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Advantages: More interior space than you could shake a tree at, an honest, pleasurable drive, quirky, individual design, refined engine, van-tastic driving position.
Disadvantages: Limited rear window opening, question marks hang over amount of safety features, arresting looks might not be everybody’s cup of tea.
Summary: Ideal for young families who prioritize space and adaptable functionality over passing style, yet don’t want to go down the full-fat seven-seater people carrier road, the Fiat Qubo supermini-MPV is a lot of car for not an awful lot of money. And is certainly much more than a converted van with ideas bigger than its station.
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Having had its dust covers whipped off at the 2008 Geneva Motor Show, the Fiat Qubo supermini-MPV (nee Fiorino) was launched in January 2009. In essence the compact Qubo people carrier is a well thought out revision on the Fiorino small commercial delivery van; only with the revelatory addition of further seating and windows.
It’s also one third of a Gallic car manufacturing triumvirate that – albeit defined by different bonnet badges – are in effect the same vehicle underneath. Fiat worked in with French automotive platform sharers PSA Peugeot Citroen and conspired to name its mini-MPV version the Qubo. A loose translation of the word ‘cube’. Whilst both Peugeot and Citroen were the unfortunate short straw pickers who have since released the Bipper and Nemo people pods respectively.
The concept of these compact cross-overs is not entirely new however, as again Citroen – with its Berlingo – and Renault – with its Kangoo – have made good stabs at transforming panel vans into scaled up, passenger-friendly airport taxis previously.
Taking its inspiration – and most of its running gear – from the current Fiat Grande Punto, the Qubo offers the three variants from which to choose. Alongside the self named base model, there’s the Qubo SX and the Qubo Adventure (jacked up 2cm to help drivers bridge speed hump issues); all of which measure just 10” more in length than a Mini (identikit to the new Ford Fiesta) yet can shuttle five occupants with ease.
What’s more they can adopt six differing seating configurations, yet still promote 330-litres of luggage area (2,500-litres if you remove the rear seats); such is the Fiat’s versatility and innovative use of the space at its disposal.
Courtesy of rear sliding doors, access is easy in restricted parking places, whilst a wide and tall tailgate means rear loading is a doddle too. Although it’s worth noting that the large tailgate can run in to problems should another vehicle park close behind.
Almost Victorian height ceilings ensures passenger headroom will accommodate the most rangy of headgear, as the ambience of the interior as a whole is one of airiness thanks to a generous windscreen, low-level waistline and that light-magnetizing rear tailgate.
If you’re looking for the cabin to be sophisticated or contemporary in feel, then forget such aspirations, although flirting with a certain funkiness, function wins the age-old battle over form.
That said, there’s the full gamut of equipment that might embarrass many a more luxury-primed car. Power steering, ABS, climate, trip computer, electric front windows, CD with MP3-compatability and Fiat’s innovative Blue&Me communications system all as standard procedure. Although the same commitment hasn’t been applied to safety features, as although harnessing twin front and side airbags, curtain airbags are sadly amiss. And Stability Control is only available as an optional extra.
Two engines power the Qubo range, exposing themselves as the adaptable 75bhp 1.3-litre MultiJet common-rail turbo diesel and the 73bhp 1.4-litre petrol alternative. The former calls on 140lb/ft of torque at maximum revs, the latter draw on 87lb/ft; whilst buyers can opt for either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission.
With the suspension having been tweaked to become more civilized – and detract from the Qubo/Fiorino’s delivery based roots – the ride is pleasant; absorbing all but the harshest road surfaces. Due to its almost ungainly height the body tends to sway through corners, yet is always bailed out by a reassuring application of grip, while the steering is both engaging and responsive enough to cope with all eventualities.
City-driving agility, economy in mind, road tax savings to be had and representing great overall value for money, once potential buyers overcome the contrived aesthetics and perceived kerb appeal, they’ll concur that the Fiat Qubo is well worth the punt.
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