Sizing up Fiat
Fiat took its first step into the commercial vehicle sector in 1903. Since then, the Fiat Professional arm has become an increasingly important part of the Group. JACO DE KLERK takes a look at the company’s new offerings …
With the introduction of the new Fiat Fiorino – which made its South African debut on June 12 at The Forum in Bryanston – the Fiat Professional range now comprises three model lines, including the recently upgraded Doblo Cargo and Ducato ranges.
“Fiat Professional is a major contender in the European market and has been awarded numerous international prizes by panels of trade journalists,” says Craig Westray, general manager of marketing and communication at Fiat Group Automobiles South Africa. “We are pleased to have an exciting new line-up on offer here in South Africa.”
These vehicles are currently produced in eight plants across the world and wholly imported into the country. Though South Africa hasn’t traditionally adopted the same commercial vehicle solutions as Europe, favouring bakkies over panel van alternatives, Fiat Professional is hoping to change consumers’ attitudes and perceptions.
“In South Africa, we have a tradition of looking to bakkies for our business requirements,” explains Westray. “However, the advantages of panel vans are far greater – something we hope to demonstrate to local customers.”
The company aims to go head-to-head against the country’s traditional three-quarter-tonne bakkies with its new Fiorino panel van, stating that the latter offers greater versatility, comfort and safety than the former.
This vehicle is the most compact model in the Fiat Professional range thus far, with a length of 3,86 m and load volume of 2,5 m3. Thanks to the stowability of the passenger seat, the load volume can be increased to 2,8 m3, providing a loading length of 2,5 m.
The Fiorino offers ample loading capacity for its size, but the compactness of the vehicle is a bit nip for its driver. I’m an average sized person, and while the seats were comfortable enough, the gear lever casing kept getting in the way of my left knee.
The side mirrors are also positioned at a peculiar angle, as evidenced during the test drive as one person read the route’s directions while another drove. The “map” obscured the left-hand-mirror when the passenger held it at a comfortable height. Despite these little irritants, the vehicle handled better than expected, especially as it is designed to transport goods.
A sliding side door comes standard on the 1,3-litre diesel and is available as an optional extra on the 1,4-litre petrol model. Both derivatives can be fitted with a second sliding side door, adding to the practicality of the vehicle by allowing one to easily access goods in the load bay no matter where they are loaded. This is a definite advantage over, for example, a bakkie fitted with a canopy – where one would not be able to access items loaded first or at the rear of the bay.
The 1,4 model produces 54 kW at 5 200 r/min, offering a maximum torque of 118 Nm at 2 600 r/min. According to Fiat Professional, the vehicle’s multipoint sequential phased electronic injection system ensures that performance comes at no sacrifice to fuel consumption, with the 1360 cc engine delivering a figure of 6,4 l/100 km.
This vehicle has spunk, but struggles a bit up hills – which might be of some concern, as we tested the vehicle unladen. However, the gears switched very smoothly and the Fiorino ran very quietly, so much so that at times I thought the van had died when it came to a halt.
The 1,3 unit wasn’t as silent, which is to be expected. This derivative uses Fiat’s electronically controlled common rail Multijet direct injection system with turbo and intercooler, which offers 55 kW at 4 000 r/min with a torque peak of 190 Nm at 1 500 r/min. It delivers 4,6 l/100 km, which is reduced to 3,9 l/100 km on the open road, and emits a mere 123 g of CO2 per kilometre.
This model has recommended service intervals of one-year/20 000 km for both petrol and diesel units and is supplied with a three-year/100 000 km warranty, with optional service plans as required. The 1,4-litre is priced at R129 000 and the 1,3-litre at R149 900, which is R10 000 less than the cheapest derivative of its larger sibling – the Doblo Cargo.
This model is available in three different engine variants: a 1,4-litre petrol, and a 1,3 and 1,6 diesel. The 1,4 – priced at R159 900 – and the 1,3 Multijet – R174 000 – are offered in short wheelbase guise, while the 1,6 Multijet Maxi, at R202 000, offers added space and versatility thanks to its long wheelbase configuration. The two shorter units can each take a 750 kg load, but can be upgraded to accommodate one tonne – which is the standard capacity for the Maxi model.
All models in the Doblo range have a standard three-year/100 000 km warranty and a four-year/60 000 km service plan.
Completing the Fiat Professional range is the Fiat Ducato, a contender in its segment for over 30 years. The company has, however, added the CH1, CH2 and MH2 to the model range, which don’t require the driver to have a commercial driver’s licence. These derivatives, with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of either 3,3 or 3,5 tonnes, can be driven by anyone with a code 8 (EB) licence.
The model range is powered by a 16-valve Multijet Common Rail diesel engine, with electronic high pressure injection, and has 45 000 km service intervals, with oil changes needed every 22 500 km. Its price ranges from R257 250 to R267 350, depending on the unit.
Fiat also does conversions on the Ducato, including drop sides, taxis, campers and ambulances – making this model the second van in South Africa that can be converted into an ambulance that can be driven by someone with a Code 8 driver’s licence.
“Fiat Professional encompasses a wide range of products able to meet the most diverse mobility and transport needs,” says Westray. “With the introduction of the new Doblo earlier this year, the introduction of the now, Fiorino and the upgrade of the Ducato line, Fiat Professional has been completely renewed to ensure a leading-edge offering for business owners.”