Thursday 20 July 2017

Fiat and Alfa fighting to recapture old glory days and conquer 2017

With impressive new offerings, the Italians are looking to conquer 2017, writes Martin Brennan

BELLISSIMO: The Tipo is Fiat’s answer to the Focus and Astra
BELLISSIMO: The Tipo is Fiat’s answer to the Focus and Astra

Alfa Romeo price cuts, a stunning new drop-top Spider roadster, and a Fiat family-sized saloon at super-mini prices - the Italians are coming out fighting for 2017 in a determined bid to recapture their days of former glory.

Fiat is back in the small family car segment with prices that will surprise competitors as the company adopts a policy of "we take the pain, you make the gain".

A new Tipo comes to the market as a Ford Focus/Opel Astra rival in hatchback, station wagon and saloon versions with prices starting at €16,745 for the saloon. This surprisingly low price undercuts the hatchback by €1,200.

For this, you get a roomy 1.4 litre 95bhp petrol-powered vehicle with air conditioning, Bluetooth, six airbags and a spare wheel.

Move across to diesel and you get the latest 1.3 litre MultiJet 95bhp engine for €17,950 as part of the package.

Emphasis has been put on build quality - and so you can now get behind the wheel of a spacious family car for the price of a super-mini.

It is at the entry level prices that Tipo makes the best bargain - so Fiat must now pull out all the stops to convince buyers that the new arrival is as robust and trouble-free as its successful small offerings, the Panda and 500.

Paul Hunt, head of Fiat in Ireland, says that some Tipo models are €4,000 cheaper than the competition, specification compared.

"The new Tipo is a car that gives more for less - customers get what they want, not what they don't need," he added. The plan is to sell 400 Tipo models next year and to encourage buyers he has pegged the mid-level 'Easy' version at the same price as the entry level 'Pop'.

The 'Easy' level adds a 5" screen, rear parking sensors, 16" alloys, foglights, cruise control and LED daytime- running lights. The top of the range 'Lounge' adds a touchscreen with sat nav, automatic lights and wipers, reversing camera and 17" alloys.

The engine line-up includes a 1.4 litre 120bhp turbo-petrol unit and a 110bhp automatic, while the diesel range includes a 1.6bhp unit and a DCT 1.6 120bhp automatic.

The price walk from petrol to diesel is €1,750 and the move from 'Easy' to top-spec 'Lounge' version is €1,250. The station wagon costs €1,250 more than the hatchback.

But Fiat isn't stopping there. Fifty years after the first Spider was launched, there is a new 124 - a sister car of the award-winning Mazda MX-5.

This is Fiat's halo car - a roadster that is thoroughly enjoyable to drive, with many agreeing that, for a smooth drive, it outshines the Japanese model. The new open-top must be one of Fiat's best-ever sports cars. Built in Japan, the quality engineering is evident, and while the MX-5 may offer a more precise drive, the 124 gives a smoother ride, and one could cruise happily for hours behind the wheel.

The fun factor is always important when buying a less practical car - but with two seats and a 140-litre boot that takes just two weekend cases, it feels surprisingly expansive with a well-finished interior.

The Italians chose wisely to put poise and balance ahead of edgy cornering.

Fuel consumption figures of 6.4l/100km (44mpg) are reasonable - but if the Spider is driven properly, this will never be achieved.

The Mazda uses a two-litre naturally aspirated engine, but Fiat does well with its 1.4 MultiAir 140bhp unit that can whisk you to 100km in 7.5 seconds, with a top speed of 215kmh (134mph) through the six-speed manual rear wheel drive set-up.

Prices start at €31,495 for the Classica version which has air conditioning, keyless start, cruise control and speed limiter, Bluetooth and 7" touchscreen with WiFi.

The Lusso at €34,295 adds reversing camera and sensors, heated leather seats and keyless entry while Lusso Plus for an extra €1,500 has automatic LED lights and wipers, a Bose stereo sound system with headset speakers in the seats.

A 1.5 litre 131bhp Mazda MX-5 is priced at €28,750 with GT versions at €31,800.

There's also good news for the Alfa Romeo fans. The new Giulietta goes on sale with prices from €21,950, a price reduction of €1,000 for the 1.4 litre 120bhp hatchback.

The 1.6 litre 120bhp diesel costs €24,400. There are 14 price options in the range, with the top level Super Sport two-litre JTD 175bhp priced at €30,471.

Sunday Independent

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