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Old 14-07-2002   #1
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Suffolk
Posts: 107
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Stilo Abarth - My humble opinion

Hi guys,

I just got back from my FIAT dealer where I test drove the Stilo Abarth. Here's my humble opinion...

I've driven FIAT's now 4 over 10 years and the main reasons 4 this r FIAT's uncanny ability 2 give u much more for your pound than any other manufacturer and that FIAT's design always stands out from any other.
So when I saw the Stilo in both it's guises, I, like many others, had a heavy heart. The 5 door, altho' practical, is as ugly as sin and many dead Italian designers would b spinning in their graves at the thought of this car actually being designed by Centro Stile. The 3 door, on the other hand, retains the boldness of the Bravo and looks an altogether better proposition.

The first thing that hit me when I lowered my self in2 the electronically adjustable seats was the sparseness and simple design of the interior. You can't miss the large LCD screen slap bang in the middle of the dash and my head started 2 spin when I saw how many knobs, buttons and dials there were. How on earth was I going 2 learn how 2 use all of this ??

So I limited myself 2 what I needed 2 know 2 actually drive the thing and I calmed down a little. The 2.4L 20v 5 pot engine is basically the same as the 2.0L 20v engine in the HGT, but bored out and brought up 2 date 4 EU emmisions (which the Stilo is 3 years ahead of). Quite simply, FIAT had 2 redesign the engine 4 these standards, and these standards suck the life out of any engine, so they bored it out 2 2.4L 2 regain the power. The fact that they have been able 2 retain the power of the HGT so closely yet reduce emmisions so low is a testament 2 FIAT's engineers abilities.

It doesn't sound 2 disimilar to the HGT when u rev the engine. It still has that 5 pot roar that us HGT owners love so much.

But......(and there had 2 b a but !) the performance is not quite the same. This is all down 2 the Selespeed gearbox system. U will always get an instant gratification from a manual box, by it's very definition, and auto boxes will always try 2 give u smooth responses but with the sacrifice of a little power. So 2 combine both, u must appreciate that u can't have ur cake and eat it. I had read all the reports of this gearbox and waited 2 experience those jerks and judders myself.

Sure enough, my first attempt at pulling away was rewarded with an awful lurch when I changed up 2 2nd. But by the 3rd or 4th attempt, I had begun 2 get the hang of it and was able 2 pull away from a stop, be it fast or slow with little or no lurching whatsoever.

2 drive a selespeed box, u really cannot expect to change thru the gears with ur foot hard 2 the floor thru every change and not expect a little lurch here or there. The knack is 2 back off the throttle ever so slightly and smoothness will follow.

Now, practice makes perfect and I only had an hour or so, but I pretty much got the hang of it all within 20 minutes. So all these reports of a clunky, unresponsive gearbox are, in my opinion, based on a lack of understanding in how 2 use the system. The other opinion that the gearbox settles down after about 4000 miles is probably due 2 the driver actually getting the hang of how 2 use it more than a mechanical thing. Sure, people who drive sequential geared cars in competition might slag this box off, but remember, this is a road going car and not a competition car. Race cars have gearboxes that cost as much, sometimes, as a typical family hatch so how can any1 expect the same thing in a road car ?

So, all this gear box malarky results in a slightly less responsive pull away than the HGT and a slower acceleration thru the mid range. But ultimately, the performance is not too different from the HGT. I would best describe it as more refined.

The Stilo Abarth is more a Grand Tourer than a hot hatch and if u get in2 the car with this in mind, u will not b disappointed. The HGT is more raucous and instant and is very much a hot hatch, but the Stilo Abarth is a more refined and luxurious drive altogether, yet it has the ability 2 storm away at speed and hold it at the top end.

Styling wise, the exterior is bold and distinctive and the added skirts and spoilers finish it off very nicely. Inside the car, as I said b4, it is very teutonic in design, which is sad, but it results in an extremely practical and efficient cabin. The LCD panel between the speedo and rev counter is also very handy, allowing u 2 keep ur eyes where they should b.
The drivers seat is totally electronic in it's movement with the ability 2 store 3 groups of settings so there'l b no more complaining when the wife messes up ur perfect driving position !

My only gripe is that the back seat seems set further 4ward than the HGT. The only benefit of this is a larger boot, which, if we're honest, is welcome after the paltry excuse 4 a boot in the Bravo.

All in all, once u've learnt the system and understood what all the buttons do, the Stilo Abarth is a rewarding and pleasurable car 2 drive. A street racer it ain't but it will hold it's own against any of it's competition.

I have read numerous reports of the Stilo Abarth and thought the only way 2 decide is 2 try it myself. I suggest u do the same. Had this car got a VW badge or a Ford badge on it, people would b dancing in the streets and raving about this car, but it's a FIAT and as all u FIAT owners know, the marque still has a stigma attached 2 it.

Get in the car with an open mind, 4get ur HGT (if u have 1) and treat this as a whole new driving experience. Then maybe it will dawn on u like it did me, that FIAT haven't actually got it all that wrong Well, not with this car anyway !

Cheers,

Rob.


http://mysite.freeserve.com/robs_bravo_hgt/
Bravo HGT 2.0 20v with Mod'ing underway.
Seicento Sporting with Mod'ing underway.
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