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First look: Next Fiat Ducato breaks cover

Van-trio: (From left) Peugeot's Boxer, Citroen's Jumper and Fiat's Ducato.

Fiat reveals a new Ducato commercial, alongside sister vans from Peugeot and Citroen

22 May 2006

FIAT has lifted the lid on an all-new version of one of Australia’s most popular commercial vans.

Due on sale here in early 2007 following its European launch in the second half of this year, the redesigned Ducato could be joined on sale next year by one of its sister models, the Peugeot Boxer.

Commercial vehicles remain under serious market consideration for Peugeot Automobiles Australia, but with no firm plans for the next-generation Boxer Down Under, the new Ducato is likely to be the only model within a trio of new commercials jointly developed by Fiat and the PSA Peugeot Citroen group at a cost of €1.1 billion.

Ateco Automotive is the local distributor for both Fiat and Citroen vehicles, and will not import the French brand’s new Jumper, which was revealed alongside all-new versions of the Ducato and Boxer last week.

Produced under the latest joint-venture arrangement between Fiat and PSA, the three new vans were revealed last week by Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne and PSA CEO Jean-Martin Folz at the Sevel plant in Atessa, Italy – Europe’s largest commercial vehicle operation.

To the end of April this year Fiat has sold 233 examples of its current Ducato, representing a 6.5 per cent share of Australia’s 3500-7500kg heavy commercial vehicle market segment, which is dominated by Isuzu’s N-Series (1077 sales, 30.2% share).

Ducato is also outsold by Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (612, 17.2%), Hino’s Dutro (608, 17.1%), Mitsubishi’s Canter (513, 14.4%) and Iveco’s Daily (265, 7.4%), and will late this year face further competition from Crafter, a replacement for Volkswagen’s LT Series (121, 3.4%).

Fiat Australia says the next Ducato is "strategically important" for the company, with 50 per cent of the current range accounted for by motorhome business – shared between six local converters. Fiat Oz says it will offer the majority of the new range, meaning a wider choice of bodystyles as well as engine and gearbox options.

Codenamed X250, Fiat claims the new Ducato will continue to be "the benchmark in its category for style, practicality, performance, comfort and reliability".

The new model features easier loading, increased load capacity, state-of-the-art telematics and safety equipment, lower running costs and "outstanding performance and quality of life on board".

Following the same front-wheel drive/transverse engine configuration, the next Ducato van will be available in Europe in three wheelbases, four body lengths and three heights for van versions. The cab-chassis range will come with the choice of four wheelbases and five body lengths.

Seven load compartment volumes (from eight to 17 square metres) will compliment payloads from 1000 to 2000kg and gross vehicle weights ranging from three to four tonnes.

The 15-inch wheel version will cover GVWs from three to 3.5 tonnes, while the 16-inch version handles gross weights between 3.5 and four tones.

Fiat says the diverse range will cover everything from transport versions to people-carrying vehicles, as well as providing the basis for conversions and body-builders.

Four latest-generation common-rail direct-injection 16-valve turbo-diesel engines with multipoint fuel-injection will be offered in Europe. All Euro IV emissions-compliant, they range from 75kW/250Nm to 117kW/400Nm and can be matched with either five-speed or new six-speed manual transmissions.

Fiat claims category-best safety thanks to new four-wheel disc brakes and the adoption of ABS, EBD and a driver’s airbag as standard across the range.

Traction and stability control will also be available with some variants, along with window airbags, side airbags and a front passenger airbag.

Comfort is also claimed to be best in class courtesy of a "welcoming, well-lit, comfortable and noiseless mobile office," which comprises a car-like driving position, numerous storage spaces and the option of self-levelling suspension, a Bluetooth handsfree phone and MP3 multimedia player.

The Sevel plant (Società Europea Veicoli Leggeri, meaning European Light Vehicle Company) covers 120 hectares and was established as a joint-venture between Fiat Group and the PSA Peugeot Citroen Group in 1979 and in 1981, its first year of production, 350 vehicles a day were produced.

On December 15 last year Sevel celebrated the production of three million vehicles (stretching 15,000km from Sevel to Sydney if placed end-to-end, it’s claimed) and today some 900 vehicles are built daily. That number will rise by 10 per cent with the new range, represnting annual production of 260,000.

The Fiat-PSA commercial joint-venture was extended to 2017 in January 2002 and will see a second vehicle manufactured in the Valenciennes plant in France. In March last year a third model family was announced, with a small "minicargo" commercial vehicle to be built in Turkey.

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