Fiat Qubo M-Jet Dynamic
Saturday 09 May 2009
Top speed: 96 mph 0-62mph 16.5 seconds
Consumption: 62.8 mpg
CO2 emissions: 119g/km
Best for: Families on a tight budget
Also worth considering? Citroen Berlingo First, Kia Soul, Skoda Roomster
I don't suppose there are many real winners among the major car manufacturers as they grapple with the deepest slump in demand for their products in decades, but some are better placed to weather the storm than others. Perhaps even to its own surprise, Fiat finds itself a member of that small exclusive group.
Italy's main car-maker always seems to struggle a bit to maintain its position among the industry's leaders but now, whether by accident or design, it has a model range that is better adapted to the mood and requirements of our times than that of just about any of its rivals.
Enter a Fiat showroom and you will be confronted with a choice of no fewer than five different small, fuel-efficient models with starting prices of about £10,000 or less. If do you cross the threshold of a Fiat dealership it is likely to be because you have been drawn in by the 500, a clever and pretty reinvention of the car of the same name from the 1950s. But if the 500 doesn't quite fit the bill, you can always try the slightly larger Grande Punto, with its long and elegant Maserati-style nose, or the no-nonsense Panda. There's even a small semi-SUV, the Sedici.
The fifth choice is the new Qubo. As the name suggests, there is a certain rectilinearity to the design of this car, which is a capacious and boxy little budget people-carrier – and a pretty convincing product as well. It has a slightly basic feel – there's even some untrimmed painted metal inside, a comparative rarity these days – but it's also fairly stylish and well equipped.
Nobody's going to choose a Qubo for the driving experience but the 1.3 litre Multijet diesel engine is a bit of a gem, propelling this car far more effectively than the modest official performance figures suggest. Potential buyers are going to be much more interested in the practical sliding rear-side doors, a feature absent even from some much pricier people-carriers – and the enormous space to which they provide access.
But even if the Qubo isn't quite your thing, those other small Fiats are probably worth a look.
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