Fiat Qubo MPV (2009 – ) expert review

By Richard Dredge, 22nd November 2010

The verdict

The Fiat Qubo proves that you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy serious practicality. But luxury and performance are off the menu.

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Expert rating:

3.1

Pros

  • Relatively cheap
  • Huge carrying capacity
  • Low running costs

Cons

  • Lacking some safety kit
  • Not much performance
  • Basic cabin

Full Review

1. Exterior

The Fiat Qubo is not a thing of beauty. Its bluff nose and bug-eyed headlamps combine with a gaping grille to give a look that can most kindly be described as distinctive. Take the nose out of the equation though and the Qubo is generally conventional, with sliding rear doors and a top-hinged single-piece tailgate. The overall design works well, but some of the detailing isn’t so good. For example, the tailgate is unwieldy and the rear side windows don’t open fully.

Our rating: 3

2. Interior

The Qubo’s cabin is generally pretty basic. The controls are easy to use if a little cheap. The seats are flat and unsupportive and the van-like seating position leaves the driver’s knees uncomfortably close to the dash.

Our rating: 2

3. Practicality

This is the reason the Qubo will be bought. Despite measuring just under four metres long (that’s less than a Fiat Grande Punto) the Qubo offers up to 2,500 litres of carrying space with the rear seats removed. Keep them in and there’s still 360 litres on offer, or 740 with them folded down. The rear seats don’t slide though, and with such a short wheelbase there’s a disappointing amount of leg room available in the rear. The roof is tall enough to ensure even the tallest passenger never feels claustrophobic.

Our rating: 5

4. Ride and handling

You could never expect the handling to be a major Qubo strong point, especially once it’s loaded up. However, while things can get a bit wallowy on twisty roads, you never feel the car is seriously out of its depth. Of course Fiat could easily have sharpened up the handling, but it would have been at the expense of the ride, which is pretty much spot on as it is. Even over quite badly scarred roads the Qubo never gets really uncomfortable, proving that Fiat’s engineers got the settings just about right.

Our rating: 4

5. Performance

Anyone who buys a Qubo isn’t likely to be thrashing up and down the motorway, which is just as well because it feels underpowered in the cut and thrust of fast-moving traffic. At 70mph there’s nothing in reserve for dashing into lane three to scoot past middle lane dawdlers, regardless of the engine you choose. The 1.4-litre petrol unit provides 73bhp and 87lb/ft of pulling power to give a 97mph top speed and 0-62mph in 16.2 seconds. The other engine, a 1.3-litre diesel, knocks out 75bhp and 140lb/ft – enough for a 97mph top speed and 0-62mph in 16.5 seconds. The problem is the Qubo feels rather slower than the figures suggest.

Our rating: 2

6. Running costs

The trade-off for the lack of poke is reasonable economy – although it still won’t blow your socks off. The Qubo 1.3 diesel is claimed to be capable of an impressive average 62.8mpg, although we managed less than 50mpg over 700 mostly motorway miles. CO2 emissions are pegged at just 119g/km though, so road tax is low. This compares with 165g/km for the 1.4-litre petrol engine, which can officially return a 40.4mpg average. Once again, in practice however this is likely to be closer to 35mpg, which isn’t all that special for such a small car.

Our rating: 3

7. Reliability

Fiat hasn’t got a great record for building super-dependable cars, although the company has made great strides in recent years. There are still some flimsy plastics in evidence, so build quality isn’t up to German levels, but overall reliability should be OK.

Our rating: 3

8. Safety

The Qubo hasn’t been crash tested, and while it doesn’t feel as substantial as some more costly MPVs, there’s no reason to think that it would fail to look after you in a crash. There’s a reasonable amount of safety kit as standard though, including head restraints and three-point seatbelts for all seats, side airbags for those in the front, Isofix mountings and electronic brake force distribution. Electronic stability programme is not available.

Our rating: 2

9. Equipment

There are just two trim levels available: Active and Dynamic. Both get a leather-trimmed steering wheel, trip computer, remote central locking electric front windows, CD/tuner plus a Bluetooth hands-free with steering wheel-mounted controls. However, only the Dynamic comes with body-coloured bumpers and mirrors, electrically adjustable mirrors, air-con, height-adjustable driver’s seat and front fog lights.

Our rating: 3

10. Why buy?

If you need serious carrying capacity and you don’t have a lot of money to spend, the Qubo might be just the ticket.

Our rating: 3

Expert review 3.1stars

  • Exterior3
  • Interior3
  • Practicality5
  • Ride and handling4
  • Performance2
  • Running costs3
  • Reliability3
  • Safety2
  • Equipment3
  • Why buy?3

Our recommendations

Best on a budget:

Qubo 1.4 Active

Cheapest engine and trim, but not much kit

Best-seller:

Qubo 1.3 Multijet Active

Best engine but the cheapest trim

Blow the budget:

Qubo 1.3 Multijet Dynamic

Frugal diesel engine with the most kit

It’s the practicality for which the Qubo will be bought