The Ducato Maxi stands tall (not to mention long) in the light-commercial world. But we find it’s fun-to-drive too.
Base price: $67,990.
Powertrain and performance: 3.0-litre turbo diesel four, 130kW/400Nm, 6-speed manual, rear-drive, Combined economy 8.9 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 6363mm long, 2534mm high, 4035mm wheelbase, load compartment 4070x1870mm, width between wheel arches 1422mm, GVM 4250kg, payload 2065kg, volume 15 cubic metres, fuel tank 125 litres, 16-inch steel wheels on 225/75 tyres.
We like: Great to drive, stylish cabin, massive load space.
We don’t like: Reversing camera should be standard, extra cost for second sliding door.
How it rates: 8/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? The thing about light-commercial vans is that there’s a size for every application. They go from surprisingly compact to scarily large – at least for non-professional drivers like us.
The Fiat Ducato Maxi featured here is getting towards the former end of the scale. For New Zealand, Ducato comes in just three sizes but they cover a lot of ground (quite literally). There’s a cab-chassis, a long-wheelbase (LWB) van and the one you see here: the LWB XL.
The dimensions surely speak for themselves: at nearly 6.4 metres long and over 2.5 metres high, this is a whole lot of van. Quite literally.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? For something so large, the Ducato Maxi is surprisingly sprightly and nimble on the road. Actually, it’s not so surprising: the Ducato is as familiar in Europe as a Toyota Hiace is to us here, and given the hugely competitive nature of the commercial-vehicle market, companies go all-out to please potential operators as well as owners (they can be the same person, of course). Ducato is a staple of both van and campervan markets.
The 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine has real verve and the manual gearbox is pretty slick. Nicely placed too, with the gearlever high up on the dashboard, right next to the driver’s hand.
Ducato feels solid on the road, even when unladen. Should you doubt this tall vehicle’s ability to stay upright in an emergency situation, the stability control also has a roll-mitigation function.
It’s a pleasure to drive and compared with the likes of the Hiace (which we also tested recently), this is the Ferrari of vans in terms of driving dynamics. For $3000 you can option-in a robotised gearbox, which is also a bit like a Ferrari; it’ll certainly save your left foot in city traffic, but won’t be as smooth as the three-pedal manual.
The turning circle is mind-bogglingly tight, although you have to watch the rear wheels in 90-degree urban corners: with a wheelbase over four metres, it’s a case of turning in and then waiting a while for the rear to follow, before you complete the manoeuvre.
Yes, the Ducato XL is enormous. But good visibility and trick mirrors (they’re split horizontally so you can always see the bottom of the vehicle) ensure that you can squeeze it into tight parking spots without stress. That’s as it should be: impossible feats of parking are part of a normal day for one of these things.
However, the sheer length of the Ducato XL dictates that a reversing camera is surely a must-have in this day and age. Unfortunately it’s not standard, even on the flagship of the range. There’s rear parking radar, which only seems to chime in at the very last minute, but the camera is an extra $1500.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? Let’s look up front first. The dashboard is made of hard, durable plastic, which is to be expected in a vehicle of this type. What’s not expected is a certain sense of styling flair: it’s pretty good-looking from the driver’s seat and there’s plenty of small storage space, as well as the expected van accoutrements such as a spring-loaded clip on the dashtop to secure paperwork.
Being part of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles family, Ducato has picked up the brilliant UConnect touch screen for information and entertainment – just like you get in an Alfa Romeo or Jeep, although it’s only five inches in diameter in this application. Smaller than a decent-sized smartphone, in other words.
The XL version gets three seats across the cabin and a fixed bulkhead to isolate the load bay, which does wonders for noise suppression when you’re on the road. There’s a sliding window in said bulkhead so you see how your packages are settling in transit.
There’s a lot of real estate in the back, although there’s only one sliding door fitted as standard, on the kerb side. Another will cost you an extra $2500, but it seems like a must-have in a van with such large load volume.
The barn-style split rear doors are brilliant: both open at 270 degrees to give unimpeded access to the cargo area, which boasts nearly 1.5 metres width even at its narrowest point (between the wheel arches).
SHOULD I BUY ONE? The Ducato Maxi is a mighty thing in many respects: capacious in the back but also quite entertaining to drive. It’s a vehicle designed to do a mundane job, but it’s easy to see owners and/or operators being quite enthusiastic about it. The Ducato looks great and goes well.
So it’s not surprising that there’s also a bit of bling available for this vehicle: from LED daytime running lights ($950) to ‘diamond finish’ alloy wheels ($1500) to premium paint finish ($1925). Cargo could be getting one sweet ride in this Ducato.
- Blind spot warning: No
- Lane guidance: No
- Cruise control: Yes
- Automatic lights/wipers: No
- Parking radar: Rear
- Self-parking technology: We wish
- Head-up display: No
- Satellite navigation: No
- Keyless entry/start: No
- Stop-start: Yes
- Air conditioning: Manual
- Heated/ventilated seats: No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: No
- Leather upholstery: No
- Power boot or tailgate: No