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Fiat Qubo MPV (2009 – ) expert review

By Ivan Aistrop, 1st May 2014

The verdict

The Fiat Qubo is impressively practical for such a small car, and a range of efficient engines make it cheap to run, too. However, the best small MPVs are better in many other areas, and won’t cost you much more in the long term.

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Expert rating:

2.8

Pros

  • Decent boot
  • Impressive passenger space and easy access
  • Simple to park

Cons

  • It’s very slow
  • Cheap-feeling interior
  • Short on safety kit

Full Review

1. Exterior

Thanks to its tall, boxy shape, it’s obvious the Fiat Qubo is based on a van, but that doesn’t mean the design is completely without flair. With a big grille and protruding front bumper, it has a friendly look that will appeal to some family-focused customers. Granted, the Qubo doesn’t look as elegant as the Citroen C3 Picasso or Nissan Note, but it has a certain individuality that some buyers will love. If you’re after something that looks a little more rugged than the average Qubo, the Trekking model gets a 4×4-style makeover, with a raised ride height and skid plates front and rear.

Our rating: 3

2. Interior

The Qubo’s commercial vehicle roots are evident inside the cabin. You sit high and upright in front of a very simple dashboard, so finding and using the various functions is very easy indeed. The seats are comfortable and visibility is good in all directions. However, there’s not much to get excited about: the colour scheme is rather drab and the plastics are hard, scratchy and unappealing.

Our rating: 2

3. Practicality

The Qubo’s boxy shape gives a tall, wide and reasonably long load space that measures 330 litres with all five seats in place. You get a lot more with the rear seats folded down, and if you can find enough strength to remove them altogether (you’ll need plenty, because they’re very heavy), you get the sort of cargo space that the Qubo’s van-like proportions suggest. Unfortunately, the rear seats don’t have the sliding function that those in many rival MPVs do, so versatility is a little bit limited, but it does have sliding rear doors that make getting in and out very easy when you’re in a tight parking space. One you’re in, headroom is generous and legroom is pretty good, too.

Our rating: 4

4. Ride and handling

You want an MPV to have a comfortable ride, and the Qubo delivers. The soft suspension makes it comfortable on most types of road, mopping up lumps and bumps effectively. However, the payoff is that you feel plenty of body roll in bends, and you’ll often hear the suspension going about its work. The light steering won’t give you much confidence, either, but it’s a big plus-point at lower speeds because it makes the car very easy to manoeuvre. We haven’t yet driven the Trekking model, which comes with a raised ride height and an electronic system designed to maximise traction in slippery conditions.

Our rating: 3

5. Performance

All Qubos come with a 1.3-litre diesel engine, one version giving 74bhp and the other giving 94bhp. We haven’t tried the more powerful unit yet, but its superior on-paper figures sound very appealing because the lower-powered version is desperately slow. You’ll often need to shift down a gear to make it up even moderate inclines, and you can pretty much forget about overtaking anything. Most of the Qubo’s rivals are stronger and more flexible, and are therefore more relaxing to drive.

Our rating: 2

6. Running costs

While performance isn’t great, fuel economy is rather better. Whichever version of the diesel engine you choose, you’ll get an official fuel figure of 68.9mpg, which is pretty impressive. CO2 emissions are correspondingly low, making this a cheap company car. It’s not as affordable to buy as the Peugeot Bipper Tepee, with which it shares most of its parts, but you do get more kit for your cash, and the Qubo still undercuts many rival small MPVs. Bear in mind, though, that the car’s limited appeal on the used market will mean fairly weak resale values.

Our rating: 3

7. Reliability

The Qubo is based on a van, and that in itself should make it as tough as old boots. It should also give it the ability to take high mileages in its stride. Fiat performs reasonably well in Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, sitting in the top half of the manufacturer standings.

Our rating: 4

8. Safety

Electronic stability control is fitted as standard across the range, along with driver, passenger and side airbags. However, curtain ‘bags aren’t available, even as options. The Qubo itself hasn’t been crash-tested by Euro NCAP, but the near-identical and now-defunct Citroen Nemo Multispace scored only three out of five stars. Granted, the Fiat does have more safety kit than the Citroen did, but the signs still aren’t all that encouraging when most rivals these days score the full five stars.

Our rating: 2

9. Equipment

Three trim levels are available. The basic Active trim is a little too basic, with electric front windows, remote locking and CD player, but not much else. MyLife trim adds essentials like air-con, Bluetooth hands-free, alloys and a leather steering wheel, making it our favourite. Trekking models top the range, and get longitudinal roof bars and tinted rear windows, along with the clever traction system.

Our rating: 3

10. Why buy?

The Fiat Qubo gives you lots of interior space without taking up much space on the road. It’s not as affordable to buy as the Peugeot Bipper Tepee, but it is much more generously equipped. You still have to make other compromises, though, most notably in performance and quality. Other small MPVs are better in many other areas, too.

Our rating: 2

Expert review 2.8stars

  • Exterior3
  • Interior2
  • Practicality4
  • Ride and handling3
  • Performance2
  • Running costs3
  • Reliability4
  • Safety2
  • Equipment3
  • Why buy?2

Our recommendations

Pick of the range:

1.3 Multijet 75 MyLife

One of the more affordable options, but plenty of kit

Most economical:

1.3 Multijet 75 MyLife

Best engine but the cheapest trim

Best avoided:

1.3 Multijet 95 Trekking

The most expensive version, and that alone makes it the worst

The Qubo’s commercial vehicle roots are evident inside the cabin. You sit high and upright in front of a very simple dashboard, so finding and using the various functions is very easy indeed.