Fiat Palio 1.6 | An Enthusiast's Warm Hatch?
The Fiat Palio was a supermini launched in 1996 as an upmarket option to the Fiat Uno. The next year in 1997, Fiat came up with the Palio Weekend that was simply the station wagon version of the same. To maximise their profits, Fiat also came up with the Siena/Petra sedan and the Strada pickup trucks on the same underpinnings as the regular hatchback Palio, which again shared its underpinnings with the Uno. Throughout the long two-decade production of this car, it remained a front-engine front wheel-drive car. In context to its production in India, it was sold under the joint venture of Tata and Fiat in India. To appeal to an audience as wide as possible, they provided several engine options to this car- both brisk petrol ones and economical diesel ones.
To put the current scenario into perspective, all Fiat cars of this age are quite cheap to buy but being the notorious Fiat’s, they are not the best cars when it comes to quality and reliability. The prices for a Palio/Palio Adventure/ Petra may start from as low as ₹50,000 but they are surely in miserable condition. The optimum price from my analysis would be in the middle of ₹1,00,000-₹1,50,000 but of course, not all cars are the same and condition may cause the price to vary. Since it was available in so many engine options, I will be listing all of them very briefly and then focus upon the 1.6 litre petrol engines worth talking about.
• 1.2 EL PS, 1.2 EXL, NV 1.2 EL PS, NV 1.2 ELX and NV 1.2 Sport were powered by a 1,242 cc petrol transverse-I4 engine that produced 72 bhp and 102 Nm, paired with a 5 speed manual transmission. The ARAI rated efficiency was 10.1 km/l.
• 1.6 GTX and Stile Sport 1.6 were powered by a 1,581 cc petrol transverse-I4 engine that produced 100 bhp and 137 Nm, paired with a 5 speed manual transmission. The ARAI rated efficiency was 9.8 km/l.
• D ELX 1.9 and D 1.9 EL were powered by a 1,910 cc diesel transverse-I4 engine that produced 63 bhp and 118 Nm, paired with a 5 speed manual transmission. The ARAI rated efficiency was 12.9 km/l.
• Stile SLX 1.1, Stile SLE 1.1 and Stile SL 1.1 were powered by a 1,108 cc petrol transverse-I4 that produced 57 bhp and 92 Nm, paired with a 5 speed manual transmission. The ARAI rated efficiency was 12.4 km/l.
• SDX 1.3 and SDE 1.3 were powered by a 1,248 cc transverse-I4 multijet diesel engine that produced 75 bhp and 184 Nm, paired with a 5 speed manual transmission. The ARAI rated efficiency was 13.8 km/l.
Reasons to buy a Fiat 1.6
Practicality: Talking about any Palio, Palio Adventure or Petra in general, they are pretty practical. Thanks to the three different body styles available for this family, namely Palio for a 5-door hatchback, Palio Adventure for a 5-door station wagon and Petra for a sedan; you can choose any one of them depending upon your needs. However, it does not excel at this part since the sedan and the station wagon are very rare to find in India and odds are, you will be stuck only with a hatchback. Focusing on the interiors, the features offered are quite basic and not of the best quality- not very bad either. You get features such as power windows in the front and two airbags (in the higher trims of later models) along with central locking. Just like I assert in my other car articles, you will be fine if you are like me and do not care about creature comforts other than a basic A/C.
Getting to the more serious matter of Fiats withdrawal from the Indian market, it will be a big challenge for you to maintain your Palio properly due to the same.
Price: For the later Stile Sport 1.6 models, you can find them for around ₹1,00,000-₹2,00,000. As for the pre-facelift (<2005) Palio 1.6 GTX models, they are easily available for under ₹1,00,000. This concludes that the 1.6 Fiat cars are probably the cheapest 100 bhp cars you can buy in India.
Performance: Coming to performance that is the main reason for buying this car, I would like to talk about the tuning potential of this engine. With the fan following this car has in India, you can buy yourself turbochargers at reasonable prices and if you are willing to put some more effort and money, you can grab a supercharger kit for your 1.6! The supercharger kit I am talking about here is one that increases the power to around 150 bhp and being a supercharger, the constant power supply makes the lightweight car feel even more powerful. An ECU remap I could find bumped the power to a lesser 118 bhp but a respectable 164 Nm. Probably shooting an arrow in the air but since a 1.8R sports version of the Palio was sold globally, you may be able to import some of its improved brakes and suspensions for your own Palio. You can also have the 1.8R body kits if you so desire. However, doing so would be significantly costlier than using general aftermarket parts.
Alternatives: Lastly talking about the market full of alternatives for this gem, the Palio is one of a kind. None of the other cars you get for its price is a match for the driving dynamics of this one and the spirit it holds. You sure might get a Hyundai Santro for a lesser price but that might not have the same feel as this one.
The Palio is a lovely small little hatchback you can get for very cheap and for the driving spirit it inspires in you, is just mind-blowing. It is superior from any other pleasure of the world. The big problem you will face after buying a Fiat right now is the availability of spare parts as Fiat decided to leave India. In addition, the built quality of these cars is not the best and you may require servicing rather regularly.
Highway Performance : 4
Cornering Performance : 7
Ride Quality : 2
Parts Quality and Reliability : 2
Practicality : 8
Features : 1
Aesthetics : 2
Modification Potential : 6
Value For Money Factor : 8
I give this warm hatch a below average 2/5 stars.