Fiat has just launched the new version of its Ducato van. The launch was virtually necessitated by the need to move to Euro 5 engines and Fiat has taken advantage of this to launch a completely new range of engines, along with a raft of other improvements aimed at improving performance, comfort and refinement.
The Ducato dominates the motorhome market – although it is not universally liked by motorhomers, it is the default choice for the majority of motorhome converters across Europe.
Fiat has developed this relationship over the years and the low, wide, front-wheel drive platform provided by the Ducato does make a good base for mainstream motorhomes.
Fiat even provides special motorhome versions of its chassis cab, featuring a wider track than normal (the width between the wheels) and offering a ‘front-end only’ model onto which converters can bolt an alternative chassis platform, usually provided by Alko.
So What’s New?
The big news is the engines. In line with the coming EU legislation, all engines are now Euro 5 compliant and there have been improvements in fuel consumption, emissions and performance.
The UK market will get two engines with four power levels:
- 2.3-litre diesel (110bhp, 130bhp & 150bhp)
- 3-litre diesel (180bhp)
(Left-hand drive markets will also get a 2-litre engine, in place of the 110bhp 2.3l model. The 2l engine proved too hard to shoehorn into a right-hand drive configuration, so the UK gets a detuned 110bhp 2.3l instead.)
The 110bhp model featured a 20% improvement in torque over its 2.2l predecessor, along with a 10% improvement in fuel economy and a 11% reduction in emissions.
The 150bhp model, which is likely to be popular with the coachbuilt motorhome market, boasts 350Nm of torque at just 1,500rpm while the new 3l model provides 400Nm of torque at just 1,400rpm, which should enable even large motorhomes to make swift, relaxed progress in all conditions.
Weight wise, the Ducato has again been specified with an eye to the motorhome market. I cannot imagine that many commercial van operators will choose the 4,000kg option unless they really need it, as their drivers will then be forced to have speed limiters fitted and work with a tachograph.
However, no such restrictions apply to motorhome users (travelling for leisure purposes) and the additional 500kg payload is very useful for larger motorhomes.
Self-levelling air suspension is also now a factory option, something which should work well for larger motorhomes and help reduce traction and weight distribution problems.
In the cab, equipment levels, dashboard plastics and sound proofing have all been improved to provide a more car-like experience, although Fiat’s Comfort-Matic automated gearbox is only available with the 3-litre engine, meaning that the bulk of Ducato motorhomes will come with Fiat’s six-speed manual gearbox.
Initial reviews of the new Ducato in the van trade press are very positive and the Ducato’s new engines should be a considerable improvement over the old (already decent) units.
Although it is not universally popular, I believe that the Ducato is almost certain to continue its leading role in the motorhome conversion market: Fiat’s low, wide platform, good engines and competitive pricing are ideal for mainstream motorhomes.
It is important to remember that motorhomes tend to do very low mileages and spend a lot of time being used as accommodation, not as a vehicles. This means that the Ducato’s qualities are ideal for the job and will, for most motorhome users, outweigh any dynamic or durability advantages offered by more expensive rear-wheel drive vans like the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter or Iveco Daily.