Fiat has confirmed that buyers of its Ducato panel van will now be able to specify Fiat’s Comfort-Matic automatic gearbox with the van’s standard 2.3l diesel engine.
Until now, the Comfort-Matic gearbox has only been available with the 3l engine – an engine chosen by a small minority of buyers only and mostly used in the high-end motorhome market.
In keeping with the current trend, Fiat’s Comfort-Matic Manual Automated Transmission system is a traditional manual transmission except there is no clutch pedal.
Instead, the clutch is operated automatically by a computer, which decides when to change gear and operates the clutch automatically. The shift is either performed automatically or the driver can use the gear lever to prompt changes by pulling backwards or pushing forwards. The Comfort-Matic system also offers all of the other features commonly associated with automatic transmissions:
- Uphill-Downhill Mode: gearshift logic managed by software to ensure the best ratio depending on road gradient;
- Warm Up Mode: emission reduction strategy during cold starts;
- Brake Assistance Mode: ratio reduction to support vehicle deceleration;
- Kick Down Mode: reduction in the ratio following abrupt action on the accelerator pedal (for example, during overtaking);
- Fast Off Detection: gearshift inhibition if the accelerator is released quickly.
The gearbox also has an additional feature aimed at heavily laden motorhomes and vans – the UP button. This “automatically optimises the gear shift points to ensure the most appropriate engine rpm in any condition and improve performance in particularly harsh conditions or on steep slopes.”
Fiat seems to expect that many (most?) sales of the Comfort-Matic will be to the motorhome market. It says that motorhome prototypes were used for tuning and testing stage, with faithful reproduction of the configurations of front surfaces, gross vehicle weight and the typical motorhome usage conditions.
Strong Demand For Automatic Van Hire
Judging from the enquiries we receive here at vanrental.co.uk, demand for automatic van hire is much greater than supply.
The problem is that although automatic gearboxes are good technology and offer a number of advantages, they cost more and in most cases are not available on all models – as with Fiat, until now.
Fiat’s decision to offer the Comfort-Matic with all engine options may have been prompted by its dominance of the motorhome market, where automatics are very popular, but hopefully it also signifies a gradual move into the mainstream for automatic vans.
In turn, this should lead to automatic transmission being offered at a lower cost and taken up more widely by hire fleets.