Qubo, or cube in English, is a practical and spacious 1.3-litre MPV from Fiat.
Qubo, or cube in English, is a practical and spacious 1.3-litre MPV from Fiat.
Rear door is a problem in tight spaces.
Rear door is a problem in tight spaces.
Qubo provides a really comfortable raised driving position with good all-round visibility and an armrest.
Qubo provides a really comfortable raised driving position with good all-round visibility and an armrest.

A few years ago I was quite disconcerted by other motorists’ reactions while driving the Fiat Multipla, a car so ugly that not even its mother could have loved it.

On one memorable occasion I cringed behind the wheel while driving behind a bakkie with workers on the back, who were pointing at the front end of the Multipla and laughing their heads off.

But the Multipla had the last laugh with its comfy driving position and all-round versatility and it was with some reluctance that we gave it back to Fiat after our test.

Fast forward a few years and enter the Fiat Qubo, a new take on a city car with MPV capability. The name is derived from the word cube and a cube it is. While the eye-catching Qubo is not for shy people with its bulbous front bumper and huge windows it has a funky look that I would hesitate to call ugly.

The Fiat is all about versatility for the active family.

It’s much more than just a mom’s taxi. Although it has just two rows of seats allowing for 330 litres of luggage space, the rear seats with a 60/40 split can be lowered and tumble forward to increase the loading area. Lowering the seats and allowing them to tumble forward is done simply by yanking on a loop, although I somehow managed to jam the rear seats doing this and was unable to unjam it. The rear seats can also be removed, increasing the load area to a massive 2 500-litre cavern.

The sliding rear doors are easy to operate in a confined space and make it easy for boisterous kids and dog to clamber in and out. The swing-up tailgate is basically the same as on commercial vans and has the advantage of making it easy to load large objects.

COMFORTABLE DRIVING POSITION

A big selling point for me is that as with the Multipla, the Qubo provides a really comfortable raised driving position with good all-round visibility and an armrest. I could happily sit behind the steering wheel in this vehicle for long spells without becoming overly fatigued.

Two nice-to-have gadgets are the handsfree Blue&Me Bluetooth enabling you to safely keep in touch with the world, and the USB port. Blue&Me makes it easy to make and receive phone calls, listen to text messages and connect to the media player via the USB port.

I particularly enjoyed the USB port; simply plug in a memory stick with your music and you have hours of music for the road. CD players are fast going the way of dinosaurs.

The steering wheel has satellite controls for the audio system and the menu for toggling between the info display, giving you read-outs such as average fuel consumption, instant fuel consumption, average speed, distance and time travelled.

The Qubo comes with black and grey cloth seats and the grey could possibly show dirt stains, an occupational hazard with a large family.

MODEST BUT GUTSY ENGINE

Our test vehicle was powered by a 1.3-litre turbodiesel engine with a modest 55kW but gutsy 190Nm, powering the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox.

The Qubo’s lively enough to cruise in the fast lane, with a top speed of 155km/h. There is some turbo lag on pull away and at low revs, but nothing one can’t live with, and the reward lies in the savings in fuel provided by such an engine.

Although we did not match the manufacturer’s claims of 4.1 litres per 100km, the Fiat was quite miserly on fuel, sipping just six litres per 100km under normal driving conditions. However, if you are prepared to let the world pass by a little slower at 100km/h on the highway then this figure drops to just over five litres per 100km.

For some reason the Qubo’s onboard computer doesn’t give the fuel consumption average in the traditionally accepted litres per 100 kilometres, but instead in kilometres per litre. However, some drivers may prefer it this way.

Ride quality is good with road holding being better than one would expect from such a vehicle. The Qubo provides a pleasantly firm ride without being too hard, soaking up ripples and bumps, while not wallowing when cornering.

The Qubo 1.3 Multijet turbodiesel comes with a R199 990 price tag and a three-year or 100 000km warranty as well as a three-year or 100 000km maintenance plan and 12 months Roadside Assistance. Service intervals are every 20 000km.

VERDICT

The Qubo is for those who don’t feel the urge to be lemming-like in accepting orthodox styling, and who value function over form with the emphasis on practicality. With the Qublo, Fiat has come up with a practical vehicle that will appeal to those demanding space and light fuel consumption in a package that comes with good spec levels. - Star Motoring