The Fiat Ducato – Compromising Utility and Usability
The Fiat Ducato has been produced since 1981, and the platform has been rebadged under several names, including Peugeot, Alfa Romeo, and Citroen. It’s classified as a light commercial vehicle, and might be compared to something like a Transit van.
Surprisingly, the platform itself has been used as a foundation for several European motor homes, making this a very vestal chassis. The first Ducato came out in 1981 with more of a traditional van layout, and production has continued until modern times, with each generation undergoing significant updates and improvements to meet buyer demand.
Historically, the Fiat Ducato has been available in several countries, but never made it to the United States. In 2013, the Chrysler / Dodge company introduced it to their Ram line as the ProMaster model, finally bringing it to the US market. To meet American demand for bigger engines, it was updated with a 3.6 liter gasoline V6 engine, among other options (including a diesel engine).
The actual Fiat Ducato is marketed as a panel van. It’s aimed to be a direct competitor to similar vehicles, such as the Mercedes Sprinter and the Ford Transit Van. Part of the selling point of this particular vehicle is fuel economy, offering nearly 46 miles per gallon – something quite rare from a van boasting this much cargo capacity. A few compromises have been made in order to facilitate these numbers, including low rolling resistance tires, which have a few drawbacks in terms of traction when compared to traditional tires.
The utilitarian capability of the Ducato is maximized through careful engineering. Open the back doors, and you can stuff 17 cubic meters of cargo in the back, weighing up to 9,300 pounds. Of course, don’t expect to get those same impressive miles per gallon figures with that much cargo. Plus, that capacity is only available alongside upgraded engine options, which also reduce your maximum mileage potential.
To help meet these efficiency figures, you probably won’t end up with an automatic. Most common is the 6 speed manual gearbox, so it’s not ideal for those opposed to driving a stick shift all day. If you get lucky, you can find one with the six speed semi-automatic gearbox, which allows you to choose from traditional automatic functionality, or a mode where you can manually select gears without the hassle of using a clutch.
Interior design is about what you’d expect from a cargo vehicle. It’s designed to be durable and useful, with plenty of storage options. With that said, it’s mostly plastic, and an occasional rattle here-and-there is not to be unexpected. In lieu of regular carpeting, you get plastic floor panels – which are actually quite easy to clean should you track in mud or dirt. It’s still known for being a quite comfortable vehicle to spend time in, just don’t expect the same frills of a comparable offering from a manufacturer such as Mercedes.
Driving the Fiat Ducato is quite easy for something this large. The small wheels provide an excellent turning circle radius, making it easy to navigate through tight spaces or park on a busy street. The driver is seated high up, offering an excellent view of the road ahead. Multiple seat adjustments are available, and with some tinkering, you can easily find a position that’s comfortable for anybody.
The suspension has to put cargo capacity first – after all, this is primarily a working vehicle. With that in mind, Fiat has done a great job of combining capability with comfort. It’s not going to ride like a sedan, but compared to comparable offerings, the Fiat Ducato is plenty comfortable enough to spend a day in.