Fiat Avventura Review: Crossing Over The Hatchback Border?

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How much sense do compact crossovers make in our country? On paper, they should suit our conditions well, since they usually retain the tight dimensions of their hatchback seeds and see improved ground clearance. So those traits will allow easy parking and impressive maneuverability, and the looks and ability to ‘take the rough with the smooth'. The best of both worlds, these unique vehicles should be, right? Hm.

We recently completed our testing of the latest entrant to the Indian crossover market, the Fiat Avventura, a car based on the Fiat Punto Evo. We will break the car down in detail so you can be the judge of whether you should consider this one for your garage. So where does the car shine, and where does it struggle? Let's find out.

[The review continues on the next slide]

Model tested: Fiat Avventura 1.4 Dynamic

Fuel type: Petrol

Road test location: Mumbai, Pune

The front three quarters of the Fiat Avventura hark back to the Punto Evo, obviously, but there are some changes. The front now gets a grey-brown skid plate and integrated fog lamp surrounds are well made and do a decent job of lending the car a dose of non-vegetarianism. Chrome has been restricted on the fascia thankfully, and the grille surround looks classy, unlike the Punto Evo's almost vulgar dashes of the shiny stuff. It's good to see that a fair amount of design effort has gone into the front styling.

Viewed from the side, and the Avventura is immediately recognisable as being taller than the Evo, (a whole 42 mm), while the large external spare wheel housing is a prominent addition to the side profile of the car. Extensive black body cladding is also a highlight, which works to lend the car a dose of butch, and the roof rails are a nice addition as well.

The rear three quarters of the car is where a lot happens, starting from the rather large spare wheel cover. Again, the car stands a lot higher than the Punto Evo, and this is immediately discernible from the rear as well. The lower fender loses the chrome blade of the Evo, and a grey-brown surround theme for the lower lamps looks good as well. With regard to design, we feel the Avventura is the best looker in this young segment.

It looks like there's space for a second motor in the engine bay! Unfortunately, maybe that's what the petrol Avventura needs, because the petrol motor is one of the biggest letdowns of the car. While Fiat obviously feels most buyers will opt for the Multijet diesel variant, that's no excuse for the tired, lack-lustre 89 bhp, 1.4-litre engine that seemingly has no motivation to move its almost 1.2-ton structure around. The Italian company would do well to offer the 112 bhp, T-Jet petrol mill instead. After all, with diesel prices catching up with petrol figures, the Fiat Avventura needs a more modern, more powerful (and better sounding too, maybe!) petrol motor in its repertoire to lift its appeal, especially since more and more buyers will be making the switch in the near future. 89 old horses just ain't enough, Fiat.

The 5-speed transmission is a little short of adequate too, with a long throw and a slightly rubbery feel. Also the petrol variant we tested doesn't get leather wrap for the gear knob, so it feels a little hard on the fingers. However, the inconsistency that we experienced in the Punto Evo gearshift was absent in the Avventura.

The suspension setup in the Avventura is spot on, with the car offering very impressive ride and handling. The large 16-inch wheels (also standard on the Punto Evo 90 hp) help here too, and do a great job of absorbing undulations in the road. The Avventura, despite its added height, is great around the corners, with the handling being on the top rung of Indian cars in this price bracket. You also get quite a commanding view of the road ahead, which is impressive especially since you're driving what's essentially a hatchback.

While most of the cabin trim has been carried over from the Fiat Punto Evo, there are a few differences. One of the main details that catches your eye is the light grey soft touch cladding on the dashboard. But it's not a two-tone interior, but a three-tone cabin, with a third body colour that forms part of the door trim, and looks a little out of place. Space in the front is impressive but that there's almost too much elbow room on the driver's right and the co-driver's left, and as a result, the armrests don't come into play as often as you'd like.

Since there was no addition to the length of the Avventura over the Punto Evo, legroom in the rear is a little tight for six-footers, and the crossover is better suited for four adults.

The good-looking infotainment unit in the Avventura worked well, and the buttons felt good to use. Also, the sound quality from the 4-speaker system was pretty decent, and should be sufficient for most buyers. Also, the boot release button sits on the top right corner of the infotainment console, so it's easily accessible. Whether the boot is accessible is another question, which we'll get to next.

The Avventura features an externally mounted full-size spare wheel housing that is attached to the chassis. But accessing the 280-litre boot requires quite a bit of space behind and on the side of the car, since the wheel cover has to be first pushed out of the path of the boot lid, which is in the position that you see in the picture. You will have to be patient and perform this routine every time you want to access the boot.

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A nice touch in the Avventura are the three gauges above the central AC vents: a compass, a tilt meter, and an inclinometer that give you your directional bearings, roll degree and the angle of ascent or descent of the car, respectively.

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The Avventura gets good looking lower fender treatment in a grey-brown colour, with interesting detailing that lends the car some macho appeal, and also helps differentiates it from the standard Punto Evo.

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The side cladding is chunky, and the fit and finish is quite impressive, so it looks like it would last for the life of the car, although one won't know how prone to fade it is. Also the ‘Avventura' lettering in the cladding makes sure an onlooker knows this isn't a regular Punto Evo.

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We thought the dull-silver wheels were gorgeous, that featured a ten-spoke star design and lent the car a touch of sportiness too.

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The AC controls on this variant were manual, but the nice-to-use rubber surround felt well-made and kept in line with the soft-roading theme. Still, one feels that climate control should have been available for the petrol variants as well.

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The Avventura's multi-information display provides useful information about your car and journey, including range, distance travelled, average fuel consumption, average speed, and more.

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The glovebox in the Avventura is fairly large with a light inside as well, and features a ‘secret' compartment for your X-Files (the one seen above the main compartment) that drops down from the top of the box.

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Another nice styling touch was the chrome exhaust tip which was well integrated into the bumper design.

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The Fiat logo was recessed beautifully into the Avventura's bonnet, and was another brilliant-looking detail. These Italians sure know a thing or two about design...

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The headlights of the Avventura are quite powerful and do a fair job of lighting up the road ahead in the night. It misses out on DRLs (Daytime Running Lights) though.

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The Avventura's ingress and egress was quite impressive since the doors do open fairly wide. Also, the raised stance of the car over the Punto Evo makes getting in and out of the seats easier.

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This crossover would not have looked even half as good if it were not not for the 16-inch Goodyear Eagle rubber all round. The big tyres no doubt also contributed to the huge ground clearance of the Avventura.

Tyre specification: 205/55 R16

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We dig the tail lamp design, which makes the car stand out even in the dark. They're exactly the same as the Punto Evo rear lights, which is no bad thing.

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The light grey, soft touch cladding on the dashboard is a feature that has two sides. It looks quite funky actually, but will attract dirt from grubby hands over time. We liked the cool circular side air con vents.

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The purposeful roof rail lends the Avventura a dose of genuineness to the crossover theme.

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The headlamps, carried over from the Evo, have a striking design and are fairly powerful, as we touched upon earlier. No LED daytime running lamps though, something we felt should have been present, especially in this day, with the country going through a fad with LED lighting.

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The driver's seat featured height adjustability, to aid shorter drivers to find a comfortable driving position too.

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Ground clearance of the Avventura stands at an almost path-breaking 205 mm, so you can be sure you're not going to scrape the underbody, even with a full load. Because of this clearance, soft roading is possible, but make sure you keep out of the serious stuff, because after all, this car remains a front-wheel-driver, and the car was never designed to venture too far off the beaten path.

Volkswagen Cross Polo ground clearance: 168 mm
Toyota Etios Cross ground clearance: 174 mm

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While the rear seat in this Dynamic variant was not split, it was extremely simple to fold down the seat because of a well-designed locking and unlocking mechanism that clicked open and closed very easily.

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The gauges in the Avventura feature orange backlighting, which we think actually looks better than the multi-colour design of the Punto Evo. It's easier to read too, and therefore safer.

Misses

Rearward visibility is poor in the Avventura, with a small rear windscreen and the spare wheel cover interfering with vision out the back. Also, because of this problem, we felt  the lack of parking sensors was a huge omission.

Misses

It's tough to store bottles in the Avventura, a problem shared with the Punto Evo. Seen here is a 500 ml bottle of water struggling for space.

Misses

The tailgate of the Avventura opens a little too high, and even six-footers will have to stretch a bit to close it from its fully open position. A little bewildering, this one, because combined with the boot accessibility issue we discussed earlier, sees serious impracticality creeping in.

Misses

The doors lock by pushing the handle inside, and open by pulling the same. This is not the greatest design for a locking system, since it is actually quite easy to accidentally open the door.

The travel of the clutch was too long, and constant gear changing that's characteristic in our cities is not as comfortable as it should be. A more precise clutch would have worked wonders for the driving experience.

Misses

While the multi-function stalks were chunky, the quality of the plastic was a bit iffy and felt a little cheap and hard.

Misses

The front armrest slopes downwards and isn't the most ergonomical design, since like we said earlier, it remains too far from the driver's elbow to actually allow him or her to rest it easily.

Both, the single reversing light and license plate are placed too low in the rear bodywork, making it difficult to see.

The steering wheel was nicely shaped but the slippery, hard material took away from the design. Also sorely missed were steering wheel controls and Bluetooth connectivity, things that really should have been standard equipment.

Final Words

So you've seen the bits and pieces of the Fiat Avventura now-are you convinced that this is the crossover for you? From our side, we're not too sure, at least with regard to the Active and Dynamic petrol variants. Fiat will need to concentrate on improving their petrol-engined models too, with the gap in prices between diesel and petrol ever closing.

Continued on next slide.

Final Words

While the major plus points of the car are its best-in-segment looks and huge ground clearance, the Avventura does suffer from impracticality issues, the major one being inconvenient access to the boot. Also, big misses for the petrol variants are the tired engine and on the safety and equipment fronts, with no ABS or airbags available even as options, and features like climate control and steering wheel controls missing as well. For a car that costs almost INR 8.2 lakh (on-road Delhi), this is unforgivable. But we must say, things may have been very different had it been the 90 HP variant...

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Read more on: #review #fiat #four wheeler
Story first published: Tuesday, February 17, 2015, 15:47 [IST]
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