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FIAT QUBO 1.3 Multijet Dualogic 2009 Road Test

Wed, 14 Jan 2009

Happily, FIAT has now decided to stick with what it’s good at: small cars. And the decision could not have come at a better time.

So as well as Pandas, 500s, Grande Puntos and the forthcoming Topolino, the company is now offering us a cheerful little MPV along the lines of a smaller Berlingo, based on the Grande Punto, and shared, in part, with Peugeot/Citroen.

(The PSA versions get PSA engines; FIAT versions get FIAT’s.)

There is ample room for five and plenty of loadspace in a car just 13 feet long. And features like sliding side doors and tumbling or completely removable 60/40 split rear seats.

An added bonus, available with the 1.25 Multijet diesel only, is FIAT’s Dualogic 6-speed automated manual gearbox that is obviously going to go down very well with Motability customers. (Tell me another small utility with a diesel engine and a two pedal autobox.)

Colours are bright and cheerful, including the sunset orange of our car, a bright metallic green, a deep blue and various other hues. Specification is quite high with features like height and reach adjustable steering on all models. And, instead of a solid dead axle, it has a torsion beam across the back, so ride comfort is not too van-like.

Never having driven FIAT’s Dualogic, I was quite eager to try that and came away very favourably impressed.

Even on pedal to the metal starts, you don’t get the massive throttle damping between 1st and 2nd that you experience on other automated manuals. It does cushion the box from torque reactions, but actually manages this very well and is almost as smooth as a proper torque converter auto.

There’s an ‘E’ button to bring down the change points and improve economy. Or you can nudge the lever to prompt changes yourself. But because it does the job so well itself there is little real need for this. Even on an uphill hairpin bend that I expected to leave it gasping, it chose the right gear and simply romped round.

So, on the basis of its performance I’d say it’s the best automated manual I have yet driven.

Considerably more pleasant, it turned out, than the 5-speed manual that had a rather rubbery gearchange and an engine that felt much coarser. It revved higher too at about 28mph per 1,000rpm in 5th, versus around 32mph per 1,000rpm in 6th in the Dualogic.

And all this for just £35 a year tax.

Sadly, the fact that £1 now buys 40% less Euros means that list prices aren’t quite as low as they would have been if our government hadn’t kicked Sterling off a cliff.

But competitive cars that seem cheaper now are unlikely to be for much longer as prices of anything imported to the UK will have to rise considerably over the coming months. It doesn’t matter whether demand is there or not at these higher prices. Manufacturers cannot afford to sell motors for less than they cost to make.

Sorry to end on a gloomy note in a test of a jolly, useful little car.

Get down to your FIAT dealer and try one. It’ll cheer you up.

For prices, specifications, engines, transmissions, dimensions and performance date, please click the tabs.

more at www.fiat.co.uk

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