The fast evolving Indian automobile market has spun out some interesting innovations. While few of them are an interesting work-around the absurd tax system, like the sub-four metre sedans, others are just cosmetic changes to take advantage of the market trends, like the hatchback-based crossovers. The Volkswagen Cross Polo and the Toyota Etios Cross fall in this category of pseudo UVs that offer the same value as their hatchback counterpart, with the addition of just beefier and rugged styling.
Fiat, however, has taken a slightly different approach with the Avventura; like the other two it is based on the hatchback but offers more in terms of driveability, space and also image. The task set for Avventura though is a difficult one. It has to offer utility similar to that of the compact SUVs, still sticking to a strict budget that will keep pricing on par with hatchbacks. We spent a little more than a day with the Avventura to find out if Fiat has succeeded.
Looks & Styling
Serious efforts have gone into making the Avventura look different from the Punto Evo. The basic silhouette sans the boot-mounted spare tyre may still be of the hatchback, but in flesh it plays the part of an entry-level crossover pretty well.
The front design has least number of changes compared to the Punto Evo. It gets a rugged looking black coloured front bumper and similar black body cladding for the wheel arches that make the car look wider. While I won’t deny that the Avventura, like its hatchback counterpart, looks aggressive; I also feel it is quite ‘fishy’. It actually looks like a giant catfish and in the zafferano orange here it also gives out aposematic signals.
It is the side and the rear profiles that distinguish the Avventura from the Punto, with the boot-mounted spare tyre. Like for many in the animal kingdom, this is just a deceptive tactic to look bigger, and it comes with its own set of flaws. For one, despite the compact size, the boot cannot be accessed in the tight spot. It is not directly mounted on the hatch, but on an independent arm that has to be moved sideways like rear doors of old school SUVs, before vertically opening the hatch door. Also the spare tyre and the arm are going to rattle in the long run.
The black elements are in plenty to create a nice contrast and also to add a premium touch. The Avventura badging is loud and carved into the body cladding; it creates a tough image and also reiterates the fact that this is not a custom Punto. The tail section is a little too cluttered, the spare wheel occupies majority of the space – everything below it is black and everything above it is like the Punto.
In this flamboyant colour and contrasting body kit, the Avventura grabs attention. More importantly, unlike the Volkswagen Cross Polo and Toyota Etios Cross, it appears to be a different car.
The cabin is a replica of the Punto Evo with a couple of additions to the top of the dashboard – I am not complaining though. It is then based on the Linea sedan and feels premium compared to its competitors.
The soft touch material is of excellent standards, the fit and finish is top notch, addition of ambient lighting is a nice touch and the only issues that we have in here are related to the ergonomics. The amber backlight is too bright, the instrument cluster feels a little complicated, the interface for the music system could have been better and finding the perfect driving position can take a while (the Avventura branded seats though look awesome).
The interesting additions to the dashboard are the digital compass and ‘tilt-meter’, they work like a gyrometre and display car’s tilt on both its axes and also show the direction the car is heading in. These may be of some help during off-roading, but they are mostly cool additions to the cabin.
The rear row can accommodate three when required and the dedicated AC vent is a big plus. Since the tyre has moved out of the boot, it has freed additional space there. Fiat has carefully packed the wheel jack in there for now, but it can certainly be put to a better use. The Avventura offers space similar to the hatchbacks, it is still spacious than its direct rivals the Cross Polo and Etios Cross, but loses out to the Hyundai Elite i20.
Engine & Performance
We drove the diesel Avventura powered by the 1.3-litre multijet diesel engine delivering 92bhp and 209Nm of torque. On flat roads the variable geometry turbo (VGT) provides seamless power and the crossover clocks triple digit speeds pretty easily. Everyday commute is a breeze with the relatively light clutch, although overtakes need to be planned in advance due to lack of bottom-end grunt. This engine has turbo lag and the problem is aggravated with the additional 65kg that comes with the spare-wheel mounting and the bigger tyres. Unless the car is kept on the boil at the approach, there is no comfortable way of making through even the easiest of gradients. The gear shifts require getting used to and even then will require some effort.
The refinement levels are pretty good; not much of the diesel clatter percolates into the cabin. The ARAI efficiency of the oil burner is decent at 20.5kpl. The petrol version, powered by the 1.4-litre unit with an output of 89bhp and 115Nm of torque, has a slightly low claimed efficiency of 14.4kpl.
Ride & Handling
It is the ground clearance of the Avventura that makes it worthy of the crossover badge. At 205mm the ground clearance is on par with that of the Renault Duster and 25mm more than the recently launched Mahindra Scorpio. The car has been raised by 20mm over the Punto and the suspension has been recalibrated for the change in dynamics. Fiat has also added an antiroll bar for the rear suspension and these have helped both ride and handling.
Even though the car is heavier and has a higher centre of gravity, it doesn’t have much effect on the overall dynamics. The ride is surprisingly good, it flatten the bumps and comfortably glides over the bad roads. The chunky 205/55 R 16 tyres provide ample grip, but unfortunately create a ruckus at high speeds. The hydraulic steering is not as light as the EPS units of the new generation cars, but the feel and feedback at high speeds is substantially better.
The Avventura can manage more than little bit of off-roading, till the time it does not involve driving in slippery conditions. Overall the Avventura has a decent balance; it is comfortable and also offers acceptable driving dynamics for most conditions.
The Avventura pleasantly surprised me with the driving dynamics despite the increased ride height. It also looks the bigger with the body kit and unconventionally mounted spare-wheel. And the best part is, with the new name Fiat has given the crossover a new identity independent of the hatchback.
The performance certainly plays a spoil sport, but it is the same engine that powers the few other high selling models. Still it offers superb value if you are looking at a small car capable of tackling bad roads on a daily basis. The top-end diesel variant at Rs 8.17 (ex-Delhi) is expensive, but the middle-level variant sounds like a deal at Rs 7.65 lakh, especially since it comes with the ABS-EBD brakes and 16-inch alloy-wheels as standard.