Fiat’s premium cost cutter —Could a version be headed to U.S.?

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(May 31, 2015) Earlier this month, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) introduced the Aegea Project, a compact sedan designed in Italy and built in Turkey on Fiat’s small wide platform; the same platform underpinning the Jeep Renegade, Fiat 500X and 500L. The sedan, which will be named later this summer, will be followed by a hatchback and wagon, and compete against low-priced vehicles in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Affordable small sedans are a hot commodity in these markets, and the new little Fiat aims to be the “premium” player in this segment. Stretching 177 inches on a 104-in. wheelbase, the Aegea Project sedan is 58.3 in. tall, 70.1 in. wide, and has an 18 ft.3 trunk. It is fitted with FCA’s Uconnect infotainment system with a five-inch color touchscreen, Bluetooth calling with audio streaming, SMS text reader with voice recognition, AUX and USB ports with iPod integration, steering wheel controls, and the options of TomTom navigation and a rear parking camera.

Under the hood buyers will be able to choose from a pair of MultiJet II turbo diesels or two gasoline engines with power outputs between 95 and 120 horsepower. Depending on which engine is chosen, either a manual or automatic gearbox is available.

The sedan will replace Fiat’s aging Linea sedan, while the hatchback and wagon — almost certain to be sold in western Europe — will replace the similarly superannuated Bravo hatchback. Fiat has not had a credible wagon since it discontinued the Stilo wagon late last decade. The hatchback and wagon will be sold mainly in western Europe against cars like the VW Golf and Ford Focus.

The possibility exists that Fiat may introduce the sedan into western Europe as an alternative to low-cost cars like the Dacia Sandero, using the same premium strategy it hopes to follow in eastern Europe to set its vehicle apart. With players like VW eyeing this segment, Fiat would be jumping into the fray ahead of its German rival with
a car that likely would be comparable to what the German automaker would offer. And — like VW, who sources say will not create a new sub brand to sell its low-cost offering — it would be sold with a Fiat badge.

Even more intriguing is the possibility that, while the hatchback and station wagon will meet all applicable European emission and safety standards from the start, the sedan may not, leaving open the door to it being updated when a mid-cycle refresh is carried out in approximately four years.

This could be moved forward if the Aegea Project sedan, as rumored, is brought to North America as the Chrysler 100. (The hatchback would be sold here in Fiat stores and, with new sheetmetal, as a new small Dodge.) The small sedan would sit comfortably under the Chrysler 200, but need a NAFTA manufacturing base to keep costs inline. At this time, there are no firm plans to bring the Aegea Project vehicles to North America. Watch this space.

The Virtual Driver