If Dr. Seuss had styled the Ford Transit Connect van, it might look like the Fiat Doblo compact commercial van, which will soon be coming to these shores under Chrysler's Ram truck brand.
While both passenger and cargo van variants of the Doblo are available in Europe, it looks like Fiat (or more accurately, Fiat’s Turkish joint venture, TOFAS) will be sending us the commercial variant only.
Like Ford’s Transit Connect, the Doblo--which earned International Van of the Year honors in 2011--is built in Turkey and powered by a modest four-cylinder engine.
In Europe, there’s only a single 1.4-liter gasoline engine available. For this country, the Doblo could get the same U.S.-built 1.4-liter now used in the 2012 Fiat 500, and soon to appear in the crucial new 2013 Dodge compact sedan that will replace its aging and uncompetitive 2011 Caliber hatchback.
There are no fewer than three Doblo diesel variants (1.3-liter, 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter) to choose from as well. It’s unclear whether we’ll see diesels here, though we hope so. But since Ford has said that fitting a diesel to its Transit Connect would make it simply too expensive for small businesses, we're not holding our breath.
The Doblo’s most fuel efficient diesel engine, the 1.3-liter, returns up to 49 mpg in combined fuel economy (based on EU testing, which tends to be 10 to 20 percent higher than EPA ratings).
Long range plans for the Doblo in Europe include a Natural Power engine, which can be fueled by either gasoline or methane; we suspect this could easily be adapted to CNG power for the U.S. market.
Don’t expect to see the cartoonishly styled Doblo on Ram dealer lots before 2013, since TOFAS first must make some $160 million worth of changes to meet U.S. and Canadian safety requirements as well as customer expectations.