The Fiat Qubo is the passenger car version of it Fiorino van - sharing the same underpinnings as the Citroën Nemo and Peugeot Bipper, and thanks to those commercial vehicle roots, it is both practical and solid. It’s not unwieldy, though. Its boxy proportions hide the car’s size, and it’s actually shorter than a Fiat Punto.
Of course, it’s easy to spot the utilitarian shape, even if Fiat has done its best to add some tinsel, such as alloy wheels and roof bars. It isn’t a car for fashionistas. Even if a facelift for 2017 saw Fiat try to lift the commercial stench and give the Qubo more sex-appeal.
As you’d expect from what is essentially a more comfortable van with extra seats, there’s lots of space for people and luggage. Twin sliding doors, removable rear seats and a front passenger seat that folds into the footwell are among the MPV’s features.
The Qubo has manners that are surprisingly car-like on the move. The steering wheel adjusts for reach and rake, and the gearlever is nicely positioned.
The 1248cc MultiJet turbodiesel we tested is fairly refined and powers the Qubo along at a respectable pace. It’s certainly more driveable than its 16.5sec 0-62mph and 97mph top speed suggest. An ample 140lb ft of torque available from 1750rpm helps.
The remainder of the engine line-up comprises a higher-powered version of the MultiJet, developing 95bhp and 147lb ft that cuts the 0-62mph to 12.2sec and raises the top speed to 106mph. A breathless 1.4-litre petrol engine is offered, too, producing 75bhp and 87lb ft – predictably performance isn’t its strong suit - but it pulls well through the gears, and feels faster than its 0-62mph time of 16.2secs suggests. Even so, the engine needs to work hard to maintain momentum at motorway speeds, particularly when faced with an incline or a requirement to overtake.
Models come fitted with Fiat’s eco:Drive system, which allows drivers to upload their driving records to Fiat’s website to receive practical tips on saving fuel.
Not that it’s hard to return good fuel economy with the diesels: Fiat claims a 68.9mpg combined figure, while the petrol engine records an official figure of 42.8mpg. CO2 emissions are rated at 107g/km for the diesels with the manual gearbox, 115g/km when fitted with Fiat’s Dualogic robotised auto and 152g/km for the petrol unit.
As you’d expect, there’s a fair amount of roll in the corners, but the ride is good, as is the steering.
The Qubo qualifies for lowest-rate vehicle tax and is capable of returning 50mpg in everyday driving. Aside from its PSA siblings, it has few rivals – its closest competitors are either larger, more expensive MPVs or less flexible superminis.
As for the trim levels, there are three to choose from - Pop, Lounge and Trekking. The entry-level models get 15in steel wheels, height and lumbar adjustment for the driver, and a radio/CD infotainment system as standard. Upgrade to the more luxurious Lounge trim and you'll find 16in alloy wheels, front fog lights, air conditioning and a 5in touchscreen infotainment system.
The range-topping Trekking Qubo see the addition of 15in alloy wheels, dark tinted windows, cruise control, rear parking sensors, Fiat traction plus system, and all-terrain tyres.
Whether you should buy one is up for debate, as it doesn't have many competitors within its size category, while those looking for a more practical vehicle would be better off looking at the larger and better equipped Ford Tourneo Connect, Citroën Berlingo Multispace or a more mainstream MPV.