Test Drive Review: FIAT DOBLO SPORTIVO

It might be an obvious statement, but van buyers do not expect a sports car-like driving experience. That doesn’t stop van manufacturers looking to release ‘sporty’ editions in their droves.

The aging Doblo is one of many Fiat vans to come with such a model, in this case the ‘Sportivo.’ However, the Sportivo is a trim, rather than a limited edition, and sits at the top of the Doblo’s range.

As with many others of its type, though, this titivated model does not promise increased performance or suspension tweaks to enhance handling, but is a largely cosmetic exercise designed to enhance the van’s appeal.

The enhancements come in the form of a striking set of stickers down the side of the van, alloy wheels (15-inch versions on the SWB and 16-inch on the LWB), body-coloured bumpers, front fog lights and a leather steering wheel and gearlever.

Most of the kit also comes on the trim below, the Tecnico, which means you don’t need to go for the Sportivo to get the rear parking sensors, cruise control and air-conditioning, but you get them anyway, which is nice.

It says a fair bit that this is about all the technical equipment you get on a van in such a competitive segment these days – the Doblo is really beginning to feel its age, especially on the inside. The cabin presents a very basic and uninspiring dashboard, with a simple radio and a lack of screen notable on a top-of-the-range trim.

What is less forgivable is the relative lack of storage. You get a small glovebox and door pockets with very few spaces to tuck things away out of sight. The Sportivo does have a cubby under the passenger seat, but it is shallow. There is nothing in between the seats in terms of storage – just a basic set of USB and aux sockets.

There isn’t the option for sat-nav, either, with just a very outdated socket for slotting a TomTom unit into on the top of the dash, if you choose it from the options list. Far better to stick with a phone cradle and very long USB lead to charge it.

What you do get is the ability to get the Doblo’s most powerful engine – a 120hp 1.6-litre unit that is smooth and powerful, even if it is on the noisy side. This engine is only otherwise available on a lower trim if you go for the L2H2 model.

But while the Doblo is old-school up front, it shines where it matters most. A payload of 1,005kg and a clean and easily accessed loading bay means that it will be a worthwhile workhorse.