Low sales volumes mean it’s unlikely that Fiat’s newest model will become familiar on British roads for some time – but there’s no doubt your first sighting will leave a lasting impression.
With a bulbous front end and quirky style lines producing a decidedly different appearance, the Italian manufacturer’s take on mini multi-purpose motoring is certainly a kerbside attention grabber.
Yet closer inspection reveals there’s rather more to the funky Qubo, an automotive Pandora’s box with a remarkable amount of interior space for its diminutive dimensions.
Even though it is based on the Grande Punto supermini, this little hold-all boasts the room to stack 650 litres of luggage as well as carrying five occupants and it also has the ability to swallow an amazing 2,500 litres of cargo when the rear seats are removed.
“We regard this as a perfect solution for families and think Qubo’s funky styling will appeal to a broad spectrum of customers. With exceptional legroom and class-leading space, the car is more than a match for rivals and it is easy to drive and offers good economy intothe bargain,” says Fiat Group Auto product manager Brane Bosancic.
Thanks to a high-opening tailgate and a rear sill at the same height as the floor, bulky items can be loaded easily and twin sliding rear doors provide ready access to the rear seats or the front of the cargo area.
So any jibes about the car’s looks can turn to praise when the versatile Qubo scores high marks as budget transport for both family and business use – particularly as its interior can be arranged in 16 different ways.
No more than 1,000 examples of the car will be sold this year and Fiat expects 80% to go to retail buyers. Offered in vibrant colours that include a vivid green and a fiery orange, it comes with either Fiat’s 1.3-litre Multijet turbodiesel or the PSA 1.4-litre petrol unit. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard with a six-speed automatic optional with the diesel.
Four versions are available and standard equipment includes front and side airbags and three-point safety belts for all five seats, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake distribution and
deadlocking doors, with base trim also including power steering with height and reach adjustment, power front windows and the
Fiat Blue&Me hands-free communication.
Unique in this segment, the Blue&Me feature can be used to download details of how the car is driven for computer analysis that shows how different driving patterns affect fuel economy.
High-level trim adds air conditioning, coloured and heated power mirrors, aluminium interior trim finishers, height adjusting driver’s seat, roof bars and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Behind the wheel
With a hard plastic dashboard and some exposed metal surfaces, the Qubo’s interior looks ready for a rough-and-tumble life. A firm ride reinforces this impression, although ample legroom and good seats make for reasonable comfort over long journeys.
Road noise also adds to the utilitarian feel, but the car corners with confidence and has generally slick characteristics on the open road. In town, a tight turning circle makes it particularly easy to manoeuvre.
As ever, the Multijet’s blend of power and economy hold strong appeal and motorway cruising is relaxed in a high fifth gear.
The unit also qualifies for the £35 band B road tax – but the bad news is that it carries a hefty £1,200 premium over petrol-powered versions.
Dualogic transmission offers sequential gear changing along with automatic mode, but it performed badly in our test, with long delays between ratio switches making it no match for the slick manual unit.