The face-lifted Palio gets bigger and bolder double-barrel headlamps, new honeycomb grille, new bumpers, slightly reshaped bonnet, tailgate and tail-lamps and they only serve to improve the already-handsome proportions of the Palio.
This car casts the same silhouette as the outgoing car, but is slightly longer thanks to the new bumpers. However, it is still below the 4-metre cut-off length to help it qualify for the small car excise sop. The biggest difference in the Palio Stile is its change of heart. To qualify for the excise sop, the petrol small car has to have an engine that displaces less than 1.2 litres. So the old 1242cc engine has been done away with and in its place debuts the 1108cc engine borrowed from the Fiat Panda 1.1 sold in the UK.
Fiat has stuck with the old dash design simply because re-engineering the new one would have sent costs soaring. It looks the same, but the dark grey interiors have been replaced by a far more welcoming dual-tone dashboard that is beige on the lower half of the dashboard and brown on the top half. The centre console and the instrument console surround look far better with their brushed silver finish. Four colours on the dashboard lead to a bit of a mismatch, but it looks better than the coal bin interiors of the earlier car. The seats are supportive and the cushion provides just the right amount of support. The driving position is good, and Fiat has re-introduced the rotary seat-back angle adjustment, so it’s far easier to find a good position. Visibility from the driver’s seat is not great, thanks to the lowish seats and thick pillars, but Fiat has fitted a pair of wider mirrors, which really help when manoeuvering in tight places.
Performance & Economy
The five-speed manual gearbox and the gear ratios remain the same as on the Palio 1.2 except for a slightly shorter first gear. The 1.2 Palio will never be remembered for its power or performance and neither will this motor. The relatively low-tech 1108cc single overhead camshaft engine loses about 15bhp and 1.0kgm of torque to the 1.2-litre engine’s 72bhp and 10.4kgm of torque. At 990kg, the car is simply too heavy for the engine. With 57bhp on tap, the car’s power-to-weight ratio is 57.57bhp per tonne — very much on the ‘underpowered’ section of the scale. The low-end response is acceptable and the mid-range power is decent, but past 4500rpm, the engine labours to its redline. You don’t notice this power deficit much when driving in traffic as it will easily maintain speed. Fiat concentrated on improving low-end responsiveness, so there is noticeable forward movement when you tap the throttle. However, it is when you demand some overtaking power that you feel this engine’s dire shortage of horses. Drop down a gear and there’s not much improvement in forward movement. Drop down one more and now the engine starts screaming, but again there is no serious grunt.
Straight-line performance is disappointing. 100kph comes up in an excruciatingly slow 20.45 seconds — that’s close to four seconds slower than the 1.2 Palio. It’s slower than the Indica 1.2 and the Chevy U-VA. In fact, the Chevy Spark is 5.0sec faster. The Palio is poor in the in-gear slogs too. 20-80kph in third gear comes up in 19.98sec and the 40-100kph in fourth gear comes up in 34.19sec! The good thing is that it doesn’t feel as slow as it sounds. Make good use of the slick-shifting gearbox, keep the engine between 1500-3000rpm and you will make decent forward progress.
Ride & Handling
The superb handling and the steering that complements the Palio’s superb on road poise remains. The low-speed ride is a little on the stiff side but, as speeds increase, the suspension irons out irregularities beautifully.
Fuel efficiency is marginally up on the old Palio. The Palio 1.1 went 10.2km to a litre in the city and 15.04kpl on the highway, similar to other cars in its class and better than the Getz Prime 1.1. Strangely, with the air con on, the car has a very disturbing vibration at idle. It sounds rough, like it is about to stall. The cabin shakes and this can get irritating.
With the 1.1 Stile, Fiat’s Palio is now better value than ever. The car’s strengths remain unchanged — the solid build, good comfort and sharp steering are just as good. The fresh design of the nose and tail give it additional appeal too. Despite the low-powered motor, it is quite driveable in city traffic but, importantly, is more fuel efficient than the old Palio NV as well. However, once the traffic dissolves, the Stile feels quite underpowered, the low speed ride is stiff, engine idle is rough and apart from the new colours, the insides are just the same. Its combination of looks, economy and value do appeal but the Palio’s not the champ it used to be.
What it costs
Ex-showroom (Delhi) 3.94-5.49 lakh
Warranty 18 months, unlimited mileage
Installation Front, transverse, front-wheel drive
Compression ratio 9.6:1
Valve gear 2 valves per cyl, SOHC
Power 57bhp at 5250rpm
Torque 9.38kgm at 2750rpm
Power to weight 57.57bhp per tonne
Gearbox Five-speed manual
Boot volume 260-950 litres
Ground clearance 170mm
Chassis & Body
Tyres 165/80 R13
Front Independent, MacPherson strut with coil-spring and telescopic shock absorbers
Rear Non-independent, torsion beam, coil springs, stabiliser bar
Type Rack and pinion with power assist
Type of power assist Hydraulic
Front Ventilated discs
Tank size 47 litres
Range at a glance - Engines
Petrol 1.1,1.6 litre
Diesel 1.3 litre