For a long time, Fiat was known as “Fix It Again Tony”, with more faults than a bad tennis player. However, some serious rumbling from the top ensured that quality control was a number one priority and, thankfully, Fiat cars became reliable as well as fun. It’s increasingly rare for a brand to continue to have systemic issues so it came as a shock when the test Freemont Crossroad given to A Wheel Thing developed an electrical or computer hiccup in the last couple of days of the test period. More on that, later.
Fiat pretty much owns American company Chrysler, such was the turnaround in the Fiat fortunes and shares platforms with a number of Chrysler group vehicles or co-develops cars such as the Dodge Journey, a great vehicle A Wheel Thing tested earlier this year. It’s the same 3.6L V6 engine found in that, an upgrade for the Freemont from smaller petrol and diesel engines, a touch raspy and thirsty, with 206kW/342 torques and a six speed auto. Fiat quotes a sub 11L/100 km combined cycle consumption figure but as it’s a mainly urban environment it’ll be used in, it comes as no surprise that it’s a heavy drinker, thanks to a 1800 kg plus weight and a fairly high rev point needed for torque to do its thing, as peak torque is at 4300 revs….
It’s a solid, masculine looking beast with an almost four wheel drive presence and with a high riding SUV body. It’s chunky, squared off, with a satin aluminuim insert in the lower front bumper, broad wheel arches housing 19 inch diameter gunmetal coloured alloys and LED lit tail lights. There’s rear parking sensors and a camera, heated and folding wing mirrors, a gently tapering roof to the massive lift gate. It’s handsome, effective and looked great in the grey metallic paint on the supplied test car. A glossy black grille and user friendly roof rails add a measure of class as well. It’s a big unit at 4.91 metres long, 1.87m wide and 1.69m tall on a 2.89m wheelbase.
On The Inside.
There’s not a huge amount of difference between the Journey R/T and the Crossroad; there’s the obvious being Fiat instead of Dodge badging, the somewhat obvious with a set of aircon vents and aircon controls in the Fiat where the Dodge gets a DVD screen otherwise there’s the same smart storage spots under the passenger seat or in front of the split fold, sliding middle row seats and the extra two fold up/down pews in the rear. There’s the same touchscreen with all controls and navigation, a thumping Alpine audio system, push button start with smart key entry and also cops black leather and mesh insert seats (very comfortable and supportive), built in child seat cushions in the middle row, simple to use and follow buttons on the tiller that link to the info screen directly ahead of the driver and a massive 1500 litres of flat load storage space when the seats are folded flat. The driver dips out on a footrest but does get a proper manual handbrake. Also, like so many other vehicles, there’s heaps of upper dashboard being reflected in the windscreen, which can be distracting. The driver does get a height adjustable steering column but taller drivers may feel the pinch, with the top of the wheel obscuring the dials with full raise in place.
Although the Freemont is a big car, it’s a touch squeezy for middle row passengers, ideally two abreast rather than three; the rear seats are accessed by simple pull straps but it’s still a question of how to actually get bums on those seats, even with the multiple adjustments available from the tiltafold middle row.
There’s plenty of the aforementioned storage space, including a good sized one under the main controls in the centre dash section, all aimed at the family friendly target market. Naturally, there’s a swag of safety items, including full length curtain airbags and the ISOFIX child seat anchor points.
It’s a big car, the Freemont, with a dry weight of just over 1800 kilograms. It takes a bit of hustle to get going, with that relative torque hole below 3000 revs, however rolls along nicely once at speed. The six speed auto slurs its way through, rarely being picked as in action under light load but there was feedback from the transmission though, with the occasional bang and shunt as the gears seemed to slide about in the casing. It’s predictable in handling, with a slowish steering rack meaning plenty of armwork on tight and twisty roads, rarely feeling top heavy although a tall standing vehicle. It holds on well through the tight stuff, with a reasonable sized footprint to spread the load and is surprisingly adept as a result. The high sidewalled tyres absorb most of the imperfections found on the road but the soft suspension also traded down, being somewhat wallowy on undulations, common on Sydney roads. Also, being only a two wheel drive and front driven at that, a hefty bootful on a wet road quickly engages traction control, as the free revving engine spins up. It can be driven hard with minimal fuss but it’s not the sort of vehicle that will allow you to do so without a penalty to the hip pocket, averaging over 12.0L per 100 klicks…
Fiat does offer a three years or 150,000km warranty plus full roadside assistance for the same period. However, there is no capped-price servicing guarantee like many rivals. It was a car that did what it was asked up until the last couple of days in its week long tenure, with some odd symptoms sandpapering the gloss off. First up, the main touchscreen would turn off, disengaging the aircon and muting the sound, whilst the speedo began to flicker, dropping to zero and back with a commensurate feeling of dropping and restablishing power. The display would switch between kmh and mph while the temperature would vary between metric and imperial. As a result, the car was benched and trucked to a service centre.
In the time I’ve been testing cars, the Freemont is the ONLY car that has exhibited any issues. That in itself speaks volumes for the numbers of cars tested and with the Freemont fault free until the last couple of days, says something about the overall quality, with the niggles being caused by, as it turned out, nothing more scary than a loose wire.
For full pricing and details, head across to here: http://www.fiat.com.au/freemont