By on September 19, 2014

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Launched at a time when the new car market in Brazil is relatively stagnant, the new Fiat Novo Uno is causing less of a stir compared to when the round square themed Uno was launched four years ago. There are no lines at dealers and people’s attentions are divided among upstart competitors like the Ford Ka and Volkswagen up! The Uno had to come hard in order to remain a relevant player, capable of attracting the new Brazilian consumer that demands more in terms of comfort, finishing, content and safety.

Can this Uno face off the competition and remain among the top sellers in Brazil?

With the demise of the Mille, Uno nameplate sales took a hit, though the car kept its top 3 ranking. However, new competition kept underscoring how outdated the car was. First, the Asian competition appeared; the  Toyota Etios (mechanically efficient) and Hyundai HB20 ( great design) showed how dated the Uno was. Then, Chevrolet conjured up its Onix (mobile connectivity), Renault launched the Sandero (size, content). Each one traded on its own merits, but all were priced higher than the Uno and were not direct competitors (Fiat has the Palio to face those down). Of late though, the almost simultaneous emergence of Ka and up!, both directly aimed at the Uno, in size and pricing, left the Uno looking downtrodden and old.

Looking at the car from the outside I couldn’t avoid feeling disappointed, as I positively adored the outgoing model’s design. The hood now has a heavy crease running through it, and the headlights lost some of the square-ness that has forever been part of the Uno’s heritage. It has lost some of the playfulness of the original design and has a more aggressive and generic visage, vaguely reminiscent of some small Asian cars. It also makes concessions to modern sensibilities and the bumpers look more aggressive and pronounced, lending the car a more robust look that will appeal to many. On the Sporting model, the bumpers are frankly ridiculous, but again remit to something vaguely Asian and surely Evo and Imprezza fans will not mind. Plus, it does have a double central chromes exhaust tips and square wheels, I’ll give it that!

Spending more time and taking in the details, it becomes clear Fiat did sweat it out. The front bumper design gives it a lower stance, the backlights have a dazzling mini squares motif that looks novel and interesting, and the frontal section is now highlighted by being painted black. The side mirrors have a new shape and include small, tasteful, square blinkers. The wipers have new stalks and true flat blades. The handles are new and include the key lock. I’m sure I’d would have found more had I spent more time, but enough of Uno arcana.

Fiat-Uno-Attractive-2

Stepping inside is where we see Fiat really spent (some) money. It now has a design reminiscent of what FCA has been lavishing on American Chrysler products and seen for the first time in a Fiat. Attractive, it works well in this small car and suggests modernity. The steering wheel is new and has buttons to control many functions. The plastics are better than ever, with textures and splashes of color, highly-configurable and dependent on version. It does seem Fiat understands that Brazilian private buyers are not interested in absolutely Spartan cars anymore. To do this, Fiat added hearty doses of interactive technology and connectivity. This was made possible because the new Uno sports a more advanced electronic architecture and as such has more computing power and can offer features like color display in the instrument cluster with many more functions than before, automatic left mirror tilt down when reverse is engaged, creep function and even an OEM back up camera. Fabrics can now be seen on the doors and in the back, the fold down seats can optionally be 60/40, in which case it offers a three point seat belt even for the middle passenger, a first for a car in this segment in Brazil. Finally, it offers three headrests in the back, which is, unfortunately, something most competitors don’t.

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As before, since it’s the same car, internal roominess is not that great, especially in light of the new launches. The seat cushions are still short and don’t offer enough thigh support, which can be tiring on long trips though, in Fiat tradition, it is placed high and offers a good, upright seating position. The steering wheel is slightly skewed, and the pedals are placed rather tightly. The trunk is now smallish for the category, beating only the Ka’s. However, all the controls are light and easy to use (and yes, durable) and the Uno offers some equipment still rare on other Brazilian cars like an internal rear hatch release mechanism and gas cap opener, while power window commands are now on the doors as ergonomics recommends.  All in all, an agreeable place to spend time that though configured for five, is more comfortable for four.

Mechanically the car does not stand out to the enthusiast anymore. The engines are holdovers from the previous cars and their age is showing, especially when compared to Ford’s and VW’s spiffy new three cylinders. The Fire EVO 1.0 is good for about 75 horses, while the 1.4 Fire EVO puts forth 88. Though a hefty total of the torque is available at low RPMs, both engines offer low top speeds (the smaller unit doesn’t crack 100 mph) and slow 0 to 60 times. While both Ka and up! 1.0s do this feat at around 14 seconds, the 1.0 Uno takes more than 18, while the 1.4 is more competitive. Fuel economy is average to good for the class and driven carefully can achieve high numbers. The 1.0 at least feels good and is a rounder engine, while the 1.4’s behavior is squarer (it doesn’t like to rev). Fiat has addressed these problems in a roundabout way by adding more sound insulation and new engine mounts. Also, being an in-line 4 cylinder, the vibrations noticed in the three cylinder engines is absent and the noise is better, but time moves on and most competitors’ motors, 3 or 4 cylinders, are surely better. I know they’re here Fiat, so where are the MultiAirs?

Driving the car, it is feels soft and comfortable. Nevertheless, Fiat has changed the specifications for shock absorbers and added insulation. It has also reinforced the Uno’s underlying structure to make it pass Latin NCap’s testing. This has not only added safety, but also affected the car’s behavior as the car is a bit heavier, but more planted and feels more solid. Around town, it is probably still the most comfortable in its class, being extraordinarily light and pliant. Out on the road, however, the car rolls too much. Of course, a more experienced Fiat driver knows this and knows he can force it some more. At that point, it settles down nicely and takes curves well. Most however, let off at the first sign of roll, making it more of a cruiser than a canyon carver. The new competition, specifically the Ka and up!, show that these relative low limits are not necessary as they combine comfort and sportiness much more convincingly.

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Finally, what may make Brazilians still pick the Uno in great numbers is the new added-in technology. As mentioned, the new electronic harness permits more electronic prowess. The 1.4s can be had with Fiat’s Dualogic single clutch automated transmission that makes do without a lever. In its place, there are buttons (and vague references to Ferrari technology in Uno literature) and shift paddles. In the Fiat line, this is the best implementation yet. Faster than before, shifts are done more suavely and the increased intelligence allows the unit to hold a gear when it perceives the driver’s intention to gun it. Though it doesn’t have a true hill holder function, it does have a creep function that will allow the car to slowly move forward at lower speeds and even on some inclines, which will of course help launch. Though a technology that is rougher than true automatics and double clutch automated systems, its simpler cost and ease of use is gaining ground and automating even the smallest Brazilian cars.

Fiat-Uno-Evolution-13

The Uno is also the first small car that offers a Start and Stop system in Brazil. In fact, it will be the first car in the world that uses such a system even when running on ethanol. Fully automatic, it turns the car off when in neutral and stopped. It turns the car back on in 0.4 seconds when the clutch is depressed (it will not be offered, for now, on the Dualogic-equipped cars) and the functioning is quite seamless, so much so that a distracted driver might not even notice. It also re-fires the engine if the car is stopped for over 165 seconds, if the battery is stressed by high use of accessories, if there is a loss in braking power and if the car moves at more than 3 km/h. It won’t work in the warm up phase or if the battery is at under 75 percent capacity. It will also fire the car up again if the air conditioning is on and the engine is stopped for more than 60 seconds. Thankfully, as even that measure may not be enough in a hot country like Brazil, the system can easily be turned off at the flick of a button. INMETRO, the official Brazilian weight, measurements and balances agency rates the system’s impact on fuel economy at just 3 percent while Fiat claims as much as 20 can be had in cities like São Paulo at rush hour where traffic doesn’t move.

That’s the Fiat Uno then. A market leader under pressure by newer rivals. Adding a touch of razzle dazzle technology, some piecemeal mechanical improvements, a sprinkling of safety enhancements and a completely new interior, the Uno adds on to its strengths in the South American markets it is sold (reliability, ease of repair, economy, colors and beaucoup personalization possibilities). Though now outclassed mechanically, it still has what it takes to keep selling. Would I buy one now? Only if I got a spanking good deal or intended to keep the car for a very long time. The use of proven technology and engines virtually guarantee ease of mind, even to the new Brazilian consumer.

 

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43 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2015 Fiat Uno (Brazil Domestic Market)...”


  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    The interior does look nice.

    The instrumentation cluster I do dislike, especially the tachometer. it’s “backwards” and very “linear” with a short stroke.

    I like circular instruments and not digital for gauges like fuel, speed, temperature and of course rpm and speed. The last two are the most important to be very circular.

    Maybe TTAC an do an article on what we think the perfect instrument cluster should be.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Big Al, thanks for reading! You will probably get your wish. With new cars getting “smarter” LCD displays are basically out, while ones like the one seen in the Uno (called TFT maybe?) are in. There was the discussion you proposed on a Brazilian site, prompted by the interest the Uno’s cluster raised, and that was the basic conclusion.

    • 0 avatar
      davefromcalgary

      The perfect instrument cluster is the 1998-2004 Sonoma SLS.

      In my opinion :)

      http://images.thecarconnection.com/med/2003-gmc-sonoma-reg-cab-108-wb-sls-instrument-cluster_100277666_m.jpg

      All the relevant info, perfectly symmetrical, and easy to read (aka boring :) colors once lit.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      I find the instrument cluster intriguing, though I do agree that the fuel gauge and Tach should be reversed in position with a clockwise movement of the tach simply because the reverse motion will be confusing to drivers used to the instrument as typically seen. Take the image as it sits and ‘mirror’ it to see what I mean. Outside of that I can’t claim any dislike; it’s compact yet easy to read, at least in this photo. As for digital, I have no complaint with digital instrumentation outside of the inherent lag seen when the sensors simply can’t keep up with the typically rapid and extreme changes typical of engine speed during acceleration.

  • avatar
    bobman

    Marcelo, I was reading an article of the updated Punto just released in India and am wondering if the Uno is built on the same platform as the Punto. Also, would you know if the new 4 cylinder engines now in development will be offered in Brazil or does Brazil have its own range of engines used exclusively in SA.

    As always, great article.

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks bobman. The Uno is one of those great mysteries in terms of platform. Basically it uses the old 327 (IIRC) that underpinned the now slowly disappearing first Palio family (Siena, Strada, Weekend, Albea (Turkey), Idea (Brazil)) with a healthy dose of current Punto platform parts, especially towards the back of the car. So it sits on a sort of hybrid platform, developed here, that is seen under the current Palio, Uno and Grand Siena. Going forward, this line of cars might eventually use the current Punto platform, a version of the 500 platform (it is here, and will be used for the Renegade and 500X coming soon out of the new Pernambuco factory), use whatever the new “City” car will use, or even keep this re-tweaked hybrid platform for a while.

      My guess is they are keeping the MultiAirs for when the City comes out. Then it will probably, slowly, kill off the Fire engine line. At that time, it is possible the whole line will use “pure” Punto platforms, as I don’t think the Uno-Palio will really use the 500 platform for now.

      • 0 avatar
        Vipul Singh

        Marcelo: an article covering the lineage of FIAT’s small car platforms’ evolution across geographies and brands (Alfa, FIAT, Lancia) would make interesting reading. And nobody better to do this than you :-)

        If this Uno is really a mish mash of 327, 178 and SCCS, some info from the Chief Engineer would be pretty juicy.

        But continuing with old platforms like the SCCS could be one of FIAT’s weak points from a market competitiveness perspective. If wikipedia is to be believed, then the Punto launched in 2006, the 500L and the new Jeep Renegade are related!

        • 0 avatar
          petezeiss

          “Marcelo: an article covering the lineage of FIAT’s small car platforms’ evolution across geographies and brands (Alfa, FIAT, Lancia) would make interesting reading. And nobody better to do this than you :-)”

          Yes! North America is rapidly transforming into an economic and physical environment of the kind that Fiat has for decades addressed.

          And I love some of their products like the Qubo. And because Sergio.

        • 0 avatar

          Hey Vipul, petezeiss. Interesting and challenging. The fact is the original platform underlying this car has been around for decades, though so worked over that, in its current state, the original engineers probably wouldn’t recognize it. I agree with you Vipul, this is a weakness as others have moved on and these days, in small cars, VW and Renault/Nissan are really making the difference with platforms or modular architecture that have upped the ante.

          That being said, the one the Uno uses is very good and supports a wide variety of vehicle, though its limits have surely been reached. From what I hear, FCA is dabbling with its platforms, matching and mismatching Chrysler and in-house bones, trying to remain competitive. Sadly, I hear no news of something really new, though the “City” car I mention could be using something different. Let’s see.

          As to the SCCS and the Punto and 500, yes they use the same-ish architecture, though in the Fiat tradition, the one under the 500 family is now a ways different from the one in the Punto. As some say the new Punto (2015 or 16) will use the same as the 500, that could be “not good”.

      • 0 avatar

        Correction, it does use the 327, but that is a worked over 326, which served the original Palio line. It would seem that in Brazil (with variations) Palio Fire, Siena, Idea, Doblò, Strada and Palio Weekend still use the 326. Uno, Palio, Grand Siena use the 327, while Punto, Linea use a hybrid Gamma-327 while the Bravo uses the same one that was under the Stilo. As noted, the CUWS under the 500-Renegade line is under development here and it remains an open question what cars will survive and what car will use what after the shkeout in 2015-16.

        • 0 avatar
          Vipul Singh

          The original Palio (1996 onwards) would be project 178, right?. The nuovo Palio (2011 onwards) would be project 326. Now if project 326 was a redevelopment of 178, then this car would be as old as grandma! The truth abput this car (*wink*) needs to come out.

          Interesting also how such closely related cars (Uno and Palio) compete in different segments in Brazil

          • 0 avatar

            Oh Vipul! See, so difficult! My “correction” comment was based on me calling guys at the factory to clarify, lol! So confused, it’s difficult to know what’s what. According to the latest I heard, differences between 178 and 326/7 are meaningful, though there are underlying commonalities between them. So new Uno is yes 326-7-ish while original Palio family is 178….and newish Brazilian Fiats are 326 or 7 and the intention is to abandon all 178, and the one before that (old Uno) before the new 2015-16 products come out.

          • 0 avatar
            Vipul Singh

            @ Marcelo, magnusmaster: looking forward to 2016, then. Hopefully, the brand new cars and platforms would also be afresh beginning for FIAT in india, which has been struggling here since 2004

          • 0 avatar

            Hey Vipul! Yep, pretty much it. Though like this Uno, Fiat tweaks and adjusts here and there, the 2015-16 horizon will be fundamental for the brand. As ever, however, being Fiat, things are in a state of permanent flux, being that today, news of a Fiat-Mitsubishi collaboration for a new L200 in 2016 just came out. If true, kills the larger Strada under development here and already seen tooling about, while it opens up the possibility of a 178 or 326/7 Strada surviving into the future (good thing, if you ask me). Hrdest thing in the world is to cover Fiat….

        • 0 avatar
          Magnusmaster

          Actually the old Palio platform is 178. The 326 is a longer version of the 327 and the platform the new Palio rides on.

  • avatar
    Skink

    Nice Groucho wheel well surrounds.

  • avatar
    petezeiss

    Look at the beautiful ride height wasted on that nice, smooth road!

    Boy, if we had roads that good in North America I’d drive a Cube.

  • avatar

    There are a few points of contention on this car—like the tiny, tiny tachometer—but for the most part, it seems like Fiat is trying to stay competitive and offer a compelling choice.

    Meanwhile, I’ve always wondered how automakers design these new engines to cope with the additional stress of an on-the-fly start/stop system.

    • 0 avatar

      I guess time will tell Kyree. Fiat, and other makers that offer these systems, swear they have made the necessary parts stronger (fuel pump, alternator etc.) while the greater computing power helps to avoid damage and allows for this kind of technology. There are problems though. On the internets a point of contention is the price of the battery needed for such systems. t least initially, it’d seem the one used in the Uno costs at least 3 times more than a common battery. On the other hand, due to the greater electronic “surveillance” I have seen makers claim the new batteries last longer than the common garden variety type. We’ll know soon enough as the Uno is a true best seller, this is the chance for this technology to really make a dent here.

  • avatar
    Toy Maker

    Looks to be a facelifted Fiat Panda.
    I rented one in Italy this past August, the instrument cluster was a dual window design (left window for tech, right window for speedo) and the curvature results in horrible glare from the sun at all angles. I’m glad they did away with that on the Uno.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Those wheel arches are just absurd! And the three ports at the front, puts me in mind of ye olde Escort GT.

    And I agree on the comment regarding the small tach. In a manual car that should be more prominent. And I’m guessing the manual take rate in Brazil is very high.

    The dash design puts me in mind of a Mini, but maybe I’m off on that.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Corey!

      The wheel arches are like that because that is the “adventure” Way line and the suspension is raised a couple of notches. Other versions sit lower and 15′ wheels fill hem up nicely, though even the 14′ ain’t bad.

      The 3 frontal ports have been seen in other Fiat products over time and many a French car. That’s what they remind me of and hanker back to. Maybe asking them to be functional is asking too much, but I’d love that they ate least be punched through. As is it’s just decorative. Anyways, I have always enjoyed asymmetrical design elements in cars.

      Yes, manual cars dominate the roads, but as evidenced by Fiat offering it on the Uno, even in the cheapest cars there is a demand for auto transmissions.

      The dash design puts me in mind of the Cincuecento. Similar ideas if you look carefully. Also, very similar to what VW did, and abandoned, on the G4 Gol and first Foxes (Brazilian and European, I think North America got a VW Fox, but it was a completely different car).

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Thanks. I did like the Palio Adventure that I looked up one time. I thought that had a sturdyness about it.

        Do Brazilians take to CVTs like Americans have? Or do they demand regular autos.

        I do believe we had the Fox here, but it was actually a Quantum.

        • 0 avatar

          The Palio Adventure is still around and has gotten a slight facelift as Fiat still works out what will survive after 2015-16. They still have a market, and that model can actually be had in Mexico.

          Having missed the boat for the most part being that true auto and automated transmissions are only becoming more common now, I don’t think most Brazilians are so used to autos as to reject CVTs. Fact is, I think most of us are hungry for anything that seems modern. Nissan and Honda now offer CVTs and have eliminated true autos from their cars AFAIK and there seems to be little if any backlash.

      • 0 avatar
        Vipul Singh

        Did you check out the Punto Avventura about to be launched in India? Are you guys getting it in Brazil?

        http://tinyurl.com/oqfr5cd

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Those three chromed portholes made me think of Jeep. Add 3 more on the other side and put the seventh where the Fiat badge is, and you’re there.

      Since I didn’t take up my mother’s offer to teach me Portuguese, I had to rely on Google translator for the http://uno.fiat.com.br/ website. What do they mean by “happy your hands”?

      • 0 avatar

        It’s the theme of the launch campaign, based on the song they’re using. I guess it has to do with the theme song, and fingers crawling around the car highlighting the new techs.

        A Fiat website vid with the “happy fingers”: youtube com/watch?v=adeC3Hz7Ais

        The TV commercial: youtube com/watch?v=eaRuRlUDL9I

  • avatar
    Magnusmaster

    Has the build quality and the quality of the plastics improved over the previous model? They should really hurry up with Multiair, this Uno really needs it, specially if it really has an improved structure.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes Magnusmaster. Some have written in the Brazilian press that it is now on par with the Punto, though I wouldn’t go that far. As to build quality if you are referring to finishing, it seems improved over the previous one. It seems the dashboard has new fixation points that should help avoid noises over time. There is more noise isolation than before, too. Fabrics, too slightly softer to the touch. So overall, yes much improved. In the cars I was in, I didn’t notice things roughly put together either, though there are those who complain that in that aspect they have seen misaligned plastic bits and rubber trim.

      Outside gap levels and fitting are on par with the Ka I recently drove and better than the new Logan, though still more spaced out than what I’ve recently seen in the VW up and Fox.

      I think the MultiAirs are on hold for the new launches in 2015-16.

  • avatar
    JerseyDan

    @marcelo

    Thank you for such a thorough review of the Fiat. Since you seem to know so much about them could you give me some advice?, the wife and I are considering replacing our tired Peugeot 206 HDi with a 500L. Do you have any information on them?

    the one we are considering is the trekking with the 1.6 multijet diesel engine 6 speed manual, and the uconnect 5.0 that I really liked.

    I liked the way it drove (anything is better than an old peugeot with worn out struts…)

    what I would like to know is how sturdy that multijet engine is? the HDi gave me some headaches but nothing severe.

    thank you!

    Dan

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Dan! Thanks for the confidence and take what I’m about to say with a dose of skepticism as I live in Brazil and drive flex cars, but only see the occasional diesel in a SUV, pickup, van or truck. From everything I have read over time, PSA and Fiat engines are the gold standard in diesel technology. Durable, they are ahead of the Japanese and Americans. BMW for examples uses Peugeot diesels. One reason GM tried to buy Fiat was to get the diesels. As Fiat gasoline engines, Peugeot and Fiat engines will go on forever, even if the car around them disintegrates. I believe you should have no problem with a Fiat diesel.

      Have fun and report back to us on the 500L. Love that car and would buy one if it were offered here. Good luck! Oh yeah, the Fiat Uno reviewed here uses the UConnect system, too. Best I’ve ever seen on a Brazilian car, even on much more expensive ones. If I got one, the UConnect is so easy to use I might even be tempted to use it!

      • 0 avatar
        JerseyDan

        We moved to Morocco from New Jersey for work 3 years ago, and they have VERY different cars here; and the prices are quite high than in the U.S

        there is a general phobia among the population here for anything with a gas engine (much like Europe) due to ridiculous prices of gas so we bought a second hand car, the Peugeot which was an ex rent-a-car. it gave me no troubles except for the famous French-style haunted electrics. lots of Puntos Unos Palios and sienas running around, except they are all diesels. I found out from our neighbor who owns a diesel Uno that they use the 1.9 diesel and he has nothing but praise for the car.

        the reason why we are buying the 500L is because we have decided to stay here permanently, and we need a competent family hauler plus my wife likes the suv-ish looks of it. we test drove it, my wife loved it, I liked it a lot.

        it came down to this:

        2014 Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi: ~$31000
        2014 Fiat 500L 1.6 Multijet : ~$30000 with $3000 off so $27K

        it was easy to make up our minds, so now all I have to wait for is the company approval.

        Thank you for your help

        Dan

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