Fiat has already a long and illustrious tradition in making compact space cars, right down from the first Fiat Multipla, where the Torinese engineers performed unsurpassed space miracles on the small platform of the Fiat Seicento. Well, the good tradition continues with this Dobló. It fills your (holiday) heart with joy: it is comfortable, powerful, frugal, and, indeed, roomy if not cavernous...
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Italian style and refinement...
The new Dobló received a styling makeover which in our eyes is literally "just right". Especially the front end is very well proportioned with a broad horizontal grille which balances out very nicely the taller silhouette of the Dobló, and gives it a more upmarket character which moves it definitely away from any utilitarian reminiscences.
The materials used in the cabin also evoke more refinement. Other details like the instrumentation, the styling treatment of the various curved surfaces, all this shows the vast experience of the Italian engineers in the art of styling and car design.
Overall, the Dobló remains very well proportioned, and what it has in store for the owner as a bonus is masses of room.
Not only to seat five with ample elbow room, but also to house vast amounts of luggage. Even with the rear seat up in the normal position, there is an impressive 790 litres available for that special freight. When you put the seats down, the volume increases to 3200 litres…
We put the Dobló to very good use for moving the odd table fridge and a complete library of books from our Paris apartment to our holiday home in the French Midi, as our Parisian dwelling is now let out for a longer term. (see photo below)
Creature comfort and infotainment
Besides luggage space, there is also plenty of room for drink bottles, cups, smart phones and players and of course a 12 Volts socket for your electrical freeze box in the luggage compartment.
In the hot summer air, the smooth functioning airco system with dual level auto modes contributed greatly to the well being for driver and passengers.
So did the excellent sound system, which hooked up in a breeze to your IPhone via the USB connection, to play your favourite Jazz tracks from your ITunes music collection. But there is even more. The sound system in our test car also featured DAB, which delivered crystal clear reception, so classical chamber music was also to be enjoyed within the roomy cabin of our Dobló.
And the fun did not stop there either. The FM reception is also crisp, and the autotune tracking function allows you to "keep" your favourite station throughout your long voyage, as it changes the FM frequency automatically so you can continue to receive your station with optimal reception quality. A boon, certainly in mountainous areas.
If you want to listen to your favourite podcast from your MP3 player, there is an "aux"function adjacent to the USB inlet. Connecting our IPhone via Bluetooth was therefore also the proverbial piece of cake.
The navigation system is developed together with TomTom, and this guarantees practicality, ease of use and accuracy. It also indicates the speed limits you find on your way, which is so useful, as the French are no exception amongst our 'civilized' EU nations to put up the most treacherous speed traps.
Performance and economy
The new Dobló is also a car which has genuine Gran Turismo
pretentions. Our test car was equipped with the impressive 1,6 litre 105 HP Multijet II Euro 5+ Diesel, which chalks up excellent performance and combines it with good smoothness and frugality. Indeed, the unit fits very well in the Dobló chassis, and is vibrationless in every respect, even when pulling at very low revs, say 1200 rpm.
Mated to an easy shifting six speed gearbox with just the "right" gearing, it is delightful in giving the Dobló swift and lively progress, even when fully laden and/or in mountainous terrain. We say the "right" gearing because third gear lets you potter along nicely at 1300 rpm at 30 km/h, which is getting more and more the legal speed limit in urban areas. It will accelerate swiftly from this speed and in this gear, no need for any downchanges here. Boulevard cruising at 50 km/h is ideal for fourth gear, with also plenty of power to spare.
The good torque of not less than 290 Nm at 1500 rpm and lively pulling power in any gear makes the Dobló very entertaining to drive with spirit over curvy roads, even or rather especially in hilly areas. The long sixth gear in turn then transforms the Dobló in a very good motorway cruiser. Having said this, this sixth gear is very useable at any speed beyond 65 km/h, and delivers swift accelerations.
Of course, the gearing is well suited to allow the Dobló, even under full load, to master long motorway hills at the 130 km/h cruising speed with the engine, turning at 2500 rpm, delivering ample torque and pulling power.
Thanks to the smooth cruise control, driving long distances is an unspoilt pleasure, the comfortable roominess and width of the cabin, which allows you to choose an ideal relaxed position behind the wheel for those long journeys.
We drove the Dobló to the Côte d'Azur with great joy, as also the accompanying photos show...
The 105 HP propel the Dobló to a top speed of 164 km/h. This is even superior to the performance which a 1954 Lancia Aurelia, the car which "invented" the Gran Turismo concept, just to put everything in perspective...
And then we have said nothing about the frugality of the Dobló. It is easy to achieve figures below 5 litres when driven with some moderation and anticipation, and even motorway journey's at high cruising speeds will only set you back a mere 5,5 litres per 100 km.
Comfortable and agile
The good seating position does of course not tell the whole story. The Fiat engineers are also masters when it comes to setting up a good suspension, certainly for more compact cars. No small feat here, as this suspension has to accommodate important extra loads, given the character of the car. Merit for this goes also to the Bi-link rear suspension – an exclusive for the model – which forms an independent wheel layout, with anti-roll bar, dual setting rear shock absorbers (in extension and rebound for better handling, comfort, rolling and stability) and high-performance springs.
The Dobló can load an impressive 335 kg, even up to 425 kg in the long wheelbase version. Even when unladen, the Dobló is comfortable, smooth, and yet very stable and agile. Despite its dimensions it steers wonderfully nimble and precise, and it comfortable suspension absorbs the nastiest potholes which the winter-ridden Départementales might have in store for you.
It does not lose this agility when loaded, and remains very entertaining to drive.
Everyday practical comfort is of course also one of the hallmarks of this Doblo. The rear lid opens wide and offers a completely flat loading floor, no annoying ridge which makes loading heavier things cumbersome. Also the side sliding doors open and shut without undue effort.
The New Doblò brings also the most advanced electronic stability control systems, including ABS with EBD electronic braking correction system, ESC complete with ASR (Anti Slip Regulation), HBA (Hydraulic Brake Assist) and Hill-Holder to assist with hill starts. The safety-related equipment of the new range is completed by front and front side air bags (side bags providing head and torso protection are available on demand), and last but not least a tyre inflation pressure monitoring system.
When you are looking for a compact, frugal and well performing car, which is immensely practical, offering impressive luggage space whilst being a lively performer which is a pleasure to use everyday, then this Dobló is the car for you.
Its facelift is "just right" in terms of styling, and the character of the car has definitely moved away from being merely a utilitarian and practical luggage and people hauler. It is fun to drive in town as well as on long motorway journeys, offering creature comfort, excellent connectivity and audio entertainment.
Just drive it, the joys of space travel are yours...
Hans Knol ten Bensel