What they said when the Fiat Stilo was new… (Dec 11 2002)
IF YOU are into toys, you are going to love the Stilo.
Fiat's replacement for the Bravo/Brava is splendidly equipped as standard, and if you go up the range the car is dressed with more goodies than a Christmas tree. And that's before you are tempted by the options list which includes such items as satnav, and Fiat's clever Connect communications system.
The Stilo is two cars in one, coming as a sporty, low-slung three-door, as well as the family five-door which was the subject of this test. Both, however, are available in three trim levels, Active, Dynamic and Abarth, so whichever version you choose, you get the goodies.
The entry level Active - £11,335 for the 1.2 16v five-door - includes front, side and roof airbags, ABS with electronic brake force distribution, anti-slip regulation, major slip regulation, brake assist, all-round disc brakes, height and lumbar adjusting driver's seat and reach and rake adjusting steering column, Fiat's My Car customisation of functions, trip computer, multi-function remote central locking with deadlocks, puddle lights on the front doors and a six-speaker radio/cassette player system. It's almost a surprise to find that the rear windows are manually operated.
The Dynamic adds such items as air conditioning, parking, rain and light sensors, heated or chilled glove compartment and extra in-car storage areas.
And there's more to make the car family friendly. The back seats slide, so you can choose between extra passenger or boot space, and in the Dynamic the front passenger seat can be folded flat to form a table. Upright it provides an aircraft-style tray on the back.
Not only is the car's cabin clever, but it is stylishly smart too. The soft-touch fascia plastics are pleasant and the upholstery is good quality. Equally important, the lay-out of controls and dials is wonderfully simple.
Comfort is good and the high seating ensures fine visibility.
So far so good, but the softish suspension which helps the comfort on good roads, means that on lesser surfaces the five-door Stilo begins to bounce around a bit. Road noise is also somewhat intrusive.
But the car feels quite sturdy and, considering its height, it handles bends with some assurance.
The steering, in normal mode, feels positive and Fiat's City button reappears to give you the option of an ultra-light touch in congested towns. Supermarket parkers will adore it.
In Dynamic form the Stilo is powered by 1.6 and 1.8-litre 16-valve petrol engines and a 1.9 diesel. The 1.6 in the test car proved lively enough, having gone through modifications. Torque has been improved at low speeds (maximum is 107lb ft at 4,000 revs) and this extra pull means below-average use of the gearshift.
Economy is further helped by the drive-by-wire electronic throttle and the average consumption is pushing towards 40mpg.
Externally the Stilo takes a bold stance, with chunky sculpted lines, distinctive wheels, big steeply-raked windscreen, and big lights on a rear which is quite busy by Fiat standards.
Consequently it is quite an imposing car, being also the longest and tallest car in its segment.
Given the space thus generated, the MPV-like flexibility of the cabin, the range of hi-tech and safety equipment and competitive prices, the Stilo could be right up the street of many families.
Words: John Scantlebury