Fiat Motors India Limited started out their operations with some very famous cars but then somehow lost the plot. All their cars were great for their times however then the factor of Fiat’s lackluster image and dowdy after sales service came into play. One such car is the Fiat Siena. This car was actually based on the Fiat’s World Car platform. It was indicated for the emerging markets and India was one of them. It was introduced to the Indian market in 1997 and renamed the Fiat Petra. It was given new engines and slight interior and exterior tweaks were carried out to make it look different from the old model. It also now had the round centenary logo from the Fiat stables. I recently came across a used Fiat Siena/Petra in India while on my rounds to get my friend a used car. The very next time I went to that shop, I tagged along a Fiat technician friend along with me. These are few of the tips that he gave me to look out for when buying a used Fiat Siena/Petra in India.
There wouldn’t be too many used Fiat Siena/Petras in India as of now since it has been almost 6 years since they were taken out of the market. First thing to consider should you be enticed with the looks and roominess of this car is its engine. There were three engine options for the Fiat Siena/Petra. There were two petrol engines and one diesel motor. One was the 1.2 liter 72 Bhp whereas the other was the 1.6 liter one producing 100 Bhp. The diesel motor is a 1.9 liter unit which punches out 64 Bhp. My Fiat friend advised me to stay away from this motor as it was known to be very troublesome even in those days. It also doesn’t make any sense to buy a diesel unless you log in regular long distance miles on it. It had problems of the radiator motor fan been erratic and requiring replacement post the 40,000 kms mark. Overheating problems also used to happen due to the underrated capacity of the fan. The radiator design for the diesel Fiat Siena was also in such a way that it prevented the free flow of air, thus trapping dust particles. So it is recommended that the diesel motor be better avoided unless you are one of those who only have diesel in mind.
Moving on to the petrol motors, they are generally trouble free but a huge part depends on how they have been maintained. Regardless of the maintenance part, timing belts for both the diesel and petrol motors require a replacement at around the 70,000 kms mark. It shouldn’t burn a hole in your pocket with the Fiat Siena/Petra diesel belt costing about Rs 1,500 and the petrol one going for Rs 865. Spare parts are also easy to procure since any company supports their cars till 10 yrs after it is scrapped from their lineup. Now, moving away from the engine, some of the pre 2002 cars had a problem with their steering seal rack. This caused a leak in the power steering fluid. While out on a test drive, do remember to check this or else you would land up with a Rs 5,500 replacement cost for the seal or even worse, Rs 15,000 for the entire rack seal assembly.
The clutch of the Fiat Siena/Petra in India is very user friendly however don’t be fooled by its light nature. It has a slave master cylinder which wears out due to constant usage. A quick fix solution would be to replace the cylinder kit. However after some days, the same problem would crop up. It is advisable to replace the entire master slave cylinder system on the car. It would cost approximately Rs 3,200. Do remember to check the service history of the car to see if all the recommended changes have been done over the years. The Fiat Siena/Petra’s brakes work fine even though the brake pedal has a wooden feel. They should last for about 35,000 kms before running out. Check if the brake pad replacement has been done, if not, it would just be a Rs 500 repair work for just the front ones.
Moving onto the suspension, Fiat cars even at those times had great ride quality. Even though they were slightly hard sprung, it doesn’t mean that they would break your bones while on a ride. On the contrary, they aid the ride quality greatly. A used Fiat Siena/Petra shouldn’t be an exception. The suspension can take quite a lot of abuse before giving up the ghost. While on a test drive, if you hear a clunking noise, then the lower arm ball joints need a replacement. The ride at the rear should also be cosy and if it feels otherwise, then the dampers need replacement, a costly affair. At around the 65,000 kms mark, the front axles would also need replacement and at Rs 5,000 per axle, it ain’t cheap either.
Fiat Motors India Limited has done well to provide their cars with anti rust treatment. It is very rare to find a rusting Fiat car unless it has done duties near the costal areas or has been involved in a major shunt. It has that indestructible tank like build quality. Not a single panel would be out of place or there wouldn’t be any squeaks either from the cabin. The electricals though would show some problems with time. It would be advisable to get them checked before buying the car. The head lamp and the tail lamps glasses would dull over the ages however replacing them isn’t a costly affair. Also replacing them would give the car a new look. A small shampoo job would clean the interiors and restore their freshness. The tyres would last till 40,000 kms mark and after that would need a fresh set to lunch on. The price of used Fiat Siena/Petra in India would hover around the Rs 3.00 lakhs mark for a 2003 1.6 liter petrol model whereas for the 1.2 liter model of the same year, it would be Rs 2.25 lakhs. It is strange to note that the 1.9 liter diesel for the same year costs even less at Rs 2.10 lakhs. Models prior to the 2003 mark, which ever variant they be, would cost less than Rs 2 lakhs and even in some cases, go for as less as Rs 1 lakhs. Considering that Fiat Motors India Limited have teamed up with Tata Motors, the sales and service part have definitely improved and shouldn’t be a cause for worry.
As for me, my friend eventually lost interest in the Fiat Petra and instead opted for a used Hyundai Accent.