The Fiat Doblo might have a face only its mother could love – how many cars make a Citroën Berlingo look as if it belongs in Monte Carlo? – but I like it.
I like its rufty-tufty utility. I like the fact that, despite the archaic leafsprung rear end, it rides decently and corners well. I like the cavernous luggage bay and I like its modest pricing, which is in keeping with this no-nonsense approach.
Now it’s been mildly freshened up and given more equipment there’s potentially more of it to like. Of far more interest, though, is the fact that the company’s excellent 1.3-litre Multijet diesel is now on offer, and so is the option of seven seats for the first time.
Put the two together, in fact, and you get the £10,595 Doblo Family, the cheapest seven-seater now available in Britain.
Commercial break over – can Fiat’s van-a-like Doblo really put up a credible fight against a Grand Scénic or Zafira? As far as carting bodies around and for all the other MPV attributes, the answer’s yes. Particularly impressive is the rear space afforded by the third bench.
There was enough room in all directions for two of the portliest members of the Autocar team to squeeze in and, with the middle seats flipped up, step-through is easy, too.
Likewise all the seats can be flipped forward and the third row can be removed. A note of caution if you envisage regularly removing them, though. Being a one-piece bench it requires plenty of sweating – or two people – to lift it clear.
The rest of the package tallies with my previous dalliances with the Doblo. It rides a lot better than its little brother, the Punto supermini, and bump absorption improves all the more with a few bods on board. Sure, body roll is apparent and ever-present, but it clings on gamely through bends and steers faithfully.
Fiat’s 70bhp 1.3-litre Multijet diesel is smooth, punchy and free-revving, as in all its other applications. It endows the Doblo with decent lumps of mid-range punch even when fully laden.
So yes, now I like the Doblo even more, and if you want to ferry seven around on the cheap it’s hard to ignore. Just don’t look at that styling too closely.