05 May 2011
New FIAT Ducato Launched
The new Fiat Ducato is the latest incarnation of a best-selling van which, over the course of five generations and thirty years, has picked up numerous international awards and sold more than 2.2 million vehicles. For 2011, the Ducato retains the same distinctive styling as before but the cabin has been revised; there are three trim levels now on offer; refinement has been improved to the same standards as a medium-sized car and under the bonnet there's a completely new range of MultiJet II engines.
Second-generation MultiJet brings with it higher injection pressure (up 200bar to 1,800bar) and faster injectors (now capable of up to eight injections per cycle) which in turn means more precise combustion. This lowers CO2, NOx and particulate emissions and improves fuel economy by 15 percent compared to the Euro 4 engines, while also making the engines smoother and more refined. The MultiJet II system itself uses 40 percent fewer components than MultiJet I, thereby improving reliability, and service intervals have now extended to 48,000 km for all engines, lowering running costs for operators even further.
The engine range at launch comprises two 2.3-litre turbo-diesel engines and one 3.0-litre unit. The entry-level engine, which employs a fixed-geometry turbocharger, produces 130hp and 320Nm yet is seven percent more efficient (186g/km, 7.1L/100km) than the 120hp Euro 4 engine it replaces. Even greater efficiency is achievable with the optional "Start&Stop" system (available shortly after launch), which shuts the engine down at standstill and which also includes a Gear-Shift Indicator to help drivers select the most efficient gear in any given driving situation.
The mid-range 2.3-litre engine uses a variable-geometry turbocharger to boost output to 148hp and 350Nm but there is no penalty in terms of emissions or economy. The top 3.0-litre engine also uses a variable-geometry turbocharger and now produces 177hp and 400Nm - 13 percent more power than the 157hp 3.0-litre unit it replaces - making it the best-performing four-cylinder engine in its class. At the same time, economy improves by nine percent to 8.0L/100km while CO2 emissions are just 209 g/km. Please note, this unit doesn't feature MultiJet II and there is also a new 115hp 2.0-litre MultiJet II engine and a 136hp methane-powered 2.3-litre engine which will not be offered in RHD. Future entry-level Irish models will, instead, have a new 110hp version of the fixed-geometry turbo 2.3-litre engine. There are no other technical details for this engine at this time.
Every Ducato engine has a cast iron block; a sixteen-valve aluminium-alloy cylinder head and an ECU-controlled exhaust gas recirculation system. All Irish versions have a new six-speed manual gearbox as standard, and a six-speed "Comfort-Matic" clutch-less manual transmission is optional on the 3.0-litre unit. Uniquely, the Ducato's fuel pump is located inside the fuel tank, which, in conjunction with the glow-plugs located inside the combustion chamber, greatly improves cold starting performance. It also prolongs the life of the diesel filter and even if the tank runs completely dry the engine can be restarted without emergency assistance.
Safety-wise, the Ducato is fitted with disc brakes front and rear and has four-channel ABS with EBD on all models. It is also equipped with an adaptive driver's airbag as standard, while a 120-litre front passengers' airbag, side airbags and window airbags are also available. Hill Holder, Brake Assist, ASR (wheel-spin control) and MSR (which manages engine torque in the event of a sudden down shift) are also features of the new Ducato, while a new, more sophisticated ESP (stability control) system is optional. It incorporates a new "Load Adaptive Control" feature which takes vehicle load and centre of gravity into account. A new "Traction+" system also débuts on the new Fiat Ducato and is designed to improve traction on low-grip surfaces such as gravel and wet grass. It utilises the ESP system to simulate the behaviour of a self-locking differential and is activated by a button on the dashboard at speeds of up to 30 km/h.
The new Fiat Ducato retains its front-wheel drive configuration with a MacPherson front suspension and rigid-axle, leaf-sprung suspension at the rear, but a self-levelling pneumatic suspension is available across all trim levels, tonnages and wheelbases.
In fact, there are around 2,000 versions of the Fiat Ducato available in total. GVWs vary between 3,000kg and 4,000kg; payloads range between 1,000 and 2,000kg (including driver) and there are three wheelbases, four lengths and three heights for van versions. There are eight load area volumes, ranging from eight to 17 cubic metres, and the load area offers 1,422mm of width between the wheel arches; a maximum height of 2.17m; a maximum rear door height of 2.03m and loading height of just 46cm with the adjustable self-levelling suspension. There are three different sizes of rear door and sliding side door, too, while rear doors that open to an angle of 270 degrees are available to order. There are even two bulkhead options, both upholstered and soundproofed, with or without a sliding window.
Conversion bases are available in four wheelbase lengths and five different overall lengths, with up to 2,100kg permitted on the front axle and 2,400kg on the rear, and the Ducato's maximum towing capacity is 2,500kg.
To personalise the Fiat Ducato even further, it is available in 12 exterior colours (and 120 special-order shades) and there are more than 150 optional extras including cruise control, variable power steering assistance, reversing cameras, parking sensors and Fiat's Blue&Me Bluetooth connectivity system. Another new feature is the revised "Blue&Me Nav" infotainment and navigation package which boasts voice recognition, live traffic updates (not available in Ireland), a USB port and an SMS reader. Fiat's "eco:Drive Fiat Professional" system is also available in the Ducato to assist drivers in finding the most fuel-efficient routes while encouraging a more economical driving style, potentially cutting fuel bills by up to 15 percent while at the same time reducing wear and tear on the vehicle.
Finally, the Fiat Ducato continues to be the only bespoke motorhome base available in Europe and as a result, two thirds of all motorhomes sold in 2011 will be based around the Fiat Ducato. Working in conjunction with the top motorhome manufacturers in Italy, Germany and the UK, Fiat Professional has made 48 significant enhancements to the Ducato base vehicle to make it better suited to motorhome conversion including offering a high-specification cabin with up scale appointments (including wood-effect trim and a leather steering wheel), a cutaway cabin, homologated swivelling captain's chairs and specific ESP and suspension settings.