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Old 10th April 2009, 03:00   #1
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Default Fiat Palio Stile MJD: 1,85,000 km and 9 years!

I have driven this car for 20,000 km in a little over a year. This car has been discussed to death (quite literally, seeing the current sales numbers) on this forum. This car does have its shortcomings, but the ownership experience has actually been better than what I expected.

Circa March 2008: I was tired of lugging my office (totally contained within a laptop bag that carried much more than just a heavy laptop) on a bike and was equally tired of borrowing my sister’s Alto. I needed a car and I needed it soon, not after the two projects I was doing were over! The decision to buy a Fiat was based on the fact that it felt close enough to the Swift diesel in terms of performance and economy, yet had additional space and better ride quality. The SDE was a full Rs 60,000/- cheaper and got delivered within ten days. I knew the A.S.S. horrors of Fiat, but I took the gamble anyways, largely because of the urgency.

April 2009:
I find some things very endearing in this car. One, it has a well-weighted (okay, heavy at lower speeds for some) steering with excellent feedback—at any speeds barring those 140 kph plus regions where I have never visited. Two, this car has a comfortable driving position with excellent ergonomics. It is neither very upright a la’ the Wagon R nor as low as the Esteem. The steering is at the right height and never obstructs vision. I have driven 650 km and 14 hours at a stretch and was quite okay even after that, largely due to my being comfortably seated. Three, the ride quality is very good, though many find it a little harsh at low speeds. At speeds beyond forty kph, it flattens the bad stretches in a manner that is creditable for a car of its size. Four, it is spacious and while we are not a family of giants, everybody appreciates the space they get. The rear seats have been comfortable on long drives, I am told, but I am yet to sit at the back while the car is being driven over long stretches.

Apart from these, there is the most important reason that I bought this car for: its engine. The Multijet is definitely one of the best things to happen to diesels in India and this is agreed by people across different brand ownerships. The Palio version of this omnipresent power plant has been tuned for city driving and crawling on the lowest two (or even three) gear ratios is quite stress free once you get the hang of it. Of late, I have reduced the crawling at idle RPMs as I realise it might not be the best thing for the engine life. The second is the gear where one feels that the bike that has just zoomed ahead of you from the light can be caught easily. The third is where you end up doing it. In the city, the fifth gear is a rare occasion, as the engine is happily chugging at 1800 kph or thereabouts in fourth gear by the time you reach the legal (and practical) speed limit. I have done about 140 kph at some 3500 RPM or so in fifth gear and the car seemed to be happy doing it.

Yes, there is a turbo lag, but it seems quite linear as compared to its Maruti cousin. It’s been ages since I have noticed it, because you adapt your driving to keep the vehicle in its power band (2000-2500 RPM) when you expect quick overtaking situations and you stick to cruise mode (1700-2000 RPM) when you don’t.

That brings me to the other critical components of the driving part. The gearbox is positive and doesn’t have any false neutrals etc. The clutch pedal travel is long and unless fully pressed, the gear shifting is not so smooth. Even the gear lever has long travel, but I find it quite precise after driving the Alto. It is not a snappy, short-throw, lightning quick shifter, and the long clutch pedal travel doesn’t help either.

The stock tyres on this car are Goodyear GPS2 tubeless 165/80/R13. They are one of the noisiest I have seen. They have done their job well, though, without any punctures. They are, however, not the best tyres to have at 120+ kph speeds.

I have managed an average fuel economy of 16.5 kpl, with almost 70% driving in the worst of South Delhi traffic with mostly short runs. The best FE I have got in the city is 19.5 kpl and the worst is 13.2 kpl. Highway FE has been around 19 kpl, but I have not had any great highway runs on expressways or with less traffic. Post 10,000 km, FE has shown a noticeable improvement and winter months without AC have been giving 17+ kpl.

And now, let me write out the gripes and the problems. First, the most important question for a Fiat (or is it Skoda’s prerogative now?), the After Sales Service and Support.

I had a shoddy PDI and first service from the dealer (Vivek Automobiles). After switching to Elegant Cars (Samyak), my service worries have been removed. They are attentive and committed and quick. I have recommended many other BHPians to go to them, and they have been positive. I have also been treated well at Him Motors when I have gone there for replacing my ORVM. The new ASC at Delhi and Gurgaon have been reviewed to be good but I haven’t tried a service yet. And I have never come away from any ASC except Vivek Automobiles without a complimentary “top” wash.

So far, so good. Regarding parts, I have got everything I needed (which isn’t much) except the left ORVM which took long, because I needed the entire plastic panel on the left window (as my variant did not have a provision for left ORVM) and only the mirror was available.

I had an incident where a Vikram brushed through my entire left side with his “side guards” and it cost me Rs 6,000/- with denting and painting. The job was done quite well at KJA Anthony’s garage at East of Kailash, Delhi. I went there to preserve my NCB because they charged me half of ASC and did an equally good job.

While I don't abuse my car outright, this car has had its share of bad (actually very bad) roads, especially on the trip to Khajuraho. I also have a bad habit of not slowing down much over bad patches. It's my way of driving and I am trying to change that. I time my wheel alignment with the 7500 service interval, so I have managed to cause slightly uneven tyre wear on the front tyres (now all four, thanks to rotation). A tyre upgrade to 185s is due around the 30,000 km mark, so I am not doing anything about it except continue with alignment at 7500 km intervals till then.

Besides the tyre wear and the odd sound or two described below, the car has done so far without any hitch, whatsoever. Amen.

Other Problems:

The boot hatch lock (the U-clamp) was rattling because of a bad spot weld. It was replaced under warranty (otherwise costing Rs 180/-).

I was unaware that in Fiats, the combination switch does not self-cancel on small left turns of the wheel. On raising the issue with Vivek Automobiles, they promptly replaced it under warranty. I could have easily managed without it, since the new one is almost the same in this regard.

There are rattles from some places. The parcel tray (maybe because I have installed the speakers on them without MDF backing) rattles softly enough to be hardly noticeable. There are rattles from the AC console if I try a quick pick-up between 1000-1250 RPM on higher gears. There is a sound (like a window glass hitting something), not a rattle, from the doors over bad roads. The driving seats and steering wheel let out an occasional squeak too. I have not gone out of the way to get them fixed either, due to paucity of time. Thus, the legendary Fiat build quality has not retained its spotless reputation on my car. Sorry, Fiat.

But to be fair, I have had numerous brushes in Delhi traffic with kerbstones and other vehicles and all the bumpers need is a repainting. They have remarkably retained their shape. The left fender has a small dent, thanks to an Alto.

The suspension (maybe the tyres) is noisy. I have started maintaining 30-32 PSI nowadays instead of 28-30, and the handling has improved noticeably, while the ride is not much harsher.

So now, the final question: would I have been happier with another car? Besides the Swift and before the Vista, this was the most competent and VFM diesel hatch. After so many kilometres, I can say that what I lose is the sharp handling characteristic of the Swift, but what I gain is better ride quality. What I lose is the Maruti peace-of-mind, but what I gain is a respectable back seat and boot. What I lose is better NVH, but what I gain is a little more driveability. What I lose is the smaller turning radius, but what I get is much better visibility.

Isn’t life all about choices?
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Old 10th April 2009, 04:17   #2
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Quote:
In the city, the fifth gear is a rare occasion, as the engine is happily chugging at 1800 kph or thereabouts in fourth gear by the time you reach the legal (and practical) speed limit.

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Nice Review btw.
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Old 10th April 2009, 09:02   #3
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Very neatly written Architect. Precisely lists all the points to be covered. Should be useful for potential buyers.
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Old 10th April 2009, 10:32   #4
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Very well reviewed architect!
To the point, informative without being biased.
Wishing you many more smiles and miles from the Palio.
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Old 10th April 2009, 10:58   #5
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Architect Sir!
Lovely review. I am 5 months and 13,000 km. down, and I appreciate each and every observation of yours. Here's hoping my Forza stands the test of a year's running like yours. Cheers and happy motoring!
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Old 10th April 2009, 11:01   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TaciturN View Post
Nice Review btw.
Sorry for the error, it should be 1800 RPM. I am otherwise quite particular about units and this was a late night typing mistake.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cruiser_1982 View Post
Very neatly written Architect. Precisely lists all the points to be covered. Should be useful for potential buyers.
Thank you, are there still any potential buyers around?

Quote:
Originally Posted by prateekswarup View Post
Very well reviewed architect!
To the point, informative without being biased.
Every Palio owner is not a fanboy. At the end of the day, none of us can claim to be totally impartial either.

@Ice, with your kind of running, you will overtake me soon. And I look forward to your detailed review as you own the only Peted Palio MJD on the forum (and possibly in this country, too). Wish you happy motoring, too.

Last edited by architect : 10th April 2009 at 11:07.
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Old 10th April 2009, 11:08   #7
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Very nice review. Yes, in the end all that matters is how comfortable are you with your love. And i see that you made good decision.

And 20K in 12 months!!!! Thats definitely diesel territory
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Old 13th April 2009, 15:17   #8
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Nice review!

I am reassured to see similar problems in your car, since I was worried I am having those problems in my car due to my style of driving. My SDX is presently 7 months old and 19000-odd kms on the odo.

I have a feeling either the front brakes are a bit weak, or the front of the car is a bit too heavy, going by the feedback I get sometimes while braking.


Cheers
Jagan
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Old 13th April 2009, 15:45   #9
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Nice detailed review Architect!

Do upsize your tyres to 185 tubeless at the earliest.
Also try to get a MDF board to place the rear speakers.
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Old 13th April 2009, 16:25   #10
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That's one of the most unbiased report that I've read in recent times. Great effort, Architect.

Apart from causing uneven wear on tyres, are there other ill-effects of not doing alignment/balancing on time?
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Old 13th April 2009, 19:31   #11
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great one architect

amazing resource for a Palio potential buyer
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Old 13th April 2009, 19:36   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by architect View Post

Thank you, are there still any potential buyers around?
Sure. If the sales list are to be believed, FIAT is still selling a few hundred Palios a month. Fiat is planning for a refreshed palio too in the near future
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Old 4th May 2009, 14:16   #13
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Default Tyre Upgrade- finally!

After having run 21000 kms on old tyres, I should have waited and used them fully, but didn't. As phamilyman pointed out, fiscal prudence is not one of my qualities. So, finally here's the deal:

Yokohama A-drives 185/70/R13 on stock rims 5 nos. @ Rs 3,000 per tyre
Buyback price for 4 used tyres: Rs 500 per tyre
Buyback price for unused spare: Rs 1,800
Alignment and Balancing free at Star Wheels, Sec 14, Gurgaon. (Sorry, GD sir, for me telling those chaps that I knew you!)

Results:
a. Finally the engine is louder than the tyres at any speeds above 40 kph
b. The already good ride has improved even further
c. Cornering is much better
d. Confidence at triple digit speeds is way better.

I guess the decider was when I read kpzen doing 200 kph on his Getz with Yokohama A-drives. That's when I decided they would be "safe" comfort tyres.

Last edited by architect : 4th May 2009 at 14:17.
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Old 4th May 2009, 14:43   #14
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Congrats Architect on the new tyres, what about alloys?
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Old 4th May 2009, 14:54   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by finneyp View Post
what about alloys?
I guess only at around 50-60k kms. No point going for alloys with 13" wheels. It would be hardly a good idea to replace another set of tyres through half their life!

There's another reason. It is easier to fix a bent steel rim. Or even source a new rim as a spare. Considering my attitude to bumps and bad roads, I am worried my car will be stuck for weeks waiting for a replacement 98 PCD alloy wheel.
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