When's it going?


Launched: 2003
Engine sizes: 2.0, 2.0 JTD, 2.2 JTD
Performance: 2.2 JTD top speed 113mph, 0-60mph 11.3 seconds
Economy: 38.2 mpg
Safety: NCAP n/a

Well, oddly enough, it has already gone. Fiat discontinued this model in the UK almost without telling anyone and without introducing a replacement. So, if you want one, you had better hurry because there aren't many around.

What's good about it?

In a sentence, this is a stylish Italian that's roomy, refined, smooth, and available with good turbodiesels. The Ulysse may look a little familiar, and that's because it's basically the same as a Citroën C8 or Peugeot 807, as all three MPVs were developed at the same time. They all deliver a tidy, refined drive, but you'd buy the Ulysse because its more stylish, inside and out, and it will probably be cheaper. The cabin is spacious and airy, and seats six, seven or eight people, depending on the model. Sliding rear doors make access easy, and all but the front pair of seats can be removed for a huge load bay.

The high-up driving position gives a good all-round view, and most drivers should find it comfortable. The equipment levels are pretty good, and even the lowest Dynamic trim has plenty of safety kit as well as climate control, CD, and electric front windows. The Eleganza badge adds sat-nav, alloy wheels and cruise control, while the Prestigio brings leather seats.

The engines are pretty good, too, and ideally you should go for the 2.1 diesels, are stronger, smoother and fairly quiet, except under hard acceleration. The 110bhp 2.0 JTD turbodiesel has good pull lower down the rev range, but for even more tugging ability, the 130bhp 2.2 JTD turbodiesel is even better and returns similar economy figures.

What's bad about it?

Not a lot, really. As a family van, it is pretty much perfect and is now becoming even cheaper to buy. It was not without some problems, though, and plenty of remedial work has been carried out under warranty to fix all sorts of electrical niggles and major suspension components. There have been 11 recalls since 2002, so, hopefully, the model you buy has been sorted out by now. Like just about all people-carriers with all seats in use, it's pretty tight for luggage space.

How much?

There aren't very many around, but it was always possible to get discounts via brokers and, especially, Fiat dealers. New Car Discount (www.new-car-discount.com; 08703 500 144) claims to be able to get a 2.2 JTD Eleganza for £18,141, down from a retail price of £22,650.

Any snags?

If electric power for sliding rear doors is fitted, ensure that it works properly as faults are not unknown. Electrical niggles can be more widespread, so check that instruments, wipers, windows and so on work. Front suspension demands close inspection - listen for clonks, make sure the car tracks straight, and check tyres for uneven wear.

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