By on August 28, 2010

It all started back in the late 90s when Brazilian Fiat (possibly inspired by the Volvo Cross Country) decided it would launch a car that looks like and off-road car, but that really doesn’t want to be taken off-road. They called it the Fiat Palio Weekend Adventure (station wagon) and Fiat Strada Adventure. You see, Brazilians are crazy for what we call jipes (get where that comes from?), but SUV type vehicles remain positively out of the range of the average Brazilian wallets. So tack on some plastic cladding, raise the suspension a few inches, maybe throw in some mixed terrain tires, and there you have it. The recipe for what is called in the Brazilian market an aventureiro. Though not restricted to our market, this gimmick has really caught on down here. It’s our creation. It’s our obsession.

A good healthy market it is, too. Vehicles with this so called off road appearance package (‘cause that’s all it is) command a 15 percent or more price gouge over the same car’s lesser, tamer, “normal” car.

Ford do Brasil (though in terms of actual sales of these cars the ring-leaders are Fiat and VW) went the furthest along in actually transforming a small city car into an actual SUV. When Ford Europe was developing its Fusion (not to be confused with the North American sedan) minivan, which was based on the humble Ford Fiesta, Ford Brazil took it a step further, or backward as it were. They squared off the design, raised the suspension, threw in some bigger (albeit on road only) tires, added the requisite plastic padding, and a star was born. The EcoSport. Ford really knocked this one over the center-field fence. This car/jipe/mini SUV single-handedly brought back Ford into the Brazilian mind. It helped reverse Ford’s freefall in the Brazilian market by helping it hang onto 4th place.

Other car makers have not been as brash as Ford, but have rather copied Fiat’s approach (raise suspension a bit, add plastic, you get the drill) and installed the Adventure line treatment to a variety of its cars. VW has its Cross line, Peugeot offers the Escapade line, Renault tries to compete with the Stepway line, Nissan has an X-Gear version of its homely Livina family carrier. GM you ask? GM? Apparently they don’t want to compete in this market (a.k.a. don’t want to spend/can’t get the money to develop this line of product) and limit themselves to offering some bars (front, step-in) as a dealer option. For their smaller cars. No elevated suspension, no special tires. Just real simple dealer tacked-on bars. GM, do you even care to compete anymore?

So now, Citroën is also getting in on the act. They have chosen to go the Ford route. PSA do Brasil took the recently-launched-in-Europe C3 Picasso minivan, raised the suspension, added a lot of plastic cladding, gave it mixed terrain tires and voilà, the new Brazilian specific Citroën C3 Picasso Aircross. According to Brazilian car mag Auto Esporte’s website, the French company will offer the car in three trim levels. The GL will set you back R$53.900 (roughly US$30.000), the GLX parts you from R$56,400 (about US$31,333). The top-of-the line Exclusive will cost modest R$61,900 (or almost US$35,000). Mind you this is a very small car. According to Brazilian enthusiast site Bestcars.com.br, this car is only 4.279 m (14 feet) long.

PSA has equipped this car with its Brazilian specific 1.6 16v. No, it’s not the same as Europeans get. Here it runs on ethanol or Brazilian gasoline (with anything between 22 and 29 percent ethanol content) and gets 113 or 110 hp respectively (for comparison’s sake, the 1.6 PSA uses in Europe – and the Mini, too – gets 120 hp). Since it weighs in at a rather portly 1,329 kg (2,930 pounds, almost 1.5 tons), performance is nothing to write home about. Though the engine runs quite smoothly and silently, this is achieved mostly through good sound deadening since the engine is running at a rather high 3,650 rpm at only 120 km/h (75 mph). Adhering to Peugeot tradition, at least in Brazil, the gearbox is rather imprecise and doesn’t contribute much to the fun. Also, to suit Brazilian tastes, gear ratios have been shortened 15 percent vis-à-vis the European C3. This makes the car at least feel agile.

Design. Hummm. Can’t really say. Must see it in person first. To me it seems awfully busy. What do you say of the latest product of Brazilian car design? Wacky? Tacky? Feel free to express your thoughts. Inside, Citroën’s Brazilian designers had a lot to say (or change) in relation to the European C3. The instrument cluster for example is in front of the driver. Bowing to cost cutting pressures, however, PSA do Brasil loaded the car in hard plastic. According to a reliable source,  cheaper plastic than in some much cheaper cars. Other surfaces offer a higher gloss finish. Quality of assembly and finishing was just average. The higher trim though does offer better accommodations. It even offers velvet like covered seats. Hummm, can’t wait to try.

According to Citroën, they expect (hope? pray?) to sell 2,000 of these babies per month. Production will eventually ramp up to 2,500 units per month. Meaning the rest of Latin America can expect to see this latest little marvel of Brazilian automotive design soon. I wager they’ll have a hard time going about that. Citroën has an image of being a rather “difficult” car. Spare parts are seen as offensively high-priced. Will the Brazilian market fall in love with this latest fruit of its own creation/obsession?

The Ecosport. Picture courtesy bestcars.com

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10 Comments on “Citroën Launches Crazy Exclusive Model for (Wacky? Tacky?) Brazilian Taste...”


  • avatar
    LDMAN1

    I am not an expert on Brasil but I believe the Adventure concept stems from the fact that 4×4 are subject to higher registration fees or VAT. Fuel is also expensive when compared to GDP per capita while most tracks in the country require a higher ground clearance, fatter tires, and one some model a differential lock fitted on 4×2 for cars to go around outside of cities. It might seems strange to Americans, but this makes perfect sense outside of Rio de Janeiro.

    • 0 avatar

      LDMAN1:

      Not really. There’s no penalty for tacking on a 4×4 system on a car (except the mileage one). But there are no higher taxes. In fact, back in the 80s, Ford for one already did this once. They took their middle sized Del Rey sedan, chopped of the back, put in a bed and a 4×4 system. The idea though was better than the execution and the car “enjoyed” slow sales. This was due to 2 reasons: unreliable and costly to maintain 4×4 system and high price (IIRC something like 50% more than the 4×2 version).

      You can see pictures of the sedan here: http://www.google.com.br/images?hl=pt-BR&q=Ford+Del+Rey&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=miR5TJCfG4P-8Aac-biFBw&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CCYQsAQwAA

      And the Pampa pickup here: http://www.google.com.br/images?um=1&hl=pt-BR&tbs=isch%3A1&sa=1&q=Ford+Pampa&btnG=Pesquisar&aq=f&aqi=g4&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=

      Now, you do have a point. For dirt roads, the higher ground clearance and, depending on the model, the mixed terrain tyres, can help you pass a little bit easier than a “normal” version of same car. But if that little dirt road on the way to your beach or country house is well maintained, the normal car will get there too.
      However, if you’re fooled into thinking you have a real “jipe”, you’ll get stuck in even the lightest of trails.

    • 0 avatar
      LDMAN1

      @Marcelo de Vasconcellos: Thanks for clariying this up.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Makes good sense to me, as I think most new cars are too low, even here in almost-paved-over ‘murika.
    Bigger tires ride better on imperfect roads. My 2002 VWs lacked sufficient ground clearance until I raised them. They handled better afterwards, if you consider traversing driveway ramps, street drainages and other roadway grade changes as part of “handling,” which I do. I’d like to see more raised versions of small cars on sale here. You can keep the plastic cladding, though.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    Sorry for this Marcelo, is not against you but…

    *facepalm*

    Another one, DAMN IT.

    The only feature I liked of the Palio Adventure was the dual aux lamps on the front bumper. IIRC one set was fog and the other exploradoras, vaya ud a saber que significa.

    I have driven the Ecosport here, 2.0 16V version. Beat the hell out of it (rented :D). Very nice engine. It’s the only feature I really liked. Very ample inside (good), very cheap plastic (meh). It didn’t have any tacky add-ons.

    How can you buy such fake garbage down there?

    The local auto news was very excited about this.

    The engine you refer to is the TU5. That engine is very silent, and torqueless below 3000 RPM. But real funny above that. I drive one car equipped with that engine.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with you on the Palio Weekend. I’m a sucker for extra lights. Love ‘em. The extra set of lights are called here farol de milha.

      As to the Citroen versus the EcoSport, I think the Ford has more cachet. It’ll be tough battle for the Aircross. Maybe it’ll attract the more urban buyers. Yoou see, the EcoSport’s charm is partly due to most Brazilians dream of having a country or beach house. And eventually retiring in a smaller city. So even if you can’t have that house now, you can “anticipate” the dream by buying a car that relates to that dream.

      Some people also agree with the other poster above. And say that the higher suspension and beefier tyres make more sense in our urban environment. You see its full of holes, irregular asphalt, speed bumps and drainange that is below street level. I can see what they’re saying, but don’t really buy it.

      Like I said in the post. It’s our creation. And our obsession. And I guess you can’t explain love.

  • avatar
    eastcoastcar

    These a what I call ‘blister pack’ cars—- cheap, wear out quickly, look cute and go to the crusher as soon as the loan is paid off. WalMart will soon be selling these in America—-you carry the picture of the car to the cashier, and it’s delivered a few days later off a truck.

  • avatar
    Ronman

    Hey Marcelo,

    Love this subject. I’m very much a fan of Brazilian car culture, and the aventureiros are some of my favorite cars.

    I spent some time in Floripa, and i found them to suit that lifestyle perfectly. and i presume from a stylistic point of view they fit perfectly with Brazil’s other beach/paradise scenes. not sure though how much they fit in the busy cities.

    But I get your point…during my time in Brazil, my Brazilian wife an I went around visiting relatives and had to tackle some seriously bumpy roads on the way. Our rental was a Sandero, and with its stock ground clearance and tires it performed surprisingly well over the terrain.

    When I go to Brazil, My car of choice would be a VW Van with a custom Paint-job and rims, possibly an upgraded engine too if the price comes right. But i feel that an Aventureiro is in my future… I just love their pretentiousness fits within my view of Brazilian laid back lifestyle…

    • 0 avatar

      Hello! Glad you enjoyed. And you know what, I think you got a point. They di fit in rather well at beach or country lfestyles, specially when said cars really do have raised suspension and mixed terrain tyres. Don’t like very much when all they get is plastic cladding and “graphicss”. Specially don’t like the price gouge.

      But I too could see a little Strada or Adventure in future. Depends on how life goes. But I probably wouldn’t spring up for the aventureiro treatment.

      As to the van, go for it! Fitting in a bigger engine could be a bummer. Cause that’d require better brakes, suspension. And though you can find good workmanship in Brazil, it is really not that common. Be careful if you ever do go about that. I’d just buy a Palio Weekend Adventure or EcoSport and be happy!

      Thanks for feedback.

  • avatar
    CRConrad

    “It all started back in the late 90s […] It’s our creation. It’s our obsession”?The Matra-Simca Rancho begs to differ.

    Not about the obsession, perhaps, but about whose creation it is (les Frogs), and when it all started (1977).

    HTH!


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