Fiat Ducato (2006 on)


2.3 litre 150bhp MWB

reviewed by honkytonkpiano on 7 April 2016
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With Fiat's Comfortmatic automatic transmission, this van is a delight to drive

My van is an Autocruise campervan conversion, so almost by definition I'm likely to be happy whenever I drive it. The Comfortmatic automatic transmission makes a huge difference to the ease of driving, and it appears to present virtually no penalty in mpg, as I typically get 31 - 33 mpg in a vehicle that is always fully loaded - literally everything including the kitchen sink! Unlike the stereotypical White Van Man I'm generally not in that much of a hurry, so the relaxed style suits me. However, I do cover long distances on holiday (Slovenia & Croatia, for example) and find that the seats are consistently comfortable. The suspension is necessarily somewhat agricultural by comparison with modern cars, and the Croatian side roads gave it quite a challenging work-out, but on smoother surfaces it glides along more like a coach than a load-lugger.

The automatic transmission consists essentially of an automated clutch mechanism bolted on to the 6-speed gearbox. The engine is therefore solidly coupled to the driving wheels and it operates just as an intelligent driver would. It changes gears relatively inconspicuously provided you don't expect slick formula one cog-swapping, as the change from 1st to 2nd can seem a bit pedestrian. This can be a real problem on hills, unless you select the hill-climb option which tells the system to hang on a bit long to the lower gears on the way up and on the way down. Even in normal drive mode it senses when you're going downhill and changes gear appropriately.

There is a fly in the ointment, however: hill starts. When you come to a halt, the van disengages the drive, and there is no "creep" to hold you against gravity as you find in a slush-pump automatic gearbox. Later models have a hill-start facility, but in mine you have to reach down for a handbrake positioned quite low and to the right of the driver's seat. When you want to move off, you have to balance the revs required to just slip the automatic clutch while coordinating the release of the handbrake. This really is the only downside - albeit a significant one - of Fiat's Comfortmatic transmission.

The 150bhp option chosen by the previous owner enables a welcome shove in the back to be delivered when overtaking cyclists and the like. The Blue&Me hands-free facility with voice recognition works well for receiving and making calls. The air conditioning is very effective. The electronics have given rise to concerns about their reliability, especially when it claimed we had travelled 2500 miles at an average speed of 2mph! Even I am not that slow...

On balance I regard my van as ideal for an elderly campervan/motorhome owner, but would suggest that manual transmission would be a less frustrating choice for a delivery driver.

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About this van

MPG30.4–44.1 mpg
Real MPG85.3%

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