Five years ago, when I was an undergrad, I was quite naive about stuff like good sound quality, FDI, midcaps, or for that matter, great ride quality. And while a trip to the Bose demo shop gave me an education on what great sound is all about, naiveté gave way to ignorance with the other things. As for ride quality, I had an awakening in store for me when I drove a Fiat Palio for the first time.
Now, it's great that the Suzuki Swift and the Hyundai Getz have suddenly opened our doors to the world of superminis, but the Palio's been there, done that. Just that it hasn't done it well enough. And while it might be just another B+ segment car, in terms of ride quality, it's in a league of its own.
High praise indeed, but it's something that's to be experienced to be believed. The little Italian mops up surface glitches like they weren't even there. And even today, this is reason enough to buy this car.
The balance between ride and handling for a car this size is almost unbelievable. Handling is good too, and when the things get twisty, it will do the dance. But if ride quality were a language, the Palio would be its Wren and Martin.
It's almost five years since we first saw the Palio. Though it's no headturner today, there aren't many cars that look so with-it, five years into their production run. And trust us when we say that it won't be an eyesore even a further five years down the line. If there is one thing the Italians know to do well, apart from pasta, is design cars.
Now Fiat hasn't been in the best of health these days. Adding to their woes is their Achilles heel the dealer network. But they are making a comeback and given their track record, we aren't quite betting against it.
The dealerships aren't exactly brimming with energy yet, but they are certainly wearing their 'ours is the best car in the world' neckties with a bit more pride. As for now, Fiat is giving you all sorts of options on the Palio. Apart from the many trim levels, there are three engines that you could opt from.
One of which is a diesel. It's not a high-tech common-rail unit, but the 1900cc mill is a workhorse and certainly the best in its class. You will get 14 kilometres for every litre of liquid gold, but with 63 bhp, making progress is all about momentum, rather than enjoying the moment.
For that, you need the 1.6. The 100 bhp petrolhead is manna from heaven. Sure, it's heavy on the gas if you are heavy on the pedal, but with enough performance to jeopardise your hair and your blood pressure, it's more than justified. It will dash off to 60 kph and be there 6 seconds later. Keep up these antics and you will soon be scaring yourself silly at 180 kph. This little pocket rocket has some serious appetite for misbehaviour.
Or you could act responsible by going in for the sensible option. The 1200cc version that's great to potter around town and more than capable for a weekend jaunt out of it. Now the 1.2 doesn't really take-off like greased lightning, but it sure is ready to play when the meat of the power comes in at 3500 rpm.
Something that you might not notice on your way to work. What you will notice is your left foot, that feels overworked after fifteen minutes in stop-n-go traffic. During which it will return 11 kpl while you sit in air-conditioned comfort. Not bad for a car that's so heavy. Although it must be said that the powerplant isn't as refined as the Getz or as revvy as the Swift
So then why is it that the Palio has almost disappeared off the small car radar? Well, leaving the parent company issues apart, quality isn't up to scratch, nor has it ever held value like an antique. Far from it actually. And the recent price cut is not helping matters. But one man's old car is another man's possession. So there.
Besides the new prices also mean that the Palio has to be seen in new light. I know that's a bit difficult, especially with the chunky Swift and the contemporary Getz around. But think about this.
The European build quality will hold true even after most of your muscles begin to look like withering vineyards. Not to mention the number of traffic light GPs you would win, if you buy the 1.6. And it's not too exorbitant to play Schumacher either. The 1.6 can be yours for Rs 480,000 if you stay in Mumbai.
It's seven thousand bucks more if you are a Delhi-ite. Either ways, it's an extremely economical remedy for a mid-life crisis. Being sensible is even cheaper. The fully loaded 1.2 (alloys, spoiler, the works) comes in at Rs 439,000 which is slightly more expensive than the entry level Swift.
There is a cheaper 1.2 as well, that at Rs 415,000 makes great sense if you are looking at getting a Zen. Brilliant. And in case you are a heavy traveller, the 1.9 diesel at Rs 493,000 is good value as well.
So, ready to spend the next few years of your life with an Italian?