The Fiat Group’s main attraction at this year’s Geneva show isn’t a car at all. Towering over everything else on the stand – in the hall, even – is a house-sized replica of the Fiat 500 supermini, complete with giant-sized front seats, steering wheel and gearstick, as well as a coffee bar, a lift and and myriad TV and video screens within.
In its shadow, however, the Italian outfit hasn’t forgotten the most important ingredient of any Swiss show: must-see metal. From Lancia, there’s the hitherto-unseen Delta; from Alfa Romeo, the gorgeous 8C Spider; from Fiat there’s the squeaky-clean 500 Aria concept and the new Fiorano MPV; and from Abarth, the new Abarth 500
The new Delta compact hatchback, from Fiat’s re-enlivened Lancia brand, was one of the biggest draws in the hall. Everyone was interested in slamming its doors, poking fingers into its nooks and crannies, and finding out exactly how upmarket it really looks and feels. Most of them left looking impressed.
Exhibited were three Deltas, one in black, the others in Lancia’s trademark white with black pillars and roof. All three looked stylish and eye-catching, with shapely headlights, a shield grille, some expensive-looking brightwork and a signature ‘D’ shape in the B-pillar.Inside the Delta feels plush, rich of materials and well screwed together, although all three of the cars exhibited had expensive looking leather and leather-suede upholstery, which are unlikely to come on cheaper models. The ambience is airy, stylish – closer to that of Alfa Romeo than Fiat products. And, thanks to the car’s generous 4.4-metre length, there’s as much legroom in the rear as you’ll find in a 159 too, even if head- and shoulder room is tighter.
It was a quiet Geneva show for the Fiat brand in particular, which is still basking in the glow of its runaway-success 500. Still, there were two debuts on the stand: a concept car called the 500 Aria, and a new mini-MPV called the Fiorino.
Powered by Fiat’s 1.3-litre Multijet diesel engine, and equipped with Magnetti Marelli’s robotised Dualogic gearbox and engine stop-start technology, the Fiat 500 Aria concept emits just 98g/km of CO2. A road-going version will be available from the autumn, with the same powertrain and the same parsimonious exhaust emissions.
The Fiat Fiorino is the brand’s all-new small MPV. Based on the firm’s Punto supermini platform, it’s less than 4.0-metres long and is only a five-seater, yet an upright cabin gives it great cabin space, and sliding rear doors grant easy access to the rear.The best news is that, according to one Fiat spokesperson we asked, the Fiorino will make it to the UK market, and at a price significantly less than the larger Doblo. That means it’s a proper MPV that could cost under £9000.
The £130,000 Alfa 8C Spider took centre stage on the Alfa stand. In the style of a true exotic sports car, it was kept back from the press scrum behind a glass screen. Only the select few were allowed in to take a closer look… and only then one at a time.
Beside the 8C were Alfa’s 2008 model-year 159 saloon, Sportwagon, Brera coupe and Spider convertible ranges, which all received exterior styling modifications, cabin tweaks and a new drivetrain option in Alfa’s front-driven ‘Q2’ electronically controlled front differential system. In the 159, this is available even in range-topping 3.2-litre V6 petrol form.
And then there were the special editions: the 147 Ducati Corse (with its 168bhp 1.9-litre JTDM diesel engine and ‘Q2’ locking front diff) and the Alfa GT Black Line III (which gets the same powertrain). Alfa has yet to confirm whether either will be coming to the UK.
For some unexplained reason, Fiat elected to buy a show stand for its Abarth brand in a different hall to the rest of its show stands. Some interpreted that as a statement of independence for Abarth; others said it was simply because it had run out of room. Either way, it was worth the stroll over to hall 1 for a look at Fiat’s tuned offerings, and chief among them was the tantalising new Abarth 500 hot hatchback.
The new 135bhp 500 was shown next to its immediate forebear in Abarth lore, the 595 Abarth, and looked ready for anything you could throw at it.
The next car for the Scorpion brand will be a hot version of the 500 Convertible, a spokesperson confirmed, which will go on sale in early 2009. After that come the firm’s first Abarth-only models; both a coupe and a convertible are under consideration by Fiat brass, but there was still no details to be drawn on either projects.