Fiat Croma Eleganza 1.9 JTD 16v
Tall body gives Croma an MPV-like appearance from the front
- Well-packaged interior is spacious and easy to use
- Folding boot floor is clever and practical
- Punchy and economical diesel engine
- Good balance between ride comfort and handling
- Some cabin materials are below class standard
- Despite unusual shape, styling is unremarkable
- Centre armrest can interfere with the handbrake
- Minor controls obscured by gearlever
With the family car segment split between conventional hatchbacks and MPVs, Fiat is aiming to straddle the two segments with its Croma. The biggest Fiat to be sold in the UK since the original Croma ceased production in 1996, this model is tasked with securing a bigger slice of a large market in the UK for the Italian firm.
Billed by Fiat as a crossover, the outside appearance of the Croma also sits somewhere between hatchback and MPV. With a high roofline but offering five seats and generous luggage space rather than extra seats, it will suit the majority of family buyers who need to carry a combination of payload and passengers. Based on the Vauxhall Vectra platform, the Croma is an unusual shape, but the lack of distinctive details denies it any individuality.
Inside the Croma's five-seat layout leaves plenty of room for front and rear passengers, with Isofix mountings at the rear for compatible child seats. Equipment levels are good, with all models benefiting from electric windows, a powerful CD tuner and air conditioning. There are numerous storage areas too, including a cool box between the front seats. A SkyDome glass roof is also available as an option, increasing the amount of light entering the cabin.
Mechanically the Croma can be had with a wide choice of engines. The 2.2-litre petrol is smooth and quiet, but it is the 1.9-litre 16-valve Multijet diesel that will be the most attractive, and is the pick of the range. With 150bhp and 236lb/ft of torque mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, it propels the Croma forward with ease. The steering, clutch and brakes are well weighted, making the car easy and relaxing to drive.
A deep windscreen gives a good view forward, with a large total glazed area for all-round visibility and easy manoeuvring. Fiat has also paid close attention to reducing noise, using a clever double-glazed windscreen for better insulation. The end result is good in most conditions, including poor road surfaces and at high speed.
Our verdict on the Fiat Croma Eleganza 1.9 JTD 16v
With such strong competition, the Croma will always have a difficult job to do in the family car market, but its combination of strengths means it has plenty to offer buyers. Good value for money, space, respectable running costs and an enjoyable drive add up to a strong all-round package, and a smart alternative to more conventional offerings in the sector.
A good value initial purchase priced backed up by good economy from the diesel engine should ensure that the Croma is inexpensive to run for a car of its size. With well-proven mechanicals under the bonnet, servicing costs should also be class competitive.
Space and practicality
The Croma makes full use of its generous proportions. Front seat passengers have plenty of head and legroom, with rear seat passengers just as well catered for. Even though it has room for five passengers, the Croma also has a large boot, with up to 1,610 litres of capacity with the rear seats folded. The cabin also has several storage areas, including the centre console cool box, although the height of this compartment can interfere with operation of the handbrake.
Controls and display
The high-set driving position puts the gearlever within easy reach, and most of the other controls are also grouped within easy reach. The controls for door locking and ESP are on the far side of the gearlever however, requiring the driver to reach around to operate them. The instrument markings are clear, while the dot matrix displays between the instruments and on the stereo are easy to read.
The driving position may take some getting used to for certain drivers, with an upright dashboard and windscreen. The seats themselves provide reasonable comfort, with an adjustable lumbar support as well as height adjustment.
All models are fitted with remote central locking with an alarm as standard, while the folding boot floor allows valuable items to be stored out of sight. The lack of visible door locks should also deter thieves from attempting to break in.
All Cromas get seven airbags as standard, with the option of two rear sidebags at extra cost. Two Isofix child seat mountings are fitted as standard in the rear, while front seats have a pivoting system to reduce whiplash in the event of an accident. ABS is standard on all models, while most models also get ESP and traction control, plus a hill holding system for safer hill starts.
Surprisingly for a car of this size, the Croma is an enjoyable drive. In 1.9-litre 16-valve diesel form it has enough power to make good progress although the gearshift can sometimes feel vague. The steering is light but still provides sufficient feedback about the road surface, and the brakes are strong. Driven at spirited pace, the Croma suffers from little bodyroll and has good grip. Few drivers will ever drive particularly quickly in this car, but should anyone choose to do so it will respond with enthusiasm.
Family car appeal
Aimed squarely at the family market, the Croma has many of the features that a family buyer would be looking for. Easy access front and rear, lots of room for children and adults of all sizes plus their luggage and ease of use. The only possible omission is the option of DVD entertainment for the rear seats, which is now a popular option on many family cars.
First car appeal
Few first-time car buyers will be attracted to the Croma, as its size and price tag would be unattractive to inexperienced drivers. However, the light controls and good visibility make it as easy to drive as smaller cars.
Quality and image
The general standard of quality within the Croma is good, with attractive design inside and out and the majority of materials used of a good standard. Even the boot area is well finished, which helps create an overall feeling of quality on a par with many of its rivals. In terms of image, the big Fiat is quite an unusual shape, falling somewhere between a large hatchback and MPV, making it stand out from the crowd.
Extra effort has been made with the Croma to ensure easy entry and access, and Fiat has used a high floor and roofline to achieve this. The driver and passengers only need to slide across into a seat, which is a boon for taller or elderly occupants.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
The standard fit stereo system sits high in the dashboard, and with large buttons and clear markings it is easy to use. The sound quality is also good, with six speakers delivering good power. The single-slot CD player can also be controlled from the steering wheel.
Colours and trim
Inside, the Croma displays one of the best Fiat interiors of recent years. The velour upholstery is attractive, and although some of the plastics on the lower half of the dashboard are of lesser quality, the vast majority of the cabin is well finished.
The Croma is a long, tall car, and the sloping bonnet can make it difficult to place when manoeuvring. The rear hatch is quite steeply raked, however, and even without parking sensors reversing is rarely a problem. The large door mirrors and light steering help the Croma's low speed manoeuvring.
Space saver spare wheel fitted beneath the boot floor.
Petrol engine - 2.2-litre (145bhp). Diesel engines - 1.9-litre, 8-valve Multijet (120bhp); 1.9-litre, 16-valve Multijet (150bhp); 2.4-litre, 20-valve Multijet (200bhp). Petrol model has five-speed manual gearbox, 1.9-litre diesels get a six-speed manual, 2.4-litre diesel has a five-speed automatic. Trim range is Dynamic, Eleganza and Prestigio.
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