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Old 13th December 2009, 19:59   #1
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Default Under-rated, hated, and forgotten-the story of the Fiat Palio

A Forgotten Pal-io

Back In September 18, 2001, I was studying in class XI, Somer Ville School, Noida, when I was giving my mid terms and while the world was reeling under the USA twin tower attack shock (September 11, 2001), I kept reading HT daily and came across these teaser ads:

T-max will give Sachin the power of 100 horses
T-max will give sachin the top speed of 185 kmph

T-max. Technology to the max.

About 10 days pass, and then finally on September 30, 2001 I see a full page ad at the back of HT about the most important launch of 2001-Fiat's "comeback" car-the PALIO.

Past history be damned.
Uno bookings=2,90,000. Sales=Disaster.
Siena weekend=disaster

and bla bla bla...

unlike its tinny competition (Santro, wagon R, zen, alto) it felt UNLIKE any hatchback we have ever seen before.

the doors shut with a classic thud...
the bonnet was heavy, too heavy to lift with one hand...
the chic Italiano Guigiaro reskinned exteriors were simply stunning....
the interiors simply took my breadth away...
that tangerine mist, mystic yellow and fern green shades swept off my feet...
that 1015 kg kerb weight made the Indica look pretty bantam in comparsion...
the first-in-class 32 bit ECU controlled 1.2 SOHC 8V FIRE engine made a sweet and smooth sound the minute someone pushed the throttle....
the low slung dashboard and driving position felt like a limo when compared to the tall boys...

the 1.6 with one hundred Italian thoroughbred horses reminded me of how the horse dominated the mind of the early races, especially of the Mediterranean!

You were a lord if you had a horse.

Far back, far back in our dark soul the horse prances.... The horse, the horse! The symbol of surging potency and power of movement, of action, in man, and his car...

That 100 16V badging hiding the beast underneath the so called "torque" motor looked classic....

you knew that you were in treat before you just started that ignition and sped away in India's first 14" wheeled hot hatch, leaving the competition behind....

You kept watching those lovely Sachin ads on TV. In papers. In print. And the more you kept on liking its shape....

power to the max
style to the max
technology to the max
safety to the max
comfort to the max
colours and trims to the max

all you wanted to have in a big car, but for small car prices...to the max...

Suddenly, I go to Vivek Auto, Bikaji cama place and find hordes, hordes of people waiting to test drive the beauty....

a flame red EL and a tangerine mist GTX wait for your treat, to the max...

sweet 16 that time did not made me eligible for the license, so felt a bit heartbroken that I cannot test drive the palio.

Sunday. A day in November 2001. A new dealership-samyak motors, patparganj is opened with a swanky new showroom and state of the art workshop and a couple of my old friends welcome me, I felt like a 16-year old king......

Time: 2 PM

Flame red ELX 1.2

He starts the car, I sit at the co driver seat. 0-100 in 14 seconds flat...

It reminded me of the meaning of the word PALIO-which is a horse race held by the Italians to celebrate the harvesting seasons, in a town, the name of that town is Siena.

Now I knew where Fiat got these names from.

she was smooth riding...
she was agile...
she was spacious...
she was chilling...
she gave me a sense of coziness...
she was butter smooth shifting...
she was driver oriented....
she felt safe and secure when he piloted her through its paces...
that blue FIAT centenary logo was a blessing in disguise for her...
and I kept dreaming and dreaming, without realizing that my honeymoon was all but over.

But wait!

did I say my honeymoon was over?

Not quite, sweetheart...it was just a beginning...

3 PM, same day

Tangerine mist 1.6 GTX

Bigger, bolder, brash yet gentle on me...

the honeymoon added even more honey to the moon...
start the ignition and that raspy exhaust note reminds me of a harmonica... I play the harmonica.
The only way I can play is if I get my car going really fast, and stick it out the window.
The harmonica sounds amazing.

oops...I am again day dreaming...

I again sit on the co-driver's seat while my friend starts to put her through its paces...
0-100 in 11 seconds flat...
I feel the G forces...
sharp steering, sweet handling, she is an Italian pride...
those gorgeous white veglia dials with a tacho...
those lovely velour upholstered seats...
shining through the metallic finished vents....
spoiled with beauty with those gorgeous alloys and a roof top spoiler....

1.6 GTX my new dream car...
sports car performance and handling for a small car price...

But beauty is more than just a skin deep...
owning her takes about 4-6 weeks while keeping her takes eternity..
she moves in about 3-4000 garages every month....

but she is no ordinary babe.....and suddenly,
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Old 13th December 2009, 20:31   #2
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People are broad-minded.
They'll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater, and even a newspaperman, but if a man does not drive, there is something wrong with him.

But the driver's pal-io was hated by its owners
she was hated by its competitors...


most of her parents were upgraders from tiny lightweight small cars which were fuel efficient but compromised safety...
they never knew that she drank too much petrol...
they never knew that her fortress was heavy on pocket...
they never knew that her treatment at workshops was below par...
they never knew that...

...she ran long distances but in actual her legs were actually wrongly sized...
her odo used to under read...

and that started the beginning of her doom....

but fiat still decided to celebrate her first birthday by giving her a new look. to the max...
her dress material was upgraded..
a new hot blood red colour made my eyes red with envy that everytime she used to pass by me, I was ever ready and said to her, "give me red".

I had lost enough trouble, when a dream is gone, somebody pays...
and the competition sprays and prays for her doom...

as Fabricia Italia Automobili Turino burns a midnight oil in an oil burner...


with many parents giving her step motherly treatment, her actual parents were desperate...
they wanted her baby to get back on the right track...
and then..

they plonked a new heart. A BIG heart, in fact, nothing but the BIGGEST heart ever transplanted in a small car, one thousand nine hundred ten cubic capacity to be precise.

March 2003, my eighth month of under graduation, and I see a car that's "Inspired from Aircraft Technology"...

Last edited by sidindica : 13th December 2009 at 20:47.
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Old 13th December 2009, 20:34   #3
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Come on sid! now get on with the story - By the way, you seem to be in a nostalgia mode after the tribute to the Indica
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Old 13th December 2009, 21:08   #4
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Did I Ever Say Eternal Love?

It lives forever...
ooh, did I say mile-age?
it loves us forever...
ooh, did I say economy?
it stays forever...

We Indians are so obsessed with diesels..
ask about 7000-8000 people who spent their hard earned money in buying the only diesel hatch available that time-the Indica V2..
I asked...
and I got, but oh god!

am I inspired by aircraft technology? for a diesel?
am I the one with first-in-class drive by wire with electrically controlled throttle, the kind only seen in fighter aircrafts called fly-by-wire ?
am I the one with maintenance free ECU controlled fuel pump?

Yes, I may have an old Indirect Injection Heart, and my parents are inventors of common rail direct injection technology in alfa romeo in 1998, but in 2003, the fuel quality in our country was not that great to support such high compression pressurized rails in my engine...

But yes, my soul is updated. 63 horses with 12.7 kg-m of torque at your disposal..

And yes, I say, cars with car technology are obsolete..

My heart can scan for any water-related impurities in diesel and sense through my sixth sense-the diesel adultration device which has a lamp built in the instrument cluster to show my owners that my brain is not ordinary. It makes them aware that beware of this filling station, here my food is contaminated like, unfortunately the mid day meals in many government schools which are fed to kids...

I am the first diesel hatchback that again cares for my parent's safety, by providing ABS and driver airbag as options on ELX..

OOPS, I am again dreaming... but what about the drive?

Come on, get real

2003. I am 18.

eligible to vote.
to choose my own government.
finally, I am eligible to drive.
I procure my driver's license.

I Go to Vivek auto to take a test drive myself.

April 2003.

12 noon.

Thundrous black beauty with 1.9D badging is my demo babe.
But how does she behave?

Start and she behaves like a vamp in K-soaps, a bit noisy yet gentle.
I rev her, she becomes boomy at idle.
I fall in love for real with her heart.
I open her hood...
I see the engine with a necklace-like cover with "FIAT" inscribed on it..

She says..honey, my horses maybe 63 years OLD, but they will sweep of your feet...
first gear...
she picks up speed..and goes faster..
second gear..
her thick band of torque bowls me away...
third gear...
I touch 100...
18 seconds is all it takes, sluggish? boss, its 2003 and the indica behaves like a sick person in front of palio..left behind..
fourth gear..
she hits 155 kmph and cruises like a boeing 747-400 ER at 3500 rpm.
5th gear...
she is a highway star like an endeavour spacecraft...

While the 1.6 is for enthusiasts, the 1.9D is for long distance autobahn burners...
Suddenly, she rebounds..
sales rise...
she is back again...

About 5,000 of them find new homes in 6 months...
ooh, she is fresh, small in size, big in price, big in heart...

but she didn't expect that fate would again betray her..
she gets expensive first by 22,000
then by 15,000 after 3 months...
then...ooh sorry, feels sad to hear isn't it? Not many can afford her...
suddenly her big heartbeat is full of complaints with fuel pump conking off prematurely, our poor quality diesel working against her requirements...
yes, she has a strong and robust heart, but a sensitive one at that...

ooh! I am again dreaming..
come on,my parents are not that bad as they prepare to launch a New Version of my refined FIRE powered heart in mid 2004...

Last edited by sidindica : 13th December 2009 at 21:26.
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Old 13th December 2009, 22:22   #5
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Neighbour's NV, owner's pride

silently in mid 2004, she is relaunched with all things incorporated based on parent's (owners) feedback.
kids can fail, they get innumerable number of chances to clear papers..
here, she gets a second and final chance to prove herself..

new recaliberated ODO..
wider and more comfy front chairs to cocoon her boyfriends...
a new passion purple colour to make others envy..
new retuned modified exhaust for better emissions..
stiffer rear suspension to prevent bahus from shaking here and there and giving saasu maas a hard time when the car hits a pothole...

great mileage.
great looks.
great news..

owner's pride? oh really?

Palio fans loved it, but other people still loathed it...
her performance was declining...
she continued to sell, but only in few 100s, not in 1000s...
yet Fiat did not let to die a slow death...

but she continued to perish...the 1.6 GTX hot babe was gone, the PHAT chick S 10 sold at half the price, and suddenly, the Palio saga was all but over.

April 2005..

One way love. It never screams. Just grows deeper.
One way love. It pulls you in, takes you down..

she gets environment friendly. But Pocket unfriendly.
ELX gets beige clothing...
her big heart is priced even bigger...she touches 6 lakh mark for a diesel..
she gets produced while her life support systems are dying a slow death...

July 2005 damages her plant, flooded in July 26 downpour at Kurla..
many cars are damaged yet continue to be sold at few dealerships sitting like lame ducks..

and while she dies a slow death and says ta ta to us, that ta ta doesn't necessarily mean goodbye.

she tells me, "sweety, sorry I betrayed you for half a decade, ab main kisi aur ki ho chuki hoon."

she says good bye to LONE FIAT dealers forever, as an alliance with Tata Motors means that network sharing is inevitable and she is now sold through new chain of Tata-Fiat dealerships in major cities....

she rubs shoulders with her once long time rival-Indica and again she feels lonely, as if she is stepmotherly treated by sales executives who are making more money selling Indica diesels rather than palio petrols.

yet she continues to sell in meagre numbers as her subsided parent tries to rub off old stock....

while the 1.6 returns, it never captures the imagination of enthusiasts in a swift-ly manner as she expects it to..

as the lone fiat dealers shutter doors or give way to Tata Fiat stores, the entire palio family-palio, adventure, petra etc are sold off, with just a few units left.

she gets a major makeover as now a new company, new logo, new marketing team takes over and she gets a new home-ranjangaon near pune. A 50-50 JV plant.
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Old 13th December 2009, 22:43   #6
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Still, The Internal Love Exists for a new generation

mere sapnon ki rani kab aayegi tu?
aayi ruk mastani kab aayegi tu?
mit jaye zindagani kab aayegi tu?
chali aa, haa tu chali aa!

I call her back. she comes running along jumping from a train into my eyes.
The eyes of a new generation...
Same good old Fiat driven by her ancestors, now targeted at youth..


She is the new PALIO STILE.
the Fiat of new generation.
she gets bolder from the front...
bulky from the rear...
brighter from the inside..
better on mileage
and lower on price..


she is underpowered. horribly underpowered..just 57ps and 9.2 kg-m of torque??

0-100 kmph in over 20 seconds?
she has become old, terribly old. and dated..

yet some of her values of sold build, ride and handling, and comfort remain.

she shows her jawani with 1.6 sport but her legs are raised in stance, hence she does not handle as you expect from a hot hatch..
she rolls, pitches..and her quality drops..
the facelift is more of an "insult" to my PHAT chick...

while people swift-ly pickup the multi jet in DDiS disguise, Fiat decides to give her a final big shot in an arm by plonking the same 1.3 multi jet motor in her soul..sales do pick up but.

that's not enough..
its too late, she has to go..

she was a benchmark.
she's too old.

her kids draw a line to make a point that she is no longer valid in the Indian market and she has to go...

and as she goes, she finally fades into an eternal sunset, her future unknown...

The Fiat Palio.
A car that was never understood by the Indian market before it was too late.
A car way ahead of its time with many technological firsts.
A car that has a love it or hate it image.

Never supported, but she was step motherly treated by her own parents and step parents alike.
And forgotten.

Yet the fact remains that a babe powered by 1.6 torquey heart remains India's first and only true affordable hot hatch, a car that is admired by a few, yet forgotten by masses.

Last edited by sidindica : 13th December 2009 at 22:52.
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Old 13th December 2009, 22:45   #7
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Full Palio history:

Fiat launches palio in september 2001 in 1.2 EL MS, EL PS, ELX, 1.6 GTX and 1.6 GTX SP (ABS and driver airbags) trim levels.
  • colours: EL and EL PS: flame red, twilight blue, silver frost, royal gold, glacier white, fern green, forest green, tangerine mist.
  • ELX: all shades plus galaxy black and a very rare mustard colour called mystic yellow.
  • GTX and GTX SP had flame red, tangerine mist, silver, gold, white, galaxy black, fern green and mystic yellow.
  • In march 2002, limited edition S10 and 1.2 sports (with 1.6 GTX features minus alloys) is launched.
  • S 10 is available only in yellow colour and 1.2 sports is available for the first time in formula red colour in addition to tangerine mist, white, black, silver, gold and fern green.
  • twilight blue, forest green and mystic yellow are discontinued.
Dwindling sales doesn't deter Fiat to launch a new range of "1st anniversary edition" palios in october 2002.
  • EL and EL PS gain body coloured bumpers, new 2 tone grey dashboard, new upholstry, rear seat belts and door trim+boot carpet.
  • rear defogger deleted from EL PS model.
  • ELX and sport also gain new upholstry, ELX gains two tone dashboard.
  • a new double layer of clear coat is applied for improved paint finish.
  • GTX gains a "red tailpipe" tip and for the first time, also available in formula red colour in addition to tangerine mist, fern green, black, white, silver and gold (same shades in 1.2 sport also). Flame red is phased out in 1.2 sport and GTX.
  • EL, EL PS and ELX gain a new shade called 2 tone hazel grey in addition to available shades like white, silver, gold, flame red, tangerine mist, fern green and galaxy black (only available on ELX and higher models).
Palio diesel launched in 2003 march with 1.9 diesel
  • 3 varients-EL, ELX and ELX SP (ABS+driver airbag) launched
  • features same as petrol equivalents except tachometer, standard on all models.
  • new jet black (thunder black) is introduced (only in ELX and ELX SP) in addition to 6 other colours: flame red, white, silver, gold, hazel grey and fern green.
To improve fuel efficiency, Fiat introduced 1.2 petrol Palio NV in mid 2004.
  • four models: EL, EL PS, ELX, and sport
  • 1.6 GTX discontinued for time being
  • shades: EL, EL PS: white, silver, gold, hazel grey, flame red
  • ELX-all above plus a new colour-passion purple in addition to available galaxy black.
  • sport-all mentioned shades but flame red was replaced by formula red. sport also gains alloy wheels.
  • palio diesel ELX SP discontinued, alloy wheels made optional on 1.9 ELX.
  • al models (including diesel) now sport new blue round fiat logo on the tailgate
In 2005, Fiat quietly launched upgraded Euro 3 palios and jacked up prices big time.
  • same models in petrol-EL, EL PS, ELX and sport
  • EL and EL PS gain 2 new shades-thunder black and moon mist grey in addition to white, silver,and flame red. All other shades discontinued.
  • ELX gains black and beige interiors, stone guard deleted.
  • 1.2 sport gains new front fenders from S 10.Formula red replaces flame red, all other 4 shades also available.
  • Palio diesel has EL PS, ELX and ELX with alloys.
  • EL has 4 colours-thunder black, white, silver and moon mist grey.
  • ELX (only diesel) is now available in formula red in addition to aforementioned shades.
In march 2006, Tata-Fiat alliance heralds the comeback of 1.6 GTX now labeled as 1.6 sport.
  • Tata fiat dealers ONLY can sll 1.6 sport in formula red and canary yellow colours in addition to 1.2 EL PS and 1.2 ELX
  • 1.2 EL MS discontinued, 1.2 sport and 1.9 diesel still available in limited quantities and "fiat only" dealers who also sold petra and adventure.
  • slowly, as the alliance progresses, the old palio is phased out, and the "fiat only" dealer shut down to make way for tata-fiat dealers.
Tata-fiat dealers launch the new palio stile in march 2007.
  • 3 models-1.1 SL, SLE and SLX in white, black, dark green, dark blue and grey launched
  • 1.6 sport launched in formula red, magnesium grey and black.
  • 1.3 palio multijet diesel launched in march 2008 in 3 models-SD, SDE and SDX in 5 colours-black, white, grey, red and blue.
  • Future?

Fiat Palio.

Technology. To the max.
Inspired by Aircraft technology.
Great Mileage. Great Looks. Great News.
Not drivers. Only Lovers.
The Fiat of the new generation.
The drive of the new generation.

Aath Saal pehli ki ek aisi kahani, jo shayad itihaas ke pannon mein kahin kho gayi ho.

Last edited by sidindica : 13th December 2009 at 22:53.
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Old 13th December 2009, 23:01   #8
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That is a great read, congratulations and thanks Sid for encapsulating the history of the Palios so well. I loved the humour you injected into that otherwise tragic story.

I drive a GTX and every time I drive it, I am amazed that people did not buy it.


Last edited by Ravveendrra : 13th December 2009 at 23:04.
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Old 14th December 2009, 01:28   #9
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it's fiat's fault. they did the same mistake with the uno (another great car) and repeated it with the palio. it was a great car and if fiat kept on updating the car from time to time this wouldn't have happened.

everything is messed up, the dated interiors are all dull beige. there is nothing exciting about it. it's hard to believe that there was a variant called GTX of this very same car.

the 1st gen. palio will live for ever, no matter what fiat does with the car.

& way to go fiat for simply destroying such a great car.
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Old 14th December 2009, 09:35   #10
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Sid - a touching renderation. The humour in depicting irreversible tragedy is superb.

The Palio was indeed a car ahead of it's time when it came here. It never met the Indian aspiration of milage, and things that it had like rock solid built are not valued in India by most even today.
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Old 14th December 2009, 10:21   #11
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Thanks Sid!
It made for a compelling read.

But, what have you really got under your sleeve? A face lift or a final adieu?
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Old 14th December 2009, 10:32   #12
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Superb recap of an excellent car. Fiat why did you let the car doom this way.
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Old 14th December 2009, 10:34   #13
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Oops! You may want to re-think the title, I clicked on the thread thinking you had written about the history of PAL, the car company.
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Old 14th December 2009, 11:16   #14
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Fiat Palio reskinned in 2001
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Under-rated, hated, and forgotten-the story of the Fiat Palio-fiatpalio_2002_1600x1200_wallpaper_02.jpg  

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Old 14th December 2009, 11:26   #15
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Dear Sid,

This is great.

You have recalled the history & the present very well

Thanks & Regards
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