Fiat Auto SA's Strada pick-up is here. Will it emulate the Brazilian version’s success by making an impact on the local sub-tonner market, which is currently dominated by Opel's Corsa Utility?Fiat Auto South Africa's Strada pick-up is here. Will it emulate the Brazilian version’s success by making an impact on the local sub-tonner market, which is currently dominated by Opel's Corsa Utility?

With “bakkie” sales on a serious boom (as an extreme example, 3 500 new Hi-Luxes were sold in June alone!), Fiat Auto SA have jumped into the loadbay just in time with their Palio/Siena derived Strada, and it sure looks good. It inherits the classy new appearance of the Palio and is “macho’d up” by fitment of a multi-faceted moulded front and rear bumpers as well as screw-on wheel arch mouldings.

The rear bumper incorporates a built-in step for easy access to the load compartment. The side design, with generously sized doors, makes the cabin and box look well proportioned.

The load box is 1,685 m long and 1,350 m wide (1,090 m between the wheelarches) with a payload of 715 kg. Access to the load compartment is made easier by the low box ground clearance and a tailgate that opens to 90 degrees. Coated with a non-slip covering, the gate can support a weight of up to 300 kg.

The plastic of the load box liner is capable of withstanding temperatures ranging from sub-zero to scorching hot. Hooks positioned round the edges of the box and on the floor can be used to secure goods without interfering with loading and unloading.

Suspension is via MacPherson struts with lower wishbones and an anti-roll bar at the front, and we noticed that a single leaf spring was used at the back and wondered if it was up to some serious punishment.

Fortunately, Fiat’s MD, Georgio Gorelli insisted that his team load some of the 1,2-litre and turbodiesel models with 500 kg of cement bags and made us drive over gravel roads for over 40 km. The rear end squatted down, but there was definitely more to go and the ride was fully acceptable with only more revs needed to climb hills at Gauteng altitudes.

So it looks like the Strada is up to carrying loads, but what else does it offer? Well, at the prices not too much, since this is obviously supposed to be a workhorse, only the ELX has a radio/CD, driver air-bag, alloy wheels, electric windows, front fog lights, colour coded mirrors, bumpers and grille and a sliding rear window.

What is standard on all models is power steering, a heavy-duty plastic liner in the entire load bay, rear fog lights and a full size spare wheel mounted, for security reasons, behind the passenger seat.

The tailgate is opened by tilting the Fiat badge with anoperation similar to some BMW and VW models. To add to the sporty looks a rev counter is standard on all models.

The seats are comfy but the adjustment (as with the Palio) raises the seat as it moves forward and drops it for rearwards movement.

All models are shod with 14-inch wheels, the flagship 1,6 ELX model featuring alloy units. Metallic paint is an option across the range, with colour-coded mirrors, bumpers and door handles offered on the ELX models.

The build quality from the Rosslyn plant seemed good and no rattles were noticed on the very poor road surfaces. Suspension was, of course, firm with no load, but not hard and longish travel managed to soak up the bumps and potholes with ease. Space wise, it seems to have more on offer than the Bantam but less than the cavernous Corsa.

All Stradas come standard with power steering, key-operated central locking, an immobiliser, tinted windows, a digital clock and a cigarette lighter. EL models are pre-wired for radio and antenna fitment, while the flagship ELX has electric windows, a radio/CD front loader and air-conditioning as standard. Air-conditioning is optional on the 1,2 EL and 1,7 EL models.

The pick-up is offered with a choice of three engines, namely, a 1,2-litre petrol unit, a 1,6-litre petrol unit and a 1,7-litre turbodiesel.

The 1,2-litre unit produces maximum power of 54 kW at 6 000 r/min and a peak torque figure of 102 N.m at 3 250 r/min. This Strada is capable of reaching a top speed of 150 km/h and consumes an average of 8,6 l/100 km.

The four-cylinder 1,6-litre uses a twin-overhead camshaft and Magneti Marelli electronically-controlled multi-point fuel injection to produce 74 kW at 5 500 r/min and 140 N.m of torque at 4 000 r/min. Equipped with this engine, the Strada reaches a top speed of 170 km/h and fuel consumption figures of about 8,7 l/100 km.

The turbodiesel powerplant produces peak power of 51 kW at 4 500 r/min and peak torque of 135 N.m at 2 500 r/min. Using a Garrett turbocharger and an exhaust gas recirculation valve to keep emissions low, this version tops out at 152 km/h.

Pick of the bunch? Well, the Turbodiesel will offer the best fuel consumption, but it takes forever to get going and needs revs, while the 1,6 is the best bet for altitude and for carrying heavy loads.

We thought that the 1,2 would be weak, but it performed quite admirably, so for those on a strict budget, it should be an acquisition worth your while.

All vehicles come standard with an energy absorbing steering wheel, anti-submarining seats and a fire protection system. The flagship 1,6 ELX comes standard with a driver's airbag and pretensioner seatbelts.

Giorgio Gorelli, managing director of Fiat Auto South Africa, is very upbeat about the newcomer:"We are extremely proud to have the Strada in South Africa and I have no doubt that it will carve a very successful niche in the market place given its unique characteristics.

"We also foresee a trend in which more customers will opt for modern, reliable three-quarter-ton pick-ups like the Strada over the more traditional, larger one-ton bakkie. The reason for this is clear - new generation three-quarter-tonners like the Strada will meet all expectations. With a 715 kg payload that's dimensionally bigger than that of your average one-ton double cab bakkie - it's more than most people will ever need.

“But, in terms of drivability and cost of ownership, it's unbeatable - this is thanks largely to an entry price that is far more affordable than its one-ton rivals. The Strada is also more car-like to drive, offering roominess, performance and comfort easily comparable to a passenger car."

All Stradas, including the diesel, require services every 20 000 km. Fiat Auto South Africa offers owners a two-year/unlimited mileage manufacturer warranty, with three years on paintwork and five years on anti-perforation (rust). An additional 12-month dealer extended warranty is available, and can be extended to a total of up to 100 000 km.

All new models are covered by AA Fleetcare roadside assistance for 12 months.

Prices:

Fiat Strada 1,2 EL R77 900

Fiat Strada 1,2 EL a/c R83 900

Fiat Strada 1,6 EL R93 900

Fiat Strada 1,7 TD EL R101 900

Fiat Strada 1,7 TD EL a/c R107 900

Fiat Strada 1,6 ELX R115 900

Original article from Car