Fiat has been working to regain a foothold in the Indian market. It launched the facelifted Punto and Linea earlier this year and has now brought a compact 5 seater SUV which is actually a Punto Evo crossover. Called the Avventura (Italian for adventure), the new Fiat car came to the markets a couple of days before Diwali of 2014. Its concept vehicle was shown at Auto Expo this year and it is based on the same platform as Punto hatchback.
The petrol Avventura is powered by 1.4 litre FIRE petrol engine that does duty in Linea. It is tuned for 89 bhp and 11.7 kgm torque. No points for guessing that it is the popular 1.3 litre multijet motor for the diesel model. Its attractive specs include 92 bhp and 21.31 kgm of torque making it a more tempting alternative to its petrol sibling. By the time of launch, Fiat had garnered more than 500 bookings for the new car.
As a hatchback based crossover, Avventura will lock horns with Volkswagen Cross Polo, Toyota Etios Cross but strong competition comes from EcoSport too and this is why Fiat has priced it slightly lower than Ford’s compact SUV. Price for the petrol version starts at Rs 5.99 lakhs and for the diesel model at Rs 6.89 lakhs (ex showroom price Delhi).
Observe closely and you will be able to make out the resemblance with its sibling – the facelifted Punto Evo. But there are differences and these go beyond the heavy cladding. The Avventura is taller than Punto by 16 mm and its ground clearance of 205 mm gives it some off roading abilities even without four wheel drive. The wheel wells are pretty large and there is an SUV-like spare mounted at the rear. So Fiat has worked on some typical attributes to make the Avventura a more genuine crossover than Etios Cross and Cross Polo that are simply hatchbacks made to look like crossovers.
Can this new offering of Fiat help it to get a good chunk of share in the compact SUV segment? We review the car closely to find out the answer:
The Outer Impression
With its heavy metal finish plastic cladding, the Avventura looks quite stylish when compared to the revised Punto Evo. The chrome lined radiator grille is divided in two parts as on the Punto but carries more detailing. It is largely the bumper design with the skid plate that attracts attention in the front. Power bulges on the bonnet converge towards its edge to enclose the Fiat emblem. The reindeer headlamps have been carried over from the hatch but with a smoked look they look better on this crossover. While the concept showcased at Auto Expo had projector headlamps and daytime running lights, these elements have not been used in the production model.
All Images Credit: Fiat India
Moving on to the sides you will see aggressive styling with pronounced aluminium fabricated roof rails, more cladding that also engulfs the wheel arches and a thick black pseudo skid plate band on the door panels with Avventura embossed on it. Fiat has used 16 inch alloy wheels with in 205/55 R16 tyres for this car and wheel wells are visibly deep. The body coloured outside rear view mirrors (ORVMs) have side turn indicators.
The USP of Avventura’s exterior looks lies in its rear section where you see a full size spare wheel mounted. And it is the technique used for this placing (of spare) that makes things interesting. It looks like but is not actually affixed to the tailgate – it is attached to the chassis via the sturdy rear bumper. On all the trims it has a large, body coloured cover and thick black cladding for uniformity with the rest of design. Fiat logo in the centre and Avventura monogram on the cladding also embellish the cover. There is a loop on the clamping mechanism where you can put a lock to secure this wheel casing. The tail lamps shared with Punto Evo look great and there is a stop lamp under the roof overhang. Reflectors are neatly housed in the sturdy, metal-finish plastic scuff plate on the rear bumper.
As we expect from Fiat cars, the build quality is solid and doors close with a solid thud. The plastics used for cladding have a strong finish and paint job is also pleasing. With all the extra kit that has gone into the making of this crossover, the Avventura is 48 kg heavier than Punto Evo.
What’s on the inside?
The cabin feels familiar as this is Punto based car but as on the outside there are updates to make it sportier for a crossover. So the features that will catch your attention are the compass, tilt-meter and clinometer (an instrument that is used to measure pitch and roll of vehicle on trails, and can help to avoid roll-overs) above the centre AC vents – they will be good to use when you go off-road in this car. The black and grey combination of dashboard is a change from the beige-black tone of Punto Evo. Quality of dashboard plastic may not look very nice but it feels soft and premium to touch. In the top end – Emotion – trim the dashboard gets ambient illumination that gives it highlighted look in dark.
Shared with the Punto, the centre console has piano black finish around the music system and feels elegant. Standard audio features subsume CD/MP3 player, FM radio, USB and Aux-input ports. The Blue & Me feature in top-end specs of Fiats is there for Avventura ‘Emotion’ too – it’s voice control works beautifully and steering mounted controls make the operation of the entire system easier. For the speakers, Fiat has used the units that it put in facelifted Punto Evo.
While the nicely shaped thumb contours on the three-spoke steering wheel make it comfortable to grip, the actual positioning of the wheel is not ergonomically sound. Even after adjusting it at lowest point of tilt, it feels rather high. And Fiat has still not learnt to assemble the ignition console properly.
Another case of poor ergonomics is the spacing between the dead pedal and the clutch. They are very close and this becomes an irritant while using the clutch pedal – can be dangerous too! The issue has also been raised earlier by users and car reviewers.
Manual HVAC with foot level rear air circulation is provided in all variants and the top end version has automatic climate control with separate rear AC vents. Fabric +leather seats look good and the front ones are comfortable offering adequate back-support. Driver’s seat is height adjustable in top end spec but the quality of handle for this adjustment could have been better. Cubby holes are not quite useful – the cup holder in front of the gear lever is asymmetrical and at the most can hold a 500 ml water bottle. The door pockets are also good only to keep maps or a folded newspaper. There is just a single 1 litre bottle holder and it’s good to be in front of the rear AC tower where it will keep the liquid cool.
The rear bench seat is flat and adequately broad to offer good under-thigh support. Legroom is also enough but if the front seats are stretched back to their fullest range, the person behind will feel squeezed in. The rear seat has 60:40 split and can be double folded to create an almost flat luggage cove. With the seats up, the boot has 280 litres of space.
Avventura’s cabin feels well loaded and is also customised with some features for off-roading convenience (the compass, tilt-meter and clinometer). However, there is no reversing camera which some new car drivers prefer. The spare wheel also limits the rearward visibility a little.
Engine, Transmission and Performance
1.3 litre multijet diesel
The 1.3 litre multijet engine powering the Avventura is Fiat’s own and has become the national engine for India. For this compact vehicle it has variable geometry turbo and produces 92 bhp at 4000 rpm and 21.31 kgm torque at 2000 rpm. We delve into Avventura’s performance with this oil burner for our test as it will have more takers than its petrol sibling.
Despite being heavier than Punto Evo, Avventura feels more refined at idling with the 92 bhp motor. The diesel jangle that is fairly audible at low rpms in Punto is not heard in this car. There is a linear state of tune and turbo-lag also feels reduced. However, even though the specs look good on paper, it is not a very responsive unit and that makes the Avventura tad cumbersome to drive in stop and go traffic conditions of the city.
Below 2000 rpm (where the peak torque comes), the engine is lazy and so you need to work through the 5 speed gearbox to keep it in more useful zone. While the ‘box feels improved and it is easy to cog through the gates, there is a rubbery feel to it. The setting of gear ratios is such that the engine also feels a little stressed at low speeds in first gear. After 20 km/hour and in some cases (if driven by a more experienced driver), after 30 km/hour it literally yells for an upshift and does not show any progress till you do so. The second gear is good for speeds up to 60 km/hour and the third for over 90 km/hour. While Avventura does offer better responses than Punto between 1200-1500 rpm, it is between 2200 and 3500 rpm that the 1.3 litre multijet engine punches at its best.
Sound of the engine is felt into the cabin at higher rpms but this multijet diesel is rev-happy and goes up to 4000 rpms without protest. Even if the progress gets slower after unleash of full power (92 bhp) at 4000 rpm, you can rev it up to 5000 rpm. And indeed to enjoy the best performance on highways, you do need to rev up this engine because the low-range is not very punchy.
Ride and Handling
This Fiat compact SUV is capable of going comfortably on the typical roads of India and stays undeterred by undulations, potholes and ridges. The high ground clearance is to its advantage in this regard. As a crossover, VW Cross Polo also has a nice ride quality but the ground clearance is limited to 168 mm and so it is the 205 mm ground clearance of Avventura that makes it superior. It may be a muddy track or craggy tarmac, this vehicle makes admirable progress at pace without causing much vertical movement in the cabin. You can take it to good roads, bad roads or absolutely no roads – the Avventura takes all in its stride. It’s just some rattle from the spare wheel at back that irks if you are going at speed on broken roads.
And with that extra ride height, how does it fare in terms of handling? Quite well, in spite of some body roll that is expected in any SUV. Indeed, Fiat’s engineers have done a good job on keeping the body roll under control and the transfer of weight is judged nicely around the corners. This makes the Avventura fun to drive on winding roads and with those special dials on centre console (clinometer and tilt-meter) changing readings, you may like to throw it hard around corners.
An enjoyable-to-drive compact SUV, the Avventura gives you a nice time for miles on highway. Its straight line stability is appreciable and the broader tyres give it a good grip. The hydraulic steering is somewhat tight to use at parking speeds but its weighted nature gives you ample feedback on the open roads. The brakes also have a fine bite – you feel in control while stopping suddenly from higher speeds. And the upper end variants are equipped with anti-lock braking for more safety while off-roading.
Avventura diesel has been rated at 20.5 km/litre which is the same as its hatchback sibling Punto Evo. It can actually deliver up to 14 km/litre in cities and 18.5 km/litre on the highways. The petrol model has ARAI rated fuel economy of 14.4 km/litre.
A good looking crossover that also outshines its closest rivals in the ride and handling category, Avventura will be a nice buy for enthusiasts who love countryside drives. Its small size does not permit you to try severe off-roading but going down on most of the unpaved winding roads is well within its forte. The 1.3 litre multijet diesel engine proves its mettle yet again although we would have liked if it was more tractable. It also provides adequate fuel efficiency.
We have to wait for the launch of Fiat Abarth 500 (expected in December 2014) and a formal ‘compact SUV’ by Fiat (not coming before January 2016), but Avventura is a high potential car that can help the Italian carmaker to regain its ground in Indian car market.
Fiat Avventura Active Diesel: Rs 6.89 lakhs
Fiat Avventura Dynamic Diesel: 7.65 lakhs
Fiat Avventura Emotion Diesel: 8.17 lakhs
Fiat Avventura Active Petrol: Rs 5.99 lakhs
Fiat Avventura Dynamic Petrol: Rs 7.05 lakhs
Value for Money: 3.5/5