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New Fiat Qubo review

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Small on the outside, big on the inside, a contradiction of terms normally but the new Fiat Qubo (Cube) combines both elements.

At under four metres in length (3,959mm) the Qubo is the same length as the new Ford Fiesta but because of its cube styling with every millimetre of interior space is used to accommodate five passengers with 330 litre of luggage space or remove the rear seats and there is an enormous 2,500 litres of cargo room.

Easy access is guaranteed because the rear side doors are the sliding type. So getting in or out is easy and there is no bashing of 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 vehicle is parked kerbside and somebody parks their car close behind the Qubo.

The lofty height of 1,735mm provides excellent headroom and means the seats can be positioned high up in the vehicle again allowing easy access, something older passengers will appreciate. The folding rear seats can also be removed to maximise its load carrying versatility.

The interior has a light and airy feel thanks to the huge windscreen, large tailgate window and the low level waistline. However the overall looks will not be to everyone's taste, a real case of function over fashion.

The talking point at the press launch of the vehicle was the look 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 giving it a 'soft' impact zone.

Two fuel efficient engines, a good level of specification, all at a 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 customers.

Customers will range from young married couples with children right up to the older cost conscious, value for money buyers and also the less-able who will appreciate the ease of getting in and out of this car. It's not pretty the Qubo, but it will work for many people.

The handling is much better than most van-based MPVs as the Qubo uses a passenger car platform. There is some body roll because of its height but it is no real issue. The steering is sharp and precise and there is loads of predictable grip. Importantly for most passengers the Qubo provides for a comfortable ride and noise intrusion is pretty low.

Although the vehicle is well equipped with airbags and other safety features on the downside ESP, electronic stability programme, is not fitted as standard and it should be and will soon be mandatory. Only the diesel version has ESP as an option and that adds £300 to the price. That is in addition to the £1,200 added cost for the diesel engine over the petrol unit.

Standard equipment includes power steering, antilock braking, 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 Blue&Me communications system.

The best selling Dynamic versions include additional items such as alloy wheels, electric and heated door mirrors, air conditioning, fog lights and height adjustable driver's seat. There is an automatic transmission option for models with the diesel engine.

As for engine options? Despite the not inconsiderable 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 this route.

The fuel economy is much better, officially 62.8mpg but 44.3mpg in real life during my test drive as typical rural and urban driving speeds. The CO2 level of 119g/km means the road tax is £35 in Band B and to be honest it is a much better unit and much nicer to drive than the petrol engine.

The 1.4-litre, 73bhp petrol engine is a bit sluggish and it needs 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 meaning considerable use of the five-speed gearbox was required.

This unit returned 33.4mpg during test driving although officially it should return 40.4mpg. Emissions are 165g/km giving it a VED Band D rating cost of £145.

Ignoring the front styling, the Qubo in some people's eyes could be the right car at the right price at the right time. It is interesting anyway.

Fiat Qubo MILESTONES

Fiat Qubo 1.3 MultiJet Dynamic

Price: £12,350 (best selling model). Engine: 1.3-litre, common-rail turbodiesel with intercooler, 75bhp, 190Nm of torque from 1,750rpm.

Performance: 96mph, 0-62mph 16.5 seconds, 62.8mpg (44.3mpg actual), CO2 119g/km. VED Band B £35

Benefit in kind tax: 13%

Insurance group: 2. Dimensions/capacities: L 3,959mm, W 1,716mm, H 1,735mm, load volume 330-2,500-litres, braked towing weight 400kg

For: Small car with big car space, versatile passenger/load space, easy to drive, easy access, comfortable ride

Against: Front end styling, poor petrol engine, ESP not standard, high extra cost of diesel engine option