Fiat may have recently lost ground to upgraded European vans like the Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit and Volkswagen Crafter. But the new Series 8 Ducato shows improvements that should allow it to continue its reign at the top of the motorhome platform segment.
We delve into its popularity, the advantages of its cab chassis for motorhome makers, and how it has stepped up from the Series 7.
Table of Contents
The Series 8 Fiat Ducato lifts the game of the world’s most popular motorhome platform in several key areas, namely:
Performance — especially in terms of fuel consumption
Environmental impact — the new 2.2L engine produces markedly less CO2
Safety — new electronic architecture enables more driving aid
Refinement – the powertrain is smoother and quieter.
Ducato’s popularity with motorhome manufacturers
Fiat Ducato vans have formed the basis for more than 700,000 European-made motorhomes in the past decade. Include the US market since Ducato’s identical twin, Ram ProMaster, launched in 2014 and the number of Ducato-based motorhomes made over the last ten years is more than a million.
The Fiat is therefore the world’s most popular motorhome platform by far — and currently forms the foundation for three out of every four motorhomes made in Europe.
Backing up Fiat’s popularity is the Italian supervan’s consistent success at winning awards.
Prestigious magazine, Promobil, is recognised as Germany’s most trusted authority on all things motorhome. It crowned the Ducato with its annual best motorhome base award — 14 years in a row.
Why Fiat is a big player in the plans of motorhome makers
Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Iveco and Volkswagen are all superb alternative vans. However, Fiat hold two trump cards over their rivals.
Ease of manufacturing
A Ducato can be ordered already pre-prepared for a motorhome conversion from Fiat’s factory in Sevel Atessa, Italy. This means that motorhome manufacturers have a more accessible starting point.
The same is true of the Peugeot Boxer and Citroèn Relay vans — which are both rebadged Ducatos.
Motorhome manufacturers can source Fiat for a lower price than German-badged vans. The Series 8 Fiat Ducato continues to offer a lower bottom line, which can be purchased either:
- Stripped of niceties like a large central touchscreen and driving aids like adaptive cruise control, or
- Upgraded to state-of-the-art level by specifying a number of additional equipment packages for it.
Motorhome makers can then tailor the new Fiat platform to their brand. For instance, upmarket brands will add all the equipment they can to help create an aura of increased sophistication.
When these motorhomes are imported into Australasian markets, they’ll have Series 8 Ducato platforms. This’ll ensure they’re much better equipped than the new Fiat Ducato light commercial vans already sold in New Zealand and Australia.
Find out about other factors that influence the cost of a motorhome.
Conversions using other vans usually start with a cab chassis. Then the recreational vehicle company has to decide whether to:
- Cut off the steel chassis and rear suspension behind the cab and discard it — in favour of a wider, lighter and lower Al-Ko chassis, rear suspension and axle(s), or
- Retain it — and attempt to integrate the van chassis and rear suspension into the motorhome.
French motorhome companies such as Pilote and the Trigano brands (like Adria, Benimar, Chausson, McLouis and Roller Team) often favour retaining the entire chassis and rear suspension of each donor van. This is particularly the case when they’re creating motorhomes less than 7.5 metres long.
That approach differs from most British, Italian and German motorhome makers. They prefer the weight and space savings gained from a hybrid chassis — made by grafting a van’s front end to an Al-Ko chassis that will underpin most of the motorhome’s living area.
The Fiat cab chassis
Fiat has been particularly clever at making the Ducato a more attractive platform for semi-integrated, low-profile motorhomes — the most popular RV format in New Zealand.
Fiat achieves this by sending already abbreviated Ducato cab chassis to Al-Ko facilities in Bavaria, the UK, and Australia where they’re converted into semi-integrated motorhome platforms.
These vans arrive as mechanical co-joined twins, with each bolted to another back-to-back for ease of transport. With the rear walls and roofs of the vans already removed, Al-Ko simply:
- Un-bolt the two Ducato facades
- Turn the rearward facing one around
- Add their highly regarded alloy chassis and suspension to create two semi-integrated motorhome platforms.
They’re then sent out to a plethora of motorhome manufacturers located around the world. The Series 8 Ducato’s motorhome readiness will remain top of mind for motorhome makers wanting to build semi-integrated models.
Take a look at our buyers’ guide to motorhome chassis and construction.
Catching up to the competition
Throughout Europe, the Series 8 Ducato is either available in base form or is equipped with one of the following packages.
Tecnico expands the size of the multimedia touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard from five to seven inches and adds Bluetooth, power-adjustable mirrors, and wireless phone charging.
Tecnico Plus brings the comfort and convenience of automatic climate control.
Business Edition further expands the U Connect screen to ten inches and adds satellite navigation, plus a classy digital instrument cluster. This package ensures the Series 8 Ducato driving interface catches up to the likes of the Mercedes Sprinter.
Improvements in safety
The Series 8 can come with a comprehensive suite of safety-enhancing equipment. The roll call of what’s available includes:
Active parking assistance — when you’re making both parallel and perpendicular parks
Speed adaptive cruise control — that can bring the Ducato to a complete stop if required
Lane-keeping assistance and driver attention monitoring
Traffic jam assistance and road sign recognition
- An autonomous emergency braking system — that’s aware of cyclists and pedestrians.
Read more about motorhome safety.
Advanced driving technology
The Series 8 Ducato virtually drives itself when fully equipped and with the right conditions — thanks to the calibre of the new Advanced Driving Assistance Systems (ADAS) technology.
Fiat hails the latest Ducato as the world’s first level two autonomous commercial vehicle such are the plethora of sensors, cameras and radar that can be specified for it. Level two means that in situations like everyday motorway use it can drive itself, keeping accurately to the middle of the lane, steering, braking, and accelerating as required.
Level two also requires the driver to be attentive and in touch with the steering wheel, otherwise the ADAS will gently hand back control.
Lighter engine with better fuel economy
Engines were once a major point of difference between the vans emerging from Fiat’s Sevel Atessa factory. You had motors from the now defunct PSA Group powering the Peugeot and Citróen vans — and Fiat’s Multijet 2 turbo-diesel motivating the Ducatos.
Now that all three brands are under the umbrella of the Stellantis Group, they’ve seized the opportunity to standardise the powertrains being fitted at Sevel Atessa.
In comes a new family of 2.2L engines bearing the name Multijet 3 for use by all three brands. They range in maximum power outputs from 140bhp to 180bhp when hooked up to the nine-speed ZF automatic gearbox.
Ignore the fact that this is a slightly smaller engine under the bonnet of the Ducato than the one it replaces. It’ll deliver just as much power — along with increased driving force at more accessible engine speeds.
The real value of the Multijet 3 is its relative lightness. It’s quite a bit lighter than the second-generation Fiat turbo-diesel engine that it’s replacing. You’ll enjoy a seven percent improvement in fuel economy due to the lower engine mass and the automatic start-stop system — now fitted as standard equipment.
Given that the Multijet 2 was already one of the most economical light commercial diesels around, this seven percent improvement from the Multijet 3 is a remarkable accomplishment.
Get some advice on how to improve your motorhome’s fuel efficiency.
AdBlue for less harm
Lower fuel use equals less CO2 being emitted. But the Multijet 3 also tackles more toxic pollutants like nitrous dioxide by its use of AdBlue (urea) injection to instantly turn the NO2 into something far less harmful.
AdBlue injection was introduced on the Series 7 Ducato. The only drawback is that the space required for the additional urea tank has forced Fiat to fit a slightly smaller diesel tank. Fortunately, the increased fuel efficiency of the Series 8 means that some cruising range has been restored.
Learn more about AdBlue.
Check which Series 8 Fiat Ducato you’re buying
The Series 8 Ducato has the potential to be the equal of well-equipped motorhome platforms from German automotive brands — but only if the motorhome maker specifies all the equipment required to level the playing field.
Often motorhome buyers overlook what’s up front in favour of what’s out back when inspecting potential new motorhomes at dealerships or shows. With the Series 8, Fiat have made the Ducato more suitable for a wider range of motorhome manufacturers — including top-end brands.
Equally a Series 8 stripped of equipment will continue to suit budget motorhome applications. Best then to make sure that your motorhome platform’s equipment level in the cab matches your expectations — as much as the furnishing of the cabin that follows it.
Looking for a Fiat-Ducato based motorhome? Come in and speak with our friendly team for information on models, chassis and prices.