashioned leaf springs. What it would appear had been forgotten by the development team, was to soften it for the passenger carrying variety of the Doblo. Instead, it retained the stiff setup from the van. It made it highly entertaining.

The bad thing about the Doblo, though thankfully still keeping with Fiat tradition, was the driving position. It’s not so much a position but a torture, especially for your ankles. Thankfully, your feet don’t rest for too long so they are always moving around. That enthusiastic buzz getting the better of you. 

It’s no sports car and yet it thinks it is. And with that facelift, it moves it from an ugly car to a good car.  

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