So we have the replacement
for the well proportioned Bravo and Brava. This time under one name.
Project 192 became Stilo to the world at the Geneva Motor Show in March
2001. I first became aware of it a few months later when watching telly.
An advert. Four adults were sitting in a light and spacious car rhythmically
playing with all the switches - and there were a lot of switches to
OK, but cars are for driving
aren't they? Well no, not for most people. Most people would rather
already be at the other end of the journey - for them driving is to
be endured. And in our society we are constantly reminded how allegedly
dangerous it is to drive. So cars must be as safe and as comfortable
as possible. Something of a super taxi then, one for the family, quiet,
competent, spacious and accessible. One day you're going to be in need
of a hire car from an airport or similar and you'll get to drive one.
On a stressful, bad weather sort of day I think you'll like it. Only
thing is one of these versions carries Abarth badges and I was struggling
to find much of the usual Abarth-ness about it. We're not going to turn
away 170bhp, but if you wanted my honest choice I think I prefer the
The Stilos come in 3 and 5
door versions and they are quite different. Fiat have targeted their
3 and 5 door Stylos at the broad mass of the public first and squared
up to the Ford and Volkswagen buyers in particular. The Stilo build
quality is good by any production standards. Interior space has to be
paid for outside, and the chunky solidity of the exterior lines help
to disguise the Stilo's width. The cars have the latest fashion in overhung
rear valences too. We're all getting wider as a nation. Statistically
our average girths are expanding. Maybe we need a wider car. But there's
the key to this car's design, I feel. It's statistical. Its been specified
on tables with focus groups, modes and means and quartiles and percentiles.
A car specified to cover the averages and compete with features.
Of course the 5 door is the
taller and the longer of the two - the 3 door has a lower front stance
- and a lower driving position, definitely wedge shaped back from the
large front intakes and rounded front light clusters. The 5 door offers
more visibility, and a much more flexible interior. The rear seats adjust
and recline to alter storage and seating space, the front passenger
seat can become a table. This car has many features of a small MPV.
With the transponder you can enter and start the car without a key.
Opt for the Radar Cruise Control and you can set the motorway speed
and let the car maintain distance by braking and accelerating. Enter
a tunnel and the lights will come on. If rain falls, the wipers will
activate. There is a parking distance sensor too. When in town there's
also a dual sensitivity electric power steering with a lighter action
There's just a bewildering
array of electronic gadgets and options. Fiat's market analysis has
been working over time, I'm positive, to identify each section of the
medium car buying public and address their latest whims. If there is
a function or feature that's appeared in the last five years then I'll
bet somehow its been addressed in the Stilo options packages. I'll bet
too there's some you'll never have thought of.
Under the body design work
has continued to keep the Stilo as quiet and stable as possible.
The torsion beam (semi-independent)
rear suspension design was first used by Fiat in the Uno, and refined
through nineties models. It is employed to reduce intrusion into the
rear luggage space. In the Stilo the design is also aided by a hollow
anti roll bar, and hydraulic bushes that help damp vibration and increase
toe in (feel) during cornering. The front suspension is MacPherson strut,
with attention to materials and bushing to keep vibration and road noise
to a minimum.
Overall the Stilo suspension
is a well trodden Fiat design path to successful road suspension. The
chassis dynamics are fine for driving and cornering at normal road and
motorway speeds. You don't get much of the usual Fiat feedback. The
suspension isn't even overly stiff - a Fiat trademark if ever there
was one. The Stilos both have a very poised system.
Add to that the driver aids.
Besides ABS there's electronic load brake biasing, traction control
on acceleration and braking (separate driving wheel skid control), Brake
Assist in emergency stopping, high speed stability control, an Occupant
Classification Sensor so that the airbags deploy not only with two levels
of acceleration according to the severity of impact, but also detect
if the front seat is occupied or not. If not the airbags on that side
do not deploy. Fiat's acronyms for these are ABS, EBD, ASR, MSR, BRAKE
ASSIST, ESP and OCS.
I won't go into the voice
activation and memory systems, partly because of the emotional scarring
I received at the hands of a Mercedes about a year ago trying to programme
the voice controls, or should it be the voice stuff programming me?
Perhaps it was because it was in France and I didn't have the right
accent. Different maker and car I know.
Here again Fiat have some
of the class leaders in engines to choose from. For the UK market there
are 5 engine options. Put into the Stilo and the power available is
deceptive because of the limited feedback and noise damping solutions
built in. These include a drive by wire system, so some of the usual
pedal connections to the under-bonnet orchestra are missing.
The UK received only one of
the continental diesel options available - the latest turbo diesel with
a Garret turbo charger and intercooler accompanying Fiat's Unijet common
rail injection system. This one can really be persuaded to go some with
the right boost, chip and injectors. But for now it is merely one of
the best diesels around.
The 2.4 20 valve Abarth delivers
its 170bhp with little fuss. From the Brava HGTs and Marea we know this
is about the power limit from this engine before the miles per gallon
start to plummet. A viceless, smooth 5 pot, with the established long
1.6 16v, 1.8 16v
As with the 2.4 litre, the
1.6 16v and 1.8 16v engines twin cams have been developed with space
and weight saving in mind. All benefit from the variable valve technology/
hydraulic tappet design pioneered by Fiat in the nineties. They are
well established, and familiar to the Fiat dealerships so maintenance
should not be a problem.
The lightweight FIRE 1.2 16valve
was first introduced during 1996 with the Punto Sporting. It has been
an unqualified success to date. I would suggest, however that the Stilo
is a much heavier vehicle and I'd like to know how the two get on together
from any owners.
Fiat have combined the engine
and trim choices as follows:
There are three levels of
trim - Active, Dynamic and Abarth.
Under the Abarth trim choice
only the 2.4 litre 5 cylinder engine is available. Also this year the
Abarth can be chosen with a manual gearbox. Until now the Abarth came
with the Selespeed automatic change only. There are another four gearbox
options in addition to the Selespeed. As yet there is no 2 litre engine
option for the Stilo.
The increasingly popular 1.9
JTD turbo diesel is offered with Active or Dynamic trim, while the 1.2
16v lightweight FIRE engine is available with only the Active trim level.
Comfortable yes, versatile
yes - Fiat's own brochure words. Stilos are mileage eaters, and very
efficient. When I see an Abarth badged car describe as comfortable though
I begin to wonder if something odd hasn't happened. I wonder what the
Italians think of these Stilos? And I wonder what Fiat's designers think?
I've heard the words 'un-Italian'
applied to the Stilos. That made me smile. Because I've heard it before.
The last time I recall it was the Strada/ Ritmo - and Fiat responded
with confidence in a magnificently Fiat-like way with a new breed of
Ritmo. Sometimes history does repeat itself - we could do with a Stilo
like these, and another one to rival the Alfa medium saloons too. Then
Fiat would really be covering the market and the choice wouldn't merely
rely on massed electronics. Is that it - is that the marketing message?
Give up on Fiats - we have a mass market to service, if you want to
do Sporting buy an Alfa?
What would it profit a
car if it tries to gain the whole market, but loses its soul?
The Stilo is a real cracker
of a family car. The ultimate in efficient roomy taxis. But it just
doesn't awaken the latin undercoat of my dry Anglo Saxon genes. It wouldn't
raise my pulse just to know it was sitting outside on the driveway.
And with a name so close to 'Stile' I prefer more Latino in my driving
style. Under it all I'm a Salsa not a Waltz sort of guy, that's all.
and Driving the Stilo
We don't have enough data on the Stilos to advise
on buying and owning them yet. That's where you guys and gals come in!
Email your comments on the Stilo here.