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Fiat Qubo 1.3 MultiJet Dynamic

Click to view picture gallery“Fiat’s Qubo — the so-called People
  Pod
is the latest addition to the
  supermini MPV sector. It
s small on
  the outside but big on the inside
 
and could be the right car at the right
  price at the right time
...

THE QUBO, based on a shortened version of the Grand Punto platform measures less than four metres — 3,959mm to be precise. That makes it the same length as the new Ford Fiesta but because of its 'cube' styling, every millimetre of interior space is used to accommodate five passengers with 330 litres of luggage — alternatively, remove the rear seats and you'll liberate an enormous 2,500 litres of cargo room.

Easy access is guaranteed because the rear side doors are of the sliding variety. So getting in or out is easy, and no worries about accidentally bashing the doors against other cars in the car park. Access to the rear is through a wide and tall tailgate. However, the big tailgate can be difficult to open fully if the Qubo is parked kerbside and somebody parks their car close behind.

The lofty height of 1,735mm provides excellent headroom and means seats positioned high up in the vehicle, allowing easy access — something older passengers will appreciate. As mentioned, the folding rear seats can also be removed to maximise the Qubo's load carrying versatility. Thanks to the huge windscreen, large tailgate window and the low-level waistline, the interior has a light and airy feel. A real case of function over fashion although the overall looks will not be to everyone's taste.

The talking point at the Qubo's press launch was the design of the front end. The lower front section looks as though it's a case of one Botox treatment too many, and there is a definite 'trout pout' appearance. I gather this styling treatment is to maximise on the pedestrian safety aspect by giving the Qubo a 'soft' impact zone.

Two fuel-efficient engines, a good level of specification — and all at competitive purchase prices from 9,750 — are the correct moves for today's buyers where price, running costs and versatility are the main requirements for the majority of buyers. Customers are expected to range from young married couples with children right up to the older cost-conscious, value-for-money buyers as well as the less-able, who will be sure to appreciate the ease of getting in and out of this car. While it's not pretty, the Qubo will work for many people.

Because the Qubo uses a passenger car platform, the handling is much better than that of most van-based MPVs. There is some body roll because of its height but it is not a big issue. The steering is sharp and precise, and there is loads of predictable grip. Importantly for most passengers, the Qubo provides a comfortable ride and noise intrusion is pretty effective.

Although the vehicle is well equipped with airbags and other safety features, on the downside ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) is not fitted as standard. It should be, and will soon be mandatory. Only the diesel version has ESP as an option, adding 300 to the price. This is in addition to the 1,200 extra cost for the diesel over the petrol powerplant.

Standard kit includes power steering, ABS, trip computer, rear window wash/wipe, adjustable steering column, remote door locking, electric front windows, heated rear window, parcel shelf, 60:40 split/folding rear seat, radio/CD and MP3 player and Fiat's Blue&Me communications system.

The best-selling Dynamic models come with additional standard equipment such as alloy wheels, electric/heated door mirrors, air conditioning, fog lights and a height-adjustable driver's seat. An automatic transmission option can be specified for models with the diesel engine.

And as for engine options? Despite the not-inconsiderable (1,200) price hike over the petrol unit, the 1.3-litre MultiJet turbodiesel 75bhp engine will be the most popular, and Fiat expects 75% of customers to go down this route. For a start, the fuel economy is much better: officially 62.8mpg — although 44.3mpg in real-life during my test drive at typical rural and urban driving speeds. CO2 of 119g/km means that owners can look forward to an annual road tax bill of just 35. And, to be honest, the turbodiesel is a much better unit: with 140lb ft of torque from 1,750rpm, it's much nicer to drive than the petrol engine.

The 1.4-litre, 73bhp petrol engine is a bit sluggish and you need to use high revs to get the best out of it. Once underway on open roads and motorways it is fine, but I found it difficult to live with on country roads and in town because considerable use of the five-speed gearbox was called for. This engine returned 33.4mpg during test driving although officially it should return 40.4mpg. Emissions are 165g/km, so a year's road tax is £145.

Overlooking the front styling, poor petrol engine and the high extra cost of the diesel engine, as well as the fact that ESP is not standard, the Qubo will, in some people's eyes, be the right car at the right price at the right time. They will see the advantages of a small car with big car room, one that also offers versatile passenger and load space with easy access. To be fair, the Qubo also offers a comfortable ride and is easy to drive. — David Miles

Fiat Qubo 1.3 MultiJet Dynamic
| 12,350
Maximum speed: 96mph | 0-62mph: 16.5 seconds
Overall test MPG: 44.3mpg | Power: 75bhp | Torque: 140lb ft
CO2 119g/km | VED Band B 35 | Insurance group 2