Efficient engines and high payloads but an aging design
- Stylish and versatile
- Excellent engine range
- Wide choice of variants available
- Great payload
- Uncomfortable seats
- Cluttered dashboard design
- One of the oldest vans on sale
- Comfort-Matic auto isn't great
The Fiat Ducato has been in production since 1981 and it’s now in its sixth iteration, following a facelift and a series of updates in 2014. It shares its design with the popular Citroen Relay and Peugeot Boxer but gets its own range of engines.
Although there are minor differences between the three vans, the basic architecture is the same and it’s an extremely capable machine.
There are further upgrades for the Ducato in 2019 in what's being called the MY20 update - a refresh that includes new engines, a new nine-speed automatic transmission and new safety tech. We'll be driving this version very soon, but you can read the first details in our new story by clicking here.
What's more, Fiat has now announced that the Ducato will become its first ever electric van when the Fiat Ducato Electric goes on sale in 2020; pre-orders are due to open before the end of 2019. Technical details are scant at this stage but you can read more details by clicking here.
To find out more, read on for the full Fiat Ducato review.
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Fiat has done away with the three engines installed in the pre-2011 Ducato, favouring four power outputs from two engine capacities in the new model. Each is Euro5+ emissions compliant, with lower CO2 emissions than the version it replaces.
There’s a 2.3-litre diesel available with 109, 128 or 148hp or a potent 3.0-litre diesel with 177hp. Torque is rated at 300, 320, 350 or 400Nm respectively. Both the 2.3 and 3.0-litre units impress on the road, pulling well while remaining quiet and refined.
The 2.3-litre engine is available with stop/start, which is claimed to reduce fuel consumption considerably around town.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, while all engines apart from the 109hp version can be had with a six-speed ‘Comfort-Matic’ automatic gearbox. This is actually a manual gearbox which has been converted to an auto, with the effect of reducing fuel consumption in easy-to-drive automatic mode while retaining the flexibility of manual operation where required. However, it is a bit on the slow side to change gear.
Although a large van, the Ducato is easy to manoeuvre and park. The turning circle is 11m for the short wheelbase version, 12.46m for medium and 14.28m for long wheelbase models. Compared to a short wheelbase VW Crafter, which has a 12.3m turning circle, the Ducato is an agile machine.
Driving the Ducato is a fairly pleasant experience thanks to its quiet, refined road manners. There’s a six-way adjustable driver’s seat, moveable arm rest and an adjustable steering wheel with audio controls. Air-conditioning and, from 2014, Bluetooth are both standard.
The 2014 updates also saw the addition of larger cupholders and the choice of either a centre console with USB/aux-in ports or a covered storage compartment. Furthermore, the clipboard holder on top of the dashboard has been redesigned to accommodate smarphones and tablets. Top ‘Tecnico’ models feature a touchscreen sat-nav and multimedia system with DAB radio and a reversing camera display.
For passengers there’s the option of a two-seat bench (the middle seat can be folded flat as a table) or a single seat. Each seat has storage compartments underneath.
Door storage includes a bottle holder, a space for the tyre repair kit and smaller mid-height pockets.
The first thing to note is that each of the engines available on the Ducato is more efficient, which means both tax and fuel costs are lower and range is longer. A gear shift indicator, which tells drivers the optimum moment to change up or down to save fuel, is standard from 2014.
Fiat has stretched the service intervals out to 30,000 miles which also helps drive costs down. The warranty is a two-year unlimited mileage deal followed by a third-year parts and labour dealer warranty up to 120,000 miles.
Fiat Ducato running costs have also improved from 2014 onwards thanks to brake and clutch components, hinges and seals being designed to last longer for lower service and repair costs.
From 2014 Fiat Ducato reliability should be better than ever thanks to uprated clutch, front suspension components and brakes. The new three-piece bumper design is cheaper to replace than before and access to the engine bay is easier, meaning reduced maintenance time.
The number of older Ducatos on the road shows there hasn’t been much in the way of problems in the past, and technology shared with the PSA group of the companies should prevent many headaches.
Fiat Ducato safety has been improved for 2014, with all models getting ESC (Electronic Stability Control) as standard which includes Load Adaptive Control, which works out where the load is placed in the van and adjusts the stability system accordingly.
A driver’s airbag is standard, and you can order side, over window and passenger airbags as an option. ABS is standard and so is Electronic Brakeforce Distribution. There’s also the optional Traction+ system, which uses the Ducato’s electronic stability programme (ESP) to cut down wheelspin on slippery surfaces. This system is operated by a dash-mounted button.
Hill Holder, a system which holds the brake on for a small amount of time after the driver releases it to stop the van rolling backwards down a hill, is standard.
Traffic Sign Recognition, which displays warnings and speed limits on the instrument panel, and Lane Departure Warning, which sounds a very loud (and annoying) alarm if you cross a white line without indicating, are both new for 2014.