||About Us | Contact Us | Subscribe|
Motoring for Women
FIAT IDEAIs there no stopping Fiat at the moment? Having put the spirit back into the Punto, re-styled the Stilo, winning “What Car of the Year” with the new Panda, one would think they would be content with that. But oh no, Sardinia was the place to be when Fiat unveiled yet another new vehicle for their fleet. This is the Fiat Idea, a mini MPV, or “EE-DE-O” as it pronounced in Italian. But I feel tempted to add a “T” to the name followed quickly by frantic hand jesters so au fairs with Italian drivers. Let’s stick to the Idea and what a great idea it is.
The mini-MPV is a relatively new segment to the car market and fills the hole between those who find the lager MPV too cumbersome and/or too expensive, with those who want a little bit more than supermini, i.e. small hatch or saloon. Not surprisingly, it is becoming a popular and therefore competitive market with manufacturers turning their design team full on to producing one. Fiat, quick of the march, has come up with the aptly named Idea.
Five versions of the new Idea, priced from £9995 to £12,495 on the road, will be available from launch (February) with the three trim levels adorned by the Fiat family - the Active, Dynamic and Eleganza. There is a choice of two engines, the fiery FIRE 1.4 claiming all three trims and the highly acclaimed 1.3 Multijet diesel engine on the Active and Dynamic only. Both are equipped with a five speed manual gearbox while the Dualogic transmission will be coming later this year. I was fortunate to drive all variants enabling me to ascertain the best for families in terms of specification, cost and practicality.
With an overall length of 3930mm, width – 1658mm and height- 1660mm, the Fiat Idea is only marginally bigger than the average supermini but has the benefits and feel of a MPV in terms of comfort, quality, space and of course, ease of entry and exit with the elevated driving position. Not only does this give better visibility; it is less strain on backs, something Mothers and carers alike should be looking at. With a staggering 3.6 square meters of glazing (increasing to 4.9 if one chooses the SkyDome electric glass sunroof) visibility is further enhanced.
The huge front windscreen swoops down to the rectangular light clusters that surround the chrome highlighted grille that incorporates the Fiat emblem. This, plus the deep front airdam with rubbing strips, makes the Idea unmistakably part of the Fiat family. At the rear, the top hinged tailgate offers full access to the loadspace across the low-silled aperture, with the tall upright light clusters either side.
All models have body coloured bumpers with black inserts and tinted windows as standard. In addition, the Dynamic and Eleganza host body coloured door mirrors while the Eleganza goes on to sport body coloured handles and side mouldings, plus alloy wheels as standard.
The interior of the Fiat Idea was exceptionally spacious with ample head, leg and elbowroom. With the hieght adjustable steering wheel and drivers seat, every driver, despite size, will find the correct driving position. The seats are very comfortable with excellent lumber support, and particular attention has been made to the passenger seats in relation to posture and lateral containment. The electric switches for the door mirrors and windows are in the drivers door panel in an upward configuration making them easily accessible without confusion.
The chrome door opener adds a touch of style. To the left of the steering wheel are the light and indicators while the right stalk has the wipers. The central console is fabulous with the innovative drivers instrument binnacle centrally placed in an oval shape as if it has just risen from the dashboard. Moving down the console is two vertical air vents, which flank the stereo, complete with CD.
Being placed quite high, the driver has not got to over stretch to reach the controls. Beneath are the ventilation controls with the gear lever again placed high and close to the driver allowing for quick changes with minimum physical effort. The Idea boasts one of the stylish and comfortable interiors I have seen for a long time. And it just gets better.
This is where the Fiat Idea excelled as an ideal family car - the storage space was in blissful abundance. A total of 27 different storage spaces – 24 as standard on all versions - are to be found. My mission, should I wish to accept it, was to find them all.
IN THE FRONT – two closable compartments with non-slip bottoms on top of the dashboard plus oddments trays inside them, a small compartment next to the “mode” keypad and light controls, an open storage shelf under the fascia in front of the passenger seat and pockets and cupholders in the front panels.
ON THE CEILING – two compartments in the ceiling on either side above the sun visors, two compartments in the ceiling mounted front to rear console on the Eleganza but optional on the others.
IN THE TUNNEL – a double cupholders, an ashtray that fits any of the cupholders and a compartment in the receptacle under the handbrake lever.
IN THE REAR – pockets and cupholders in the rear door panels, a central armrest with a table and cupholder, two extra storage spaces in the luggage compartment to the right and left of the wheel arches and finally two compartments in the ceiling mounted front to rear console in the Eleganza again optional on the others.
Fantastic, a true “toy box” on four wheels keeping all our children’s necessaries not just neat and tidy but with all this safely put away it also reduces the risk of injury to the occupants if an accident occurred.
Further advantages to the family include not just a reasonable on the road price tags for all models, but also they fall between group 4 and 6 insurance and have excellent fuel economy. The 1.3 diesel producing 55.4 mpg with the 1.4 not far behind at 42.8 mpg.
Apart from obviously the engines, the Fiat Idea range share the same transmission, steering, braking and suspension systems. The five speed manual gearbox has a duel cable external control that filers engine vibration transmitted to the gear lever, resulting in quite and easy engagement the pupils would appreciate.
The rack and pinion with Dualdrive electric power steering produces a turning cycle of 10.4 making manoeuvres manageable. The brakes come with ABS as standard and are complimented by Electronic Brakeforce Distributor (EBD) that governs the braking action on the rear axle to prevent the wheels locking ensuing full control of the car in all situations.
ESP is an option on all models and incorporates the Hill Holder, which helps the driver to pull smoothly away up hill. With the front suspension having MacPherson independent wheel type with stabiliser bar and hydraulic telescopic dampers and the rear – torsion beam axle with semi-independent interconnected wheels and hydraulic telescopic dampers, the overall ride was on of comfort. However, due to its high height and compassion to its small width, it is not a car to be chucked around the bends too fast, but one to enjoy the scenery.
Whilst the FIRE 1.4 petrol engine was lively and responsive, the acclaimed 1.3 Multijet turbodiesal had the edge over the 1.4 in terms of start up times and exhaust smoke are less, noise levels and vibrations are lowered to ensure a quieter drive and improved passenger comfort – surprisingly. Fuel consumption is reduced by 10% and emission control reduction amounts to 50%.
Moreover, despite it ultra-compact dimensions, the new engine boasts a lifespan increase of 60,000 miles to over 150,000 miles during which no mechanical maintenance whatsoever is required. With oil changes at 12,00 miles the cost of running the Idea becomes very attractive indeed.
SAFETY AND SECURITY ***
Standard across the Idea model range is ABS with EBD, Fire prevention system, driver and passenger airbags, height-adjustable front seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters, 3-point seat belts and height adjustable front headrest. The Dynamic goes on to include 3 rear headrests and Isofix attachment for 2 sets, while the Eleganza has window airbags and side airbags.
To protect the Fiat Idea, all models have remote central locking and alarm plus a Fiat Code 11 Immobiliser.
The Fiat Idea is certainly a very clever idea in what appears to be the latest and growing market of mini-mpv’s. Ease of entry and exit, a commanding view of the road ahead, lots of storage for bits and pieces, a reasonably responsive drive, good safety and above all, cheaper running costs are just a few main benefits of the Idea. For families, the Idea combines all the space and comfort of a larger vehicle at a fraction of the cost.
As I mentioned early, the 1.3 Multijet was my preferred engine. Regarding the trim level, it would be the Dynamic. For the extra money over the Active, (~ £1000) I get air conditioning, great for the pending summer, heated and electric door mirrors which are a godsend in the winter, rear parking sensor and a CD. Definitely worth a trip to your local dealer, but do not forget to take the children. They are very astute in what they want from a car!
FIAT IDEA DYNAMIC 1.3 MULTIJET TURBODIESAL
ON THE ROAD £12,145
FUEL CONSUMPTION (combined) 62.8mpg
INSURANCE GROUP 5
CO2 EMISSIONS 135
ABS with EBD, electric front windows, Remote central locking and alarm, driver and passenger front airbags, Dualdrive electric power steering, height adjustable steering wheel, height adjustable drivers seat, sliding/split/reclining rear seats, heated rear window with intelligent wash/wipe, “Follow me Home headlights”, CD player with 6 speakers, body coloured bumpers, immobiliser, air conditioning with pollen filter, rear parking sensor, three rear headrest and ISOFIX attachments for two rear seats.
SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND?
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MX5!
Spring is in the air, our spirits are revitalised, and we personally are uplifted. So lets let our hair down, give the family car to the au-pair/nanny/granny whatever. What do we really want? What car could we drive off into the horizon and forget all our troubles on the work front. Well. I found out. Lets dream on.
It was the party not to be missed. The venue, Brindisi, an idyllic town on the boot of Italy. The guest list included the crème de la crème of European journalists. In the forecourt of a most palatial hotel, the birthday girl was waiting. Despite numerous dresses, she sports her favourite - the gorgeous little red number that hugs her curvaceous body.
The accessories she wears include colour coded door handles and door mirrors with shiny alloy wheels. At only 15 years of age, she is the most successful two-seater roadster going and her secret is her design and flair. She has not changed much over the years but is so evenly proportioned and this is her main asset. Happy birthday Mazda MX5.
It is the time of year when the convertibles start to emerge from the dusty garages ready to be polished up and admired – often with envy from other drivers. And wow betides the driver who is not topless when the first ray of sun appears. What better car to be seen in than the Mazda MX5. With stunning exterior looks, and a snug interior feel made by the seats, which have a superior side support, that hugs the body, she is the coolest roadster on the roads today.
The driver instrument cluster is sporty and easy to read while the centre instrument panel is low and features new silver –look design for distinctive touch. But she is practical too, with a good-sized centre console box with lidded cup holders, a large glove compartment and a 144-litre luggage capacity that is simply perfect for girlie shopping. The four speaker anti-theft radio with electric antenna belts the classics, and with the 2004 version having two new speakers integrated into the wind blocker – or the optional roll bars behind the front seats, the music in enhanced with the top down. Her other assets include central locking, electric windows and electric door mirrors.
But the Mazda MX5 is not just stylish for underneath her beauty is handling and steering characteristics of a truly special nature. Her strong but lightweight body structure with a front-midship engine placement and rear wheel drive layout gives a 50/50 weight distribution over the front and rear axles plus a low centre of gravity.
Add the four-wheel double wishbone suspension system tuned to deliver immediate steering response, and a composed confident ride coupled with a rack and pinion steering system with an “eye-type” steering gear assembly mount, you have one of the main reasons why the Mazda MX5 reacts so well to driver input and why owners all over the world, feel like they are truly one with their car.
So, she is attractive and strong, but is she safe? Well, she has a chassis system that ensures superior straight-line stability, controllability and exact precise steering under normal driving conditions. For emergencies ABS with electronic brake distribution, is standard, and to ensure excellent stopping distances and brake responses there are two brake systems depending on the wheel size.
Smaller ventilated discs on the smaller wheels and obviously larger discs on the 16-inch wheels. Inside she protects us with a strong, safe body structure courtesy of the Mazda Advanced impact-energy distribution and Absorption System. Also, as standard is the duel-stage driver and passenger seat airbags, a passenger side airbag cut off system (in case you feel like taking one of the children for a spin), seatbelts with pre-tensioners and load limiters plus headrests integrated in the seats.
The Mazda MX5 has only two models for her birthday, the 1.6 litre 5-speed manual or the 1.8 litre petrol with either a five or six speed gearbox. Given the choice, I personally preferred the 1.8, which gained a top speed of 205 km with acceleration of 0-100 km in a mere 8.4 seconds. Fuel consumption was a modest 8.7 to the gallon at combined with CO2 emissions of 210.
But with a price tag of only £15,500 the change alone would cover the cost of the fuel. The Mazda MX5 was certainly a dream car, fun to drive stunning looks and a seriously cool interior. Remind me what I wanted for my birthday again?
You can view the Mazda range at www.mazda.co.uk