Form meets function: The Fiat Avventura drive review

Fiat first showcased the Avventura at the Auto Expo 2014, and the vehicle created quite some buzz amongst visitors and the media alike, as it was a genuinely different offering. The cross over was launched in late 2014 and positioned as a compact soft roader, which the company called a CUV (contemporary urban vehicle). The cross over segment has been on an upswing, with the Fiat Avventura, Cross Polo and Etios Cross vying for a slice of the pie and feeding the lower end of the growing compact SUV market that is dominated by Ford EcoSport and Renault Duster. And now with Hyundai also jumping into the cross segment with its latest offering – the i20 Active, the spotlight continues to remain in this segment.

We took the Fiat Avventura for a drive review and spent more than a week with it, driving a good 1000 km across highways, bad roads, city traffic, small towns, off road, hills and more. We tested the vehicle just the way you would use it – navigating stop and go traffic and narrow bazaar lanes around the city on weekdays; and then packing a family of four (and a dog!) with some luggage over the weekend for a quick road trip. So if you are really looking at a change of wheels and have an eye on this segment, this is the real McCoy.

The Avventura is based on the Punto Evo, which makes it a rather good looking car at first glance. It is well styled and looks very balanced in terms of design and aesthetics. Being a soft roader, a lot of SUV-like styling cues have been added, including roof rails, skid pads, modified front and rear bumpers, flared wheel arches to house the 16″ alloys and the spare wheel mounted at the back. The ride height has been significantly increased as well, which gives it a nice visual stance that does not look out of proportion. The add-ons make the Avventura look even better than its sibling, combining the Punto’s Italian flair with some functional ruggedness.

We drove the top end diesel version which was powered by Fiat’s proven 1.3L Multijet engine that produces 92 BHP and 209 Nm of torque. The vehicle is about 65 kgs heavier and Fiat has tweaked the suspension a little as well. The increased ride height results in a ground clearance of 205mm, which means that despite having the same underpinnings as the Punto Evo, the Avventura feels entirely different while driving – solid & stable. The impressive ground clearance means the car can handle some soft-roading too. We took the Avventura on some dirt tracks and along the river bed, and despite having only front wheel drive, it coped really well. It absorbed bumps and potholes effortlessly to provide an exceptionally comfortable ride, and the low turning radius made sharp turns easier to handle.

The engine which is mated with a 5-speed manual transmission, offers linear power delivery above 2500 rpm, below which one tends to feel a bit of lag. This is more evident while trying to pull away at a set of lights or attempting that quick overtake on the highway. The true merit of the engine is evident at higher revs where there is ample power to offer an engaging ride. In terms of handling, the vehicle performed beautifully. It felt planted and balanced around sharp corners and mountain roads and also while driving through wet conditions.

On the inside, the car has automatic climate control, rear AC vents, auxiliary input, ‘Blue&Me’ bluetooth connectivity for your phone and a USB port. The integrated entertainment console supports AUX, USB and CD, and can be controlled through a multi function steering wheel, so you can set the volume, mute, scan radio channels or answer calls without getting distracted. There is a clinometer cluster that comprises a compass along with a roll and tilt gauge, which really come alive while soft roading, navigating sharp corners and hilly terrain. The multi information display in the speedometer cluster can be customised to show date & time, set speed limits, trip meters and fuel range, giving you almost all the head-up information that you need while driving. The duo tone dashboard is well illuminated with ambient LED lighting and has a sporty chrome lined fit & finish.

The driving position can be adjusted to a SUV-like commanding high or a hatch-like laid back low. Depending on your mood and drive condition, you are sure to find a comfortable position when you adjust the tilt steering and the seat position together. The cabin is quiet and well insulated with optimal space in the front, though legroom at the back comes at a premium. Two in the backseat can be comfortable, but a third adult can add a bit of pressure. The cabin also lacks adequate storage space, specially at the front. A few cup holders and additional slots would have been thoughtful, since one does tend to carry more stuff on weekend trips. A central arm rest between the two front seats is sorely missed and so is a Park Assist feature while driving, as it is tough to judge the rear distance between the vehicle and an obstacle, with the mounted spare wheel in between.

The boot space is big enough for two large suitcases or three to four small over nighters. The rear seat can be folded 60:40 to create more space if required. It is also easier to access the boot by folding the rear seat from inside the cabin, since the 3 stage open/close mechanism for the boot isn’t the most practical. To do that you need to push the boot unlock key first, then get the spare wheel mounted on a frame out of the way (it opens with a swivel mechanism that is a bit clunky) and finally swing up the boot lid, like you would do in a hatch. The process requires hands to be free, adequate strength and a lot of free space behind the car (at least three feet), which may not be available in tight parking lots. The roof rails are sturdy and can be used to carry camping and cycling equipment on a long drive.

In terms of safety, the Avventura has two front airbags (only in the top end version), ABS, automatic central locking and early crash sensors. The overall vehicle built quality feels quite solid but we would have liked to see airbags as standard across all variants.

The Avventura is priced very competitively. Current pricing (ex-showroom Delhi) for the petrol variant ranges from INR 6.44 to INR 7.31 lacs, and the diesel version starts at INR 7.18 and goes up to INR 8.49 lacs. When compared to the new Hyundai i20 Active, this does sound like a good value for money proposition.

Overall, the Avventura is the tough one when compared with the rest in the segment. It is a more seriously built cross over and not just a hatchback with plastic cladding. It has been doing well in India since its launch and Fiat tells us that the response from smaller towns and non metros is much better than urban centres. Considering its ‘contemporary urban vehicle’ positioning, this is quite surprising. But then India is a strange market. Products tend to find their way into consumers lives in ways much different than what marketers had originally planned.

If you are considering a vehicle in the sub INR 10.0 lac bracket, it is worth test driving the Fiat Avventura. Its stylish personality and rugged performance may well surprise you. And who knows, you may find your own unique compelling reason to opt for this totally value for money performer.

Watch the Fiat Avventura drive review here:

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