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NEW FIAT STRADA

Fiat Auto South Africa is entering the highly competitive commercial vehicle sector with a formidable challenger in the form of the Fiat Strada range of bakkies.

Mr Giorgio Gorelli, managing director of Fiat Auto South Africa, is very upbeat about the newcomer: “The Strada is a pick-up that has truly proved itself in one of the most competitive light commercial vehicle markets in the world.

In Brazil it is far and away the clear leader in the under one-ton pick-up segment, outstripping the competition and helping Fiat to achieve an overall market share in excess of 25 percent.

“We are extremely proud to have the Strada in South Africa and I have no doubt that it will carve a very successful niche in the market place given its unique characteristics.

“We also foresee a trend in which more customers will opt for modern, reliable three-quarter-ton pick-ups like the Strada over the more traditional, larger one-ton bakkie. The reason for this is clear – new generation three-quarter-tonners like the Strada will meet all expectations.

With a 715 kg payload that’s dimensionally bigger than that of your average one-ton double cab bakkie and slightly less than a one-tonner – it’s more than most people will ever need. But, in terms of drivability and cost of ownership, it’s unbeatable – this is thanks largely to an entry price that is far more affordable than its one-ton rivals. The Strada is also more car-like to drive, offering roominess, performance and comfort easily comparable to a passenger car.”

The Strada’s core strengths are:

  • A maximum load capacity across the range of 715 kg – effectively placing the Strada as a three-quarter tonner in a half-tonner price segment;
  • 20 000 km service intervals – even for the diesel;
  • A tough load box liner for all variants;
  • Location of the full-size spare wheel behind the passenger seat for safety and convenience;
  • Key-operated central locking and power steering across the range;
  • A specially designed rear axle which enables the vehicle to negotiate rugged terrain (and avoid ‘middelmannetjie’ scrapes) with ease;
  • The most affordable new-generation pick-up in South Africa.

Exterior

The new Fiat Strada is a vehicle that combines typical pick-up features with unmistakable Palio family traits. It shares the Palio’s large rounded headlights with tapered wrap-around effect, but it features a completely different grille-bumper treatment enhanced by large air intakes, bolt-on wheelarch reinforcements, a black plastic load box liner and bumpers which are neatly integrated into the body.

The overall effect lends the Strada an almost off-road ruggedness i.e. you’re left in no doubt that this is a vehicle built for demanding applications. This impression is reinforced by good floorpan ground clearance: the feature was obviously introduced for practical reasons (the ability to negotiate potholes without problems) but it also imparts an impression of strength and power.

The rear bumper incorporates a built-in step for easy access to the load compartment. The side design reveals an ideal ratio between cabin and box that makes the model look well-proportioned. You will immediately be struck by the generously-sized doors that improve accessibility, functionality and practicality.

All models are shod with 14-inch rubber and the flagship 1.6 ELX model features alloy wheels. Other aesthetic differentiators: mirrors, grille, bumpers, door handles and the rear step are black on EL models and colour-coded on the ELX. Front fog lights complete the picture on the ELX.

Load Compartment

The great strength of the New Fiat Strada lies in a generous rear box that measures 1685 mm in length and 1350 mm in width (1090 mm between wheelarches). Its regular shape makes it roomy and easy to use. The floor is protected by a stylish plastic load box liner that can withstand freezing sub-zero temperatures as well as the highest temperatures.

Sturdy hooks are positioned around the edges of the box and on the floor where they won’t get in the way of loading and unloading. These can be used to fasten objects securely.

Access to the load compartment is made easier by the low box ground clearance and a tailgate that opens to 90°. The tailgate is coated with a non-slip surface and can support a weight of up to 300 kg.

Metallic paint is an option across the range.

Interior

The Fiat Strada design brief was to produce a light commercial vehicle with a car-standard interior. Accordingly, it offers plenty of space for passengers and excellent comfort in quiet surroundings with thoughtful detailing.

The seats offer good reach and backrest adjustment – they’re also equipped with height-adjustable head restraints.

The space behind the driver’s seat can be used to stow luggage and odds and ends safely within easy reach. The area behind the passenger seat houses the full-sized spare wheel conveniently and safely – far preferable to the usual arrangement of accommodating it under the load box.

The ergonomically efficient dashboard comes courtesy of the Palio/Siena which means that all controls are within easy reach and even the built-in radio/CD combo (standard on the ELX) is positioned so that the driver can operate it without distraction.

In terms of convenience features, all Stradas come standard with power steering, key-operated central locking, a Fiat Code immobiliser, tinted windows, a digital clock and a cigarette lighter/12V power point.

The flagship ELX gets a spec top-up with the addition of electric windows, a radio with CD front loader (EL models are pre-wired for radio and antenna fitment) and air-conditioning (optional on the 1.2 EL and the 1.7 TD EL).

Engines and Gearboxes

We already know the Fiat Strada’s styling is strong and distinctive. We know its generous load platform makes it a good workhorse. Last but not least, its power units make this model a good performer too.

The Fiat Strada can be fitted with three engines: a 1.2 MPI petrol unit, a 1.6 MPI 16-valve petrol powerplant or a 1.7 turbodiesel.

The petrol units feature four cylinders in line, a cast iron crankcase, aluminium alloy cylinder head and sheet steel oil sump. The overhead camshaft timing system is driven by a toothed belt.

Kicking off with the 1.2-litre unit, this engine develops maximum power of 54 kW at 6000 rpm and a maximum torque of 102 Nm at 3250 rpm. In this guise, the Fiat Strada can reach a top speed of 150 km/h; it consumes an average of 8,6 l/100 km.

Moving to the 1600, this 1 581 cc four-cylinder engine employs a twin-overhead camshaft, four valves per cylinder and Magneti Marelli electronically-controlled, multi-point fuel injection to generate 74 kW of power at 5 500 r/min, matched to 140 Nm of torque at 4 000 r/min. With this engine, the Strada reaches a top speed of 170 km/h and fuel consumption figures average out at 8,7 l/100 km.

The 1697 cc turbodiesel unit fitted to the TD EL version generates a maximum power output of 51 kW at 4500 rpm and a maximum torque of 135 Nm at 2500 rpm. It is a four cylinder in-line power unit with cast iron crankcase and aluminium alloy cylinder head. The overhead cam timing system is driven by a toothed belt. Injection is indirect within a combustion prechamber.

The engine is turbocharged by a Garrett turbocharger. The engine is equipped with an exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valve to keep emissions low. Top speed for this version is rated at 152 km/h and it achieves a combined fuel consumption figure of 7,7 l/100km.

The Fiat Strada gearbox comes with different ratios to make the most of each individual engine’s power and torque specifications. Gear selection and shifting take place via a dual cable system to eliminate vibrations transmitted from the engine to the passenger compartment. A ‘syringe’ control prevents involuntary engagement of reverse.

Suspension and Brakes

This new model grips the road well and is easy to drive. It owes much of its performance to its suspension geometry. The suspension is designed to withstand heavy loads while simultaneously keeping occupants comfortable even over difficult roads.

The independent front suspension is MacPherson type with lower wishbones in forged steel and an anti-roll bar. This geometry is shared by Strada models and facilitates traction, particularly over slippery road surfaces. Although suited to wide tyres, it nevertheless ensures a sufficiently tight turning circle.

The rear suspension is a live axle type with single parabolic leaf springs. This layout effectively damps road surface vibrations and also ensures maximum driving stability even when the load is not evenly distributed.

The rear axle profile is omega-shaped, i.e. the central part is raised to prevent the vehicle coming into contact with the ground even over rough terrain i.e. ‘middelmannetjies’.

The front brakes on both versions are ventilated disc type with a diameter of 257 mm. The diameter of the rear drum brakes is 228 mm and the brakes are fitted with load proportioning valves sensitive to weight changes. The self-centering shoes feature automatic play take-up.

Safety

For a pick-up like the Fiat Strada, safety means reinforcements beneath the floorpan and between the cabin pillars, a feature that strengthens the body and increases torsional rigidity.

This configuration also enables the Strada to carry heavy loads with ease while maintaining vehicle strength.

Although as strong as a commercial vehicle, the pick-up offers car-standard protection for its occupants. The body crumples gradually in an accident situation to safeguard the passengers.

The doors are also fitted with side impact bars and the vehicle comes fitted as standard with an energy absorbing steering wheel (EAS), anti-submarining seats, fire prevention system (FPS) (locks the fuel pump and prevents fuel escaping) and a Fiat CODE immobiliser system.

These are supplemented by less evident but equally important devices such as shielding for vulnerable leads, heat shields on the exhaust piping, fire-resistant materials and a collapsible bonnet with safety hinges.

The Strada 1.6 ELX comes standard with a driver’s airbag and pretensioner seatbelts.

Process and Manufacturing

The same quality upgrades that were introduced in the Rosslyn plant to improve manufacturing processes on the Palio II and Siena II have been applied to the Strada as well. These include increasing the number of quality gates.

For example, in the bodyshop area, Palio II, Siena II and Strada sheet metal components and mobile parts are dimensionally certified. A quality team from Fiat Auto Brazil is dedicated to the control of body part dimensional accuracy for the South African market.

In addition to the above in-process improvements, various Quality Assurance activities have been reinforced to further guarantee FIAT product conformity, namely:

  • 100% dynamic road test
  • 100% static audit.
  • Service and Warranty

Enhancing the ownership prospect, the Fiat Strada has 20 000 km service intervals (even the diesels) and enjoys full after-sales support in South Africa thanks to a comprehensive parts inventory and the back-up of trained technicians at Fiat dealerships countrywide.

Fiat Auto South Africa offers Fiat owners a 24-month Manufacturer Warranty, unlimited mileage and an additional 12-month Dealer Extended Warranty or up to 100 000km in total, three years on paintwork and five years on rust anti-perforation.

The new models are covered by the AA Fleetcare roadside assistance for 12 months. The service is active 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is available by calling the dedicated toll-free number 0800 223 727.

Recommended Retail Prices (incl. VAT)

  • Fiat Strada 1.2 EL – R77 900
  • Fiat Strada 1.2 EL a/c – R83 900
  • Fiat Strada 1.6 EL – R93 900
  • Fiat Strada 1.7 TD EL – R101 900
  • Fiat Strada 1.7 TD EL a/c – R107 900
  • Fiat Strada 1.6 ELX – R115 900