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Old 06-06-2011   #1
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Buyers' Guide for the FIAT Stilo

FIAT Stilo Buyer’s Guide

General Stuff

All the usual cautions that apply to any used car purchase will also apply to the Stilo. So…

• If you know very little about cars, take someone with you who does
• Make sure the seller has the original registration document and MOT
• Does the VIN number on the car’s data plate match the documents?
• Ask to see the service history. Do the documents look genuine? (Forgeries are not unknown)
• Make sure both keys are available (new keys are very expensive)
• If you’re doubtful about a car’s provenance, pay for an HPI check
• Ask if the seller will allow an AA or RAC inspection. If the answer is ‘no’ walk away
• Fully inspect the quality of the bodywork (has the car any history of accident damage?)
• Listen to the car started up from cold (be suspicious if the car’s been warmed up before you arrive)
• Check all the warning lights go out once started
• Check the colour and quality of the oil on the dipstick and the coolant in the header tank
• ‘Bounce’ the car at the four corners to check the shock absorbers work properly
• Are the tyres evenly worn?
• Meticulously check every electrical item is operating as it should (lights, indicators, radio, air con, electric windows, sunroof, wipers, washers, heated rear window etc etc)
• Go on a test drive (preferably on roads you know well)
• Pull away from slow speed in a high gear to check for clutch slip
• Brake hard and check you pull up straight and true
• Listen for any unusual noises or vibrations
• Check the gears engage smoothly.

Generally if something doesn't feel right, it most likely isn't.

Introduction to the Stilo

FIAT is often associated with producing cheap and cheerful small cars, with a poor reputation for reliability, chiefly dating back to the so-called ‘rust buckets’ of the 1970s. With the Stilo, FIAT tried to ‘do a Golf’, matching German fit, finish and equipment, but perhaps loosing some of the usual Italian design flair in the process.
As well as a fully galvanised body (to finally lay the corrosion myth to rest) the Stilo was also equipped with a high level of electronic devices not usually associated with FIATs.

The downside of a more ‘quality’ feel was weight. The Stilo is a relatively heavy car, so all the petrol engines except the range-topping 2.4 20v unit feel underpowered. For this reason and their excellent economy, the torquey 1.9-litre diesels are the most popular models.

The 3-door and 5-door models have distinctly different body styles and some believe the ride and handling of the 3-door has a more ‘sporty’ feel than the comfort-oriented 5-door. The relatively rare 'Multiwagon' model was one of the roomiest and best-equipped family estates of its day.

Interior fit and finish was to a high standard with good quality materials.
The Stilo was never the big seller FIAT hoped for, so used bargains are out there to be found.

A wide range of engines have been available through the Stilo's production life, including 1.2 (80bhp), 1.4 (95bhp), 1.6 (103bhp), 1.8 (133bhp) and 2.4 (170bhp) petrol and 1.9 turbo diesels in various states of tune (80-115bhp). Petrol engines will generally give 30-35 mpg with the much more economical diesels often rewarding with 50+.

A very mild facelift in the middle of the production cycle introduced some improvements which dealt with most of the electrical and electronic gremlins that dogged some earlier cars, which are probably best avoided.

Stilo Faults and Foibles

While this section includes some of the possible faults to look out for when buying a Stilo, don’t think this car is a typical FIAT (‘Fix It Again Tony’). In fact, the Stilo is no worse, in reliability terms, than most competitors’ cars in its price bracket.

Engine and Transmission

In general, all the engines fitted in the Stilo are pretty bombproof. Most have hydraulic tappets that require no adjustment. Regular oil changes and timely replacement of the timing belt (by someone who knows what they’re doing!) are essential. Things to watch for are:
• Faulty variators (1.8 and 2.4 only). Symptoms are a ‘diesel-like’ clatter on start up from cold
• Faulty crankshaft position sensor (difficulty starting/stalling)
• Faulty (or dirty) Exhaust Gas Recirculation valve (diesel only)
• Failed coil packs (one per cylinder). Symptoms are a misfire or hesitation.
• Crankshaft pulley integral rubber damper disintegrating (diesel only – vibration/rattle)
• Weakness in 1.6 gearbox - though not common, can be catastrophic
• The complex semi-automatic ‘Selespeed’ transmission seems to get more than its fair share of problems; certainly more than manual ‘boxes
• The exhaust flexi-joint often fails before the rest of the exhaust and is not an OEM part - it comes with the CAT. There is an easy and cheap fix if you don't go to the FIAT garage - ask an independent garage to cut and weld in an aftermarket flexi-joint
• Leaks around the radiator. The part is pretty cheap and takes under an hour to replace, so you needn’t walk away just because the radiator is leaking
• Uneven tickover on petrol engines is usually down to a dirty inlet control valve (easily cleaned).
Suspension and Steering
Conventional McPherson struts (front) and rear beam axle. Possible problems include:
• Clonks and rattles (front) indicating failed drop links (cheap and easy to repair)
• Loud thuds from rear indicating failed rear beam axles bushes (not cheap or easy to repair)
• Broken road springs (rattles and car not sitting true on the road)
• Tracking misalignment (uneven tyre wear)
• The steering is all–electric and there was a recall for a steering fault on early models.

Brakes

There are disc brakes all round on all models and are generally reliable. Care when fitting the rear pads is essential to ensure correct operation of the handbrake.

Electrics

Spurious warning lights on the dash are common and often a sign of a weak or failing battery. The Stilo’s many electrical systems need a strong and healthy battery to perform at their best.

On early models, a bumpy or rough surface under the cover of the passenger seat will in time will lead to a faulty OCS sensor. There should be a cloth tag saying "OCS" on the seat cushion covers if the car was delivered with it. The part is expensive, and takes a couple of hours to change.

Check that the aircon blows cold and hot as you operate the controls. Aircon parts are very expensive and difficult to get to. Hot on one side / cold on the other side when both temperatures are set at the same value? Expect a broken motor, flap or gear. If the aircon doesn't work at all, it will need re-gassing before testing again.

Bodywork

Models without front mudflaps can suffer from damaged paint on the wings and all the way under the car to the rear wing. Looks like rust, but as it's galvanized you can sand it down, and repaint. Mudflaps are a cheap fix.

Most routine servicing jobs are within the scope of the average DIY motorist.

Your Rights When Buying a Car

When you buy a car from a dealer the car must be:

• of satisfactory quality e.g. the windscreen should not be chipped
• fit for purpose e.g. if you ask for a car that can tow a caravan it should be able to
• as described e.g. the car should match its description given in conversation or in an advert.
If a car doesn’t meet any of these points, it is faulty and you will usually have the right to a:
• repair
• replacement
• refund

If you buy a car from a trader online or over the phone, you also have the right to a 'cooling off' period. This gives you seven working days after the car has been delivered to cancel your order for any reason and get your money back.

If you buy a car from a private seller or at a car auction for traders, you have fewer rights. The car only has to:
• match the description given by the seller
• be theirs to sell e.g. the car isn't stolen or owned by a finance company because the car loan hasn't been paid off.

How to Avoid Buying a Lemon

Although the Stilo wasn’t that popular, there are still good examples available. If you’ve used the tips in this guide and find you’re getting the wrong answers (lack of service history, warning lights on the dash that the seller says ‘don’t mean anything, been like that for ages’) then walk away.
Better to spend a little more on a well looked after example, than buy a Stilo at a ‘bargain’ price and be faced with big bills shorlty afterwards.

Happy hunting!
Thanks wody21, Ralf S., Hobbio, CrazyTimeChris, RainMan1 and 4 others thanked for this post
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Then:Yellow Stilo 1.6 16V 3-door - not quite standard
Now: Red Stilo Abarth Schumacher GP Prodrive - modded for function over form...
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Old 06-06-2011   #2
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Re: Buyers' Guide for the FIAT Stilo

good guide....bet we'll still get them asking every couple of weeks though ....should probably be a sticky....
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Old 06-06-2011   #3
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Re: Buyers' Guide for the FIAT Stilo

Quote Originally Posted by mzhussein View Post
good guide....bet we'll still get them asking every couple of weeks though ....should probably be a sticky....
Davren will be posting this as a sticky in the Stilo FAQs section within the next few days...
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Then:Yellow Stilo 1.6 16V 3-door - not quite standard
Now: Red Stilo Abarth Schumacher GP Prodrive - modded for function over form...
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Old 06-06-2011   #4
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Re: Buyers' Guide for the FIAT Stilo

I would have to say the Stilo is a pretty reliable car... sometimes... according to what I've seen on this forum I had it since almost new ~50000kms and although it was pretty abused in this timeframe (sump was dented and oil pump intake broken) I had only one obvious fault and that was the rear bushings... at one point I felt like I was driving just on my rims with no tires on them I changed the droplinks once although I am not really sure they needed to be replaced- and that's it. Although I changed the wishbones also, but only one of the cuffs was torn and they had no play at all. Anyways, it had experienced some of the worst roads on the planet (you have no idea) for 80000kms and is still going strong.. still I change all the fluids every year Never had any electrical faults that some contact cleaner wouldn't cure (really hope so about this last ABS thingy ) And at these prices you have there in the UK ... I would gladly buy a bunch of Stilos.. only if you had the steering wheel on the right/correct side of the car
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Last edited by neonglow; 06-06-2011 at 21:58.
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Old 06-06-2011   #5
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Re: Buyers' Guide for the FIAT Stilo

Is it worth mentioning:
the price of codes for the engine and radio, worth considering
the price of getting a second key if only supplied with one
Xenon headlights = expensive repairs for ballast and ignitor units
Checking cam belts been changed
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