Fiat Avventura 'Powered by Abarth' review, test drive
30th Oct 2015 12:50 pm
Our first impressions of the new Abarth-powered Fiat Avventura.
What is it?
Fiat's Avventura is a crossover based on the Fiat Punto Evo hatchback. It has a raised suspension, 205mm of ground clearance, a considerable amount of cladding around it and very aggressive bumpers. In short, it looks extremely attractive. Fiat hasn't left it in the cold when it comes to giving it the right tyres, either. The wheel wells have been fleshed out and made large enough for 205/55 tyres on 16-inch alloys, and this version also gets the stunning Abarth-style 'Scorpion Sting' wheels. A couple of other bits distinguish this from a regular Avventura too – there's a badge on the lower half of the rear door that reads 'Powered by Abarth' and a red Scorpion badge on the engine cover under the bonnet distinguishes this car from less powerful versions of the same.
What really makes the 'Powered by Abarth' edition special, however, is the fact that it comes powered by a turbocharged petrol motor. So instead of just a 93bhp diesel or a 89bhp petrol, you get a stonking 140bhp turbocharged petrol engine that has been up-rated by Abarth, Fiat's performance arm. The engine is around 5bhp down on the motor that powers the Abarth Punto Evo hatch, but that's more down to prudence than stinginess.
Otherwise, the Avventura is identical to the regular car. It gets the attractively designed cabin from the new Linea, along with the two-tone grey-and-black interior. There's an additional ‘tilt-meter’ and digital compass sitting on top of the AC vents. To make the insides nicer, the dash gets a part-soft touch, two-tone treatment, but the soft portion here is finished in a light grey Alcantara-like material, and the door pads are made from art-leather. The insides are brightened by large orange fonts used on the audio system, trip computer and climate control system. You get an additional boot release for the hatch, placed on the upper right-hand corner of the audio system – it also helps unlock the tyre that's placed in a frame at the rear. Feature-wise, you get climate control, a rear AC vent and an audio system that supports CDs, MP3s and has an Aux-in. While the ‘Blue&Me’ Bluetooth interface works great with voice commands and voice calls, you still can't stream media from your phone, which makes it feel outdated. And while the hybrid part-fabric part-leather seats are nice, the driving position is still quite heavily compromised as the steering is too close and the pedals are too far.
What's it like to drive?
On the one hand, the new 'Powered by Abarth' edition drives like a regular Avventura. The ride is pretty absorbent, the hydraulic steering has a delicious weight to it and a mere tap on the brakes drops the speed down in a hurry: it has disc brakes all round.
Accelerate out, however, and you soon realise this is no ordinary Avventura. There is a tiny bit of delay at low engine speed when you tap the throttle, due to the turbo taking its time to spin up to speed, and if you want an instant burst of power, you have to drop down to a lower gear. That said, once the engine has passed 2,500rpm, the Avventura turns into a completely different animal. There's an extremely strong surge of performance, and the engine keeps pulling harder and harder till it gets to 6,000rpm. Acceleration is so strong, you are pinned to the back of your seat as soon as you push your right foot down, and what you really enjoy is that the performance keeps coming and coming. This performance is unlike any crossover in its class or, for that matter, in the one above. In fact, engine power is made so consistently, you can get a strong burst of power in almost any gear, which is great for making up big gaps in traffic or overtaking on the highway. Fiat claims a 0-100kph acceleration time of 9.9 seconds, but the car feels much faster than that in the real world due to the easily available power. What you also particularly enjoy, especially if you are a keen driver, is that the Avventura keeps gathering speed aggressively even as it gets up to speeds above 120kph or 140kph. The gearbox, however, isn't very slick; it
takes a bit of effort to slot into the right gear.
What you also don't enjoy much is the fact that the Avventura on its raised suspension doesn't have the grip to put all the power down to the road. So you have to measure and use only as much power as the wheels can handle. This is especially true in first gear, where pushing hard on the throttle causes the front tyres to spin and the car to pull to either side (torque steer). And while the Avventura has a nicely setup suspension that allows it to take corners with great confidence, accelerating out of a hard bend upsets this balance, because again, it can't put the power down cleanly. Still, there's little doubt that this is a fun, fun car.
Should I buy one?
If you want a combination of a crossover with a good ground clearance and plenty of performance, power and speed, this Fiat Avventura 'Powered by Abarth' (whew) is the car for you. It may be a bit rough around the edges, fuel efficiency is unlikely to be a strength and it should have offered better grip, but even as things stand, this new car, priced as it is at Rs 10 lakh, is an extremely attractive and fun car to drive – a far cry from all the practical and boring competition it is up against.