For the last 2 years, the fad in the Indian automotive industry is to have a compact sports utility vehicle (SUV) or one that pretends to be so.
This fad has the potential to change the fortunes of a company overnight. With the Duster, Renault suddenly became the toast of motown and consumers were more willing to forget that they have 4 more cars that never got a look in. For Ford, EcoSport pulled them out of stagnation and a potential decay instilling confidence at a time when it mattered. But what if you do not have a suitable product in your global line-up? The solution is to take a small car, beef it up a little and present it as a cross. Following this recipe, we got the Cross Polo last year and Etios Cross earlier this year. Now, we have the Avventura. Is this the car that can ‘do a Duster’ for Fiat? We find out:
Looks: Beefed up Punto Evo
The Avventura is like an elder cousin to the Evo, inheriting the small car’s broader characteristics with some nominal changes. Like the Cross Polo and Etios, it gets black cladding, roof rails and significantly more ground clearance at 205 mm. Fiat makes some of the best designed cars in the world and Evo’s aesthetics are at display here too. This is a smart looking oversized hatch and quite a head turner especially in brighter shades. The other big change is the rear-mounted spare wheel that adds sportiness. We always asked why the new Scorpio did not have that and are glad the Avventura does. Also, it is not bolted on the door but to the chassis that means the rattles do not trickle in. Although, opening the boot is a wee bit of a hassle.
Interiors: Better than Etios, at par with EcoSport
Avventura inherits the same cabin as the new Punto with identical dahboard lay out design and instrument console. The only addition is that of a round compass and tilt metres right in the middle of the dashboard. These look good but are not very useable. The petrol variant does not get top trim, which means no airbags, ABS or even soft touch plastic. Clearly, the Italian firm thinks that customers will give the version petrol the short shrift notwithstanding current trends. A few glaring misses were: no rear parking sensors; lack of audio streaming through bluetooth and rear seats that don’t fold flat.
Ride and handling
This is an area of strength for all cars European and Fiats are as European as they come. Avventura borrows its engines from the Evo. We would liked to get a 1.6 litre diesel —to spice things up — but pricing seems to be the prime consideration here. Inside the city the petrol variant is surprisingly peppier than the diesel. It is also more refined and sorted in terms of noise and vibration, and till three digit speeds, power is at hand. The diesel variant gives out a competitive 93 PS and 209 Nm torque but suffers from turbo lag at lower gears and only comes into its own at around 2,400 rpm. It also feels heavy like all other Fiats but ride quality is good and handling belies the increased height. The fuel economy of the petrol is on the lower side at around 11 kpl in city while the diesel doles out 15.3 kpl. The only area of concern remains the rubbery gearbox, which needs to be whipped at every time. Only this stops it from being an absolute fun car.
Having seen what competition had to offer in the still undefined compact SUV segment — from pretenders such as the two crosses to the EcoSport and the Duster— Fiat was in a better position while developing the Avventura. What we have now is a stylish product that is quirky in bits but a little confused. You cannot go off-road in this vehicle because it does not have four-wheel drive but you can do pretty much everything else. But you can do the same with the Evo as well, so why bother? Well, for the spare wheel and the extra ground clearance which is enough to make you stand out.