Fiat Auto SA has dressed up its Palio and Siena models and introduced measures at its Rosslyn plant to increase the products’ build quality.Fiat Auto SA has dressed up its Palio and Siena models and introduced measures at its Rosslyn plant to increase the products’ build quality.

According to Fiat Auto’s South African subsidiary, about 30 000 Palios and Sienas have been sold on the local market since the models were launched in conjunction with the memorable 2000 television advertising campaign about a “Palio owner” berating bystanders for remarking that his car was merely “nice”.

The local introduction of the Italdesign-styled Palio II and Siena II sees South Africa become only the second country after Brazil, which named the hatchback the nation’s Car of the Year 2004, to launch the new light cars from Fiat.

Apart from bringing the Palio and Siena’s looks in line with other products in Fiat Auto’s lineup, Giorgetto Giugaro also gave the cars more mature, sophisticated and substantial styling.

At the front, larger rounded headlights incorporate a tapered wrap-around effect and a scalloped lower element narrowing towards the fine grater-like grille. A small circular indicator flanked by a dipped beam lens distinguishes the new headlights.

In addition, the air intakes have a new three-element design and are lower than on the previous model.

At the rear, the Palio II gets new tail light clusters and a more chunky tailgate and rear bumper. At first glance, the Siena II’s rear end is arguably the most successful design cue of the facelift – rounding off the car with a more upmarket and modern flourish.

All models are fitted with colour-coded bumpers and newly-designed wheels. The higher-specification derivatives have body colour mirrors and side skirts and new, pull-action, door handles have been introduced across the range.

Inside, new-shape seats are trimmed in “Artiste” cloth (Palio GO!), “Bromac” fabric in the new Palio II and Siena II EL models, and “Casino” textile in the range-topping ELX specification.

In addition the dashboard is now darker in colour and new fitted premium quality carpets complete the internal renovation.

Available in a choice of three and five-door body styles, the entry-level GO! models have tinted windows, intermittent two-speed windscreen wipers, internally adjustable external mirrors, rear window, rev counter, a 12-volt power point, luggage compartment lighting and pre-wiring for radio and antenna fitment.

Additional security is provided with key-operated central locking and the Fiat CODE rolling code immobiliser.

The EL specification on the Palio II three and five-door and Siena II adds remote-operated central locking, driver’s airbag, height-adjustable front seatbelts with pretensioners, a rear window wiper (on the hatchbacks) and colour coding for the mirrors, side skirts and door handles, to the equipment list.

Interior additions comprise electric front windows, driver airbag, a rear ashtray, power steering with height adjustment for the steering wheel, a digital clock, front and rear grab handles, air-conditioning, an illuminated glove box, passenger sun visor with mirror, door pockets, driver’s left footrest and a sophisticated silver finish for the centre console, Fiat Auto SA announced.

The flagship ELX models have four electric windows, a radio with front-loading CD and four-speakers, chrome grille, fog lights and sporty 15-inch alloy wheels.

In terms of safety, all models are equipped with height-adjustable front head restraints, a third high-level brake light, rear fog lights, side impact bars, anti-submarining seats, a collapsible steering column, full-size spare wheel and Fiat’s Fire Prevention System (FPS).

The previous range’s powerplants, the 54 kW 1,2-litre eight-valve engine and 74 kW 1,6-litre 16-valve unit, have been retained.

However, following the release of J.D. Power and Associates’ inaugural South African Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) late last year, in which the Palio and Siena were rated as poor (with CSI percentage scores of 72,5 and 70,8 respectively), many consumers are bound to be cautious (or wary) about the new range’s build quality and Fiat Auto SA-franchised dealers’ service performance.

As far as build quality is concerned, Fiat Auto SA says various facility upgrades have been introduced in the Rosslyn plant to improve manufacturing processes as well as the quality levels for the production of the Fiat Palio II and Siena II.

“The number of quality gates has been increased. In the Bodyshop area, the new Palio II and Siena II 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 local market.

“Various Quality Assurance activities have been reinforced to further guarantee Fiat product conformity, namely the 100 per cent dynamic road test and static audit,” the company added.

In conclusion, the Fiat Palio II and Siena II have 20 000 km service intervals and are offered with a 24-month manufacturer warranty (unlimited mileage) and 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 24-hour Fleetcare roadside assistance for 12 months.

Original article from Car