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The upgraded 2015 Fiat Ducato heavy van has arrived, giving the Italian brand more ammunition to fend off the fast-growing Renault Master and to battle other like-price class staples such as the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Ford Transit Custom.

Fiat Commercial’s revised load-lugging Ducato line-up comes in short, medium, long and ‘Xtra’ long-wheelbase forms, with two roof height options, two GVMs and a cab-chassis derivative popular with motorhome converters. Payloads range between 1480kg and 2065kg for the van versions. 

There’s also a new engine under the bonnet of every version — a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel with 130kW at 3500rpm and 400Nm at 1400rpm, which in base cab chassis form uses 7.2L/100km. Impressively, Fiat offers 48,000km service intervals, while the warranty is three-years/200,000km.

Fiat Ducato 3

By comparison, the old 2.3-litre Multijet II engine made either 96kW/320Nm or 109kW/350Nm depending on body style. 

The new engine is matched to a six-speed manual gearbox or six-speed Comfort-Matic semi-auto transmission (standard on ‘Long’ and ‘Extra Long’ wheelbase versions). Like the Renault Master but unlike some other rivals, all Ducatos are front-wheel-drive. 

Further improvements to efficiency and running costs are said to have been gained by working on kerb weight reduction and increased payload through, for example, the use of composite materials in the rear suspension.

Fiat Ducato 5

Fiat also claims body and chassis reinforcements, improved braking and performance, and enhancements to the lifespan of the suspension and clutch.

There is a new front end design with standard daytime running lights, an easier-to-repair three-par bumper, new seats inside the cabin and an updated multimedia system. 

Pricing ranges from $38,000 plus on-road costs for the SWB low roof model, with a GVM of 3510kg. That puts it there or thereabouts with smaller-segment models such as the Toyota HiAce, Volkswagen Transports and Renault Trafic. 

Fiat Ducato 4

Next is the $40,000 MWB with low roof, followed by the MWB with medium roof (price not announced as delivery is a few months away on this one), then the $48,000 LWB with medium roof and $52,000 for the LWB with medium roof. The cab chassis model is $44,000. 

Standard features include a bulkhead with viewing window — a hugely advantageous feature that improves NVH by leaps and bounds, in our experience — cruise control and a five-inch touchscreen interface with Bluetooth streaming. Rear parking sensors and 27-degree rear doors are also standard. 

All versions continue to offer an Electronic Stability Control (ESC) system as standard, but it now integrates a Rollover Mitigation System to increase comfort and protect the load from unexpected motion, in conjunction with Load and Centre of Gravity Detection (LAC), Hill Holder, Anti-Slip (ASR) and Electronic Braking Assistance (EBA) systems.

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Further driving assistance systems are available for extra money, such as Traction+ (complete with Hill Descent Control) and a Lane Departure Warning system with high-beam recognition.

The Ducato has notched up 2.6 million global sales since it was launched in Europe in 1981.

In the Australian sales race, the Mercedes Sprinter is the segment leader with 2229 sales YTD, many of which are used as Ambulances. The Renault Master has leapt into second place this year with 923 sales so far, thanks to sharp deals and fleet arrangements with Australia Post. The Ducato is third with 859, ahead of the Ford Transit (408) and Volkswagen Crafter (273). Ford recently launched its new Transit Custom, so expect it to bounce in 2015 also.

2014 Fiat Ducato pricing:

SWB/low roof – $38,000

MWB/low roof – $40,000

MWB/medium roof – TBA

LWB/medium roof – $48,000

XLWB/medium roof – $52,000

Cab/chassis – $44,000