There’s one aspect of large vans that continues basically unchanged across the generations, the rectangular shaped box of varying dimensions that comprises up to three-quarters of the vehicle. Clearly the simple reason is that this shape maximises the cargo carrying volume which is obviously the primary purpose for this type of vehicle.
Thankfully though, the front triangular shaped section is fair game for being freshened up every so often which means the front-end styling and interior of vans receive much the same upgrades as regular passenger vehicles.
This is certainly the case with the latest Fiat Ducato which sports a stylish, contemporary face complete with swept back headlight assemblies with the option of up-to-the-minute LED daytime running lights. It’s the sort of vehicle most delivery van drivers would be proud to park in their driveways.
The steeply raked angle of the bonnet and windscreen along with the smoothly contoured and curved front bumper provide optimum aerodynamics for a van of this size.
The Ducato van range spans five configurations comprising two roof heights, three wheelbases and four body lengths. Wheelbases range from 3,000mm to 4,035mm with gross vehicle masses (GVM) from 3,510kg to 4,250kg and payload capacities from 1,525kg to 2,145kg.
Power comes from a 2.3 litre electronically controlled common-rail diesel engine with a variable-geometry turbocharger (VGT) and intercooler. In the short wheelbase (SWB) version the 150 MultiJet 2 unit is tuned to produce 110kW at 3,600rpm and 380Nm of torque at 1,500rpm, while the four larger variants receive the 180 MultiJet 2 with higher ratings of 130kW at 3,500rpm and 400Nm at 1,500rpm. Importantly, both versions are Euro 6 exhaust emissions compliant.
All except the largest extra-long wheelbase (XLWB) unit come standard with a six-speed manual transmission. The XLWB, which features in this test, sports Fiat’s excellent six-speed Comfort-Matic automated manual transmission (AMT) as standard fitment. This is optionally available on the four smaller variants and likewise the manual unit is an option on the XLWB.
The Ducato is front wheel drive and the front suspension is independent with MacPherson struts and an anti-roll bar while, at the rear, resides a rigid beam axle supported by parabolic leaf springs.
Standard wheels are steel 15inch items on the SWB and 16inch on the others with respective tyre sizes of 215/70 R15C and 225/75 R16C. Optionally available across the range are stylish 15inch (SWB) and 16inch alloys.
By large van standards each of the Ducato variants have relatively compact kerb-to-kerb turning circles ranging from 11.4m with the SWB to 14.4m with the XLWB.
All versions can be fitted with a Hayman Reese towbar rated to haul a braked trailer with a gross mass of up to 2,500kg.
Another optional exterior feature well worth considering is a reversing camera cleverly incorporated into the high-mount centre brake light. In addition to normal operation when reverse is selected, the camera also operates when the side and rear doors are opened, enabling the driver to monitor loading or unloading procedures from the comfort of the cab. Smart.
In the driver’s domain creature comforts abound with the centre piece being a five-inch colour ‘Uconnect’ infotainment screen featuring radio, CD player and phone connectivity via Bluetooth. The multi-function screen also displays optional equipment such as the views from the reversing camera and satellite navigation.
While there are standard audio and phone operation switches on the steering wheel, the system can be optionally equipped with voice recognition to make managing phone calls and SMS messages on the fly safer and easier. There are two USB ports an AUX input and a 12v charging socket as standard.
Multiple mug and bottle holders below the dash and in the substantial door pockets should satisfy the most hard-core caffeine junky while a hinged lid in the dash centre opens to reveal a handy drink or food storage compartment that’s cooled by the air conditioning. Beside this sits a dedicated mobile phone tray while below is an open storage compartment. There’s also a ginormous full width shelf above the windscreen that is standard with the four larger variants but not available on the SWB.
Seating consists of a supportive height-adjustable driver’s chair with a left arm rest along with a two-person bench where both positions have lap/ sash seatbelts. The centre position seat back houses a fold down tray complete with document holding clip.
Standard comfort and convenience features include rear parking sensors, cruise control, air conditioning, power steering, load compartment roof light, heat reflecting power windows, electrically adjustable and heated exterior mirrors, heated rear window, remote central locking, height adjustable driver’s seat and axially adjustable steering column.