FIAT SIENA  1.6  ELX  16 valve

Mention to people that you have a fiat ( on test) and some will pull their noses up, without ever even been in one, I don't know why, because I've personally owned three Fiats in the past, a 128, a 124 and a 125ST, and never had a moments trouble from any of them. Sure, a Fiat is not a Ford or a Volkswagen, that you can just start and drive off, but then I don't do that in any vehicle, I believe in warming them up a bit and then driving slowly until ALL components have reached normal operating temperature, this includes the gearbox and brakes, after that you can nail them without fear of blowing a gasket or something. Today's cars are even better than yesterday's cars, more reliable, more economical, safer, faster and with much better brakes. The Siena is one grand little car, offering all sorts of features, only offered in luxury cars of yesteryear, like fog lights front and back, power steering, tilt-adjustable steering column, electric operated windows, air-conditioner and a whole list of other features. If you could take the new Siena just ten years back in time, you would be the talk of the town, and we haven't even mentioned the zippy 1600 engine yet. It's truly amazing what that little power-plant can achieve, again, able to drill standard 5-liter V8's of ten years ago in acceleration, top speed and definitely fuel efficiency and even if it wasn't faster than a V8, it would certainly be safer in terms of handling and braking.

Top-of-the-range Siena 1.6 ELX... a whole lot of car for R128,400

Fiat Auto South Africa's new Fiat Siena – contemporary new model that made it's debut in the crucial compact car segment in South Africa in January 2005. The South African unveiling represents only the second country after Brazil to receive the new Siena, indicating the significance of this introduction, and South Africa’s front-line position on a global scale.

Further elevating the importance of these models is the fact that the new Palio (which is a Siena without a boot), was recently awarded the Car of the Year 2004 title in Brazil, facing off against a brace of extremely competitive challengers.

As one of the most up-to-date contenders in the Fiat fold, the new Siena (and Palio) reinforce the company’s new brand values and image, with the emphasis on becoming an even more competitive player in the market.

The new Siena represent a major step forward on the design front, building on the styling themes introduced with Fiat’s latest products. The front, in particular, emphasises the car’s more appealing and eye-catching looks. Larger rounded headlights incorporate a tapered wrap-around effect, along with the attractive new grille and the Fiat Centenary badge.

The headlights are distinguished by a small circular indicator flanked by a large dipped beam lens, with the focussed stare of the inset main beam giving the car a more assertive look. The front bumper adds further touches of flair to the mix, neatly following the contour of the headlamps, with the lower air intakes opting for a sporting three-element design.

The Siena maintains its practical booted configuration, but benefits from an extensive redesign that gives it a conspicuously more modern look while retaining one of the best in class boot capacity’s.

Adding to the upmarket look, all models have colour-coded bumpers, while body colour mirrors, door handles and side skirts define the more exclusive ELX. Trendy chrome grille treatment and front fog lights are extended to the range-topping ELX Siena. This is complemented further by tasteful 14-inch alloy rims and 175/65 R14 tyres fitted to the Siena ELX.

Modern interior trim has been specially selected for the upmarket ‘Ercole’ textile for the ELX specification.

The Siena boast competitive levels of space throughout, with new seat designs contributing further to good comfort levels. The only thing I did not like on our test car was the way the front seats see-saw when adjusting the seat frontwards or backwards, instead of staying parallel with the floor, so if you move the seat forward, it also tilts upwards.

A wide variety of storage areas are offered in the cabin, while the neatly laid out instruments and controls provide easy access and effective ergonomics.

The Siena offers a high level of flexibility through the fold-down rear seat – with a useful 60/40 split included on the Palio and Siena EL and ELX models.

Generous load capacity remains the overriding virtue of the Siena, with an impressive 500 dm3 boot volume in standard configuration, extending to a massive 920 dm3 when the rear seat is tumbled out of the way.

A high level of standard specification has been adopted for the new Siena range, extending from the entry-level models right through to the top of the range versions.

Fiats come standard with tinted windows, key-operated central locking, intermittent two-speed windscreen wipers, a Fiat CODE rolling immobiliser, heated rear window, interior remote boot opener, internally adjustable external mirrors and pre-wiring for radio and antenna fitment.

The next step up is the EL specification on the Palio three and five-door, as well as the Siena sedan. Further equipment fitted as standard includes remote-operated central locking, a rear window wiper on the Palio models, as well as colour-coding for the mirrors, side skirts and door handles.

Interior additions comprise of electric front windows, a rear ashtray, power steering with height adjustment for the steering wheel, a digital clock, front and rear grab handles, air-conditioning, illuminated glove box, door pockets and driver’s left footrest. The Siena ELX is the most lavishly equipped, with electric rear windows and a radio with front-loading CD and four-speakers. The ELX also features height-adjustable front head restraints, a third brake light, Fiat’s Fire Prevention System (FPS) that comes into force in the event of an accident, rear fog lights, side impact bars in all doors, anti-submarining seats, a collapsible steering column and a full-size spare wheel.

In addition, the ELX is also fitted with a driver’s airbag, as well as height-adjustable front seatbelts with pretensioners.

A well-proven petrol engine is retained in the latest incarnation of the Fiat Siena. This 1 581 cc four-cylinder engine employs a twin overhead camshaft, four valves per cylinder and Magneti Marelli electronically controlled multi-point fuel injection to generate 74 kW of power at 5 500 rpm, matched to 140 Nm of torque at 4 000 rpm. Spirited performance is assured from this model, with a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 11,1 sec, linked to a maximum speed of 184 kph. Nevertheless, fuel efficiency remains very competitive, with a combined cycle fuel consumption figure of just 8,0 l/100 km. Constant driving at 90 kph consumes 6,2 l/100 km, rising to 8,1 l/100 km at a steady 120 kph.

Fitted with power-assisted steering as standard incorporates a hydraulic rack and pinion system. Overall manoeuvrability is enhanced with a compact turning circle of just 10,4 m.

The suspension system for the front-wheel drive Siena features independent MacPherson struts with lower wishbones anchored to a subframe, with additional control provided by the integrated anti-roll bar. At the rear, a torsion beam axle is employed with longitudinal trailing arms and a stabilizer bar. Hydraulic telescopic dampers with a double-acting function complement the helical coil springs used all round.

Braking is taken care of by a hydraulically controlled dual-circuit system, with 257 mm ventilated front discs. Drum brakes are utilized at the rear with self-centering lings and automatic lining wear adjustment.

Perfect commuter with loads of space and lots of vooma.


Thanks to Jacques Wilken (of Wilken Communications) and Fiat South Africa

for the drive in their zippy little Fiat Siena 16 valve 1.6 ELX.