Down the decades Fiat have become well practiced at taking a single
chassis design and making several cars from it. The Fiat 600 became
the Fiat 500, their 1500 became half of the 125, the Strada became the
Regatta, the Tipo became the Coupe. We could go on. It’s now part
of Fiat policy to do this, saving time tooling and development costs.
The results have been very mixed to say the least.
Fiat’s attempts, in particular, to generate a larger saloon from
their medium sized hatchback has usually had little sales success.
So the Marea, born of an extended Brava floor pan, did not start life
with huge expectations from the UK motoring press and public. What a
car it has proved to be! There are good reasons why the Marea is exceptional.
Firstly the Bravo/Brava mechanicals are the best Fiat have so far made
- basically bomb proof. By the time a car is four years old we usually
begin to see its faults as owners’ questions to begin to pile
in. The Bravo/Brava has had no such heap of questions.
Secondly the 5 cylinder and
JTD diesel engines have been an unqualified success…in every application.
And both engines suit the Marea very well.
Thirdly the poise and road
going manners of the Marea are different to the Bravo. The chassis meets
expectations of the medium to large saloon buyer.
And fourthly is the Marea’s
looks. Isn’t the Marea Weekend estate just the best looking car
in its class?
So why haven’t they been a huge success in the UK? I would point
to persistent inaccurate marketing. But there are Mareas out there in
numbers, and they represent excellent value second hand buys –
providing you keep on the right side of the buying tips below.
Launched in 1996, the Marea and Marea Weekend were based on the award-winning
Bravo / Brava. Two body styles were available: the Marea was a saloon,
and the Marea Weekend as its estate version. The Marea replaced the
long-serving Fiat Tempra. The Weekend retained the Tempra’s novel
The character of these cars is very much changed by the engine selected.
The Marea range was launched with 5 engine options, later increased
to seven in 1999, in keeping with the other Fiat saloons of the late
nineties. They provide a good choice between economy and performance.
Pre-1999, a 1.6 engine was
available with an automatic option as were the 1.8 and 2.0 five cylinder
petrol engines. TD75 and TD100 diesels were included in the lineup,
later supplemented by the 130JTD common-rail direct injection five cylinder
turbo diesel. Which is by far the pick of the diesel options.
Mareas come with all the latest safety equipment including Fiat's fuel
cut-off inertia switch. The car's interior is functional and dominated
by the seats. The leather seat options are definitely worth finding.
Overall finish is above average for this class of car. Bodywork was
fully galvanised (standard practice for Fiat from the Tipo on), and
came with 8 year anti-rust and 3 year anti paint warranties.
The Marea saloon was never as popular as the estate version, and seems
to have suffered by being pitched against the larger Vectra and Mondeo
estates. The Weekend's storage capacity is less than the Vectra's. They
make stylish alternatives to the smaller cars in the Vauxhall and Ford
ranges - especially against the Astra. As second hand buys they are
also cheaper and larger than the equivalent small Ford and Vauxhalls.
Driving the Marea
Try a Bravo and Marea at the same time, and you’ll be surprised
at the different character of each of the cars. There were a lot of
subtle changes made to the track, suspension, and steering in the post
1999 Mareas and these, with a full options package are the ones to go
The seat position, and lack of road vibration through the well damped
controls should be enough to convince you this is a car for cruising
– a saloon of substance easily capable of cross country or cross-continent
runs. I think the level of refinement versus the levels of agility and
performance is an excellent compromise. So to for the cars’ dimensions.
Fiat have retained enough feel for the driver and enough comfort for
the family of passengers. It is not too wide to cope down one track
lanes nor too small to carry a convincing load.
On extended motorway runs the cars I’ve driven were little affected
by cross winds, pot holes, standing water, or camber changes at any
speed. There was no wind noise from exterior panels or equipment either.
Attach a tow bar and you have another high performing dimension –
although not a frugal one. The Mareas wheelbase provides a good stable
platform for the task.
I like most the power steering, over-all feel and stability of the Marea
and the built-in sound system. I don’t like the large pedal travel
(brake and accelerator) and the sluggish behaviour when cold (on all
three I've driven). Overall a very effective package.
Types of Marea
Three levels of trim SX, ELX, and HLX.
Leather interior option has excellent looks and durability.
Three petrol engines and three turbo diesels.
Marea and Weekend Compared:
Dimensions – wheelbase 2540/2540, track 1470/1440mm both,
L/w/hght – Marea 4.39x1.74x1.42 m – Weekend 4.49x1.74x1.51
Load space – 430 or 500/1550 (Weekend rear seats all down)
63 litre fuel tank on all models.
Petrol Engined models:
100 16v (SX), wght 1140kg /1200kg, tow load 1200kg /1200kg mpg 34/33.6
100 auto (ELX), wght 1165/1225kg , tlmax 1200kg/1200kg mpg 30.7/30.4
115 16v (ELX) wght 1195/1255 tlmax 1200/1300kg, mpg 33.6/32.8
155 20v (HLX) wght 1255/1315, tlmax 1300/1400kg, mpg 28.8/28.5
Diesel and turbo diesel models:
TD 75 (SX) wght 1185/1245, tlmax 1300/1300kg, mpg 44.1/43.5
JTD 105 (SX-ELX) wght 1215/1275, tlmax 1300/1300kg, mpg 44.1/49.6
JTD 130 (HLX) wght 1285/1340, tlmax 1400/1400kg, mpg 44.1/41.5
Standard trim level includes:
Alloy wheels and 195 60 x 15 tyres.
Headlight washers & adjustable/ front fogs
Air conditioning with pollen filters
Velour interior & carpets/ leather steering wheel & gear knob
Driver’s seat height motor, remote boot release
Remote central locking & alarm & immobiliser.
ABS & driver airbag (side & passenger optional)
Side impact & roll over protection
Fuel fire protection system/ inertia fuel cut off
Accessories available (Fiat Abarth range):
Side skirts. Front & rear spoilers.
Ski box & bike racks & Roof bars.
Lowered suspension kits.
Head lamp protectors
Wood veneer & Audio & Sports steering wheels
Watch for the expensive services at 72000 on the 5 pots
SX good value – go for a 'fully loaded' one.
Top of the range is a 2.0HLX
Marea Weekend is a cracking good looking estate. Good load carrying
capacity. But not the most fuel efficient in the class .. JTD diesel
engines are good 28-47mpg. 5 pot 155bhp coupe engined is a cracker 20-39mpg.
Excellent value for money, and the least popular, are the small engined
low trim level Mareas.
Aftermarket tuning and styling:
• Fiat list Abarth components
for the Marea http://www.fiatabarth.com
dealers may not know though.
• The German and Czech
based Novitech provide body and tuning packages for the Marea comprising
a lower stiffer suspension, 8j wheels and subtle body kit. Helpful,
and can speak English if needed. Both the Weekend and Saloon are listed
• Postert have style
items - mainly for the Bravo and Stilo http://www.postert.de
• Hormann kits and tuning
products, tend to be good quality but pricey and heavy. Full kits for
the Bravo and Stilo http://www.hoermann-motorsport.de
Agents in the UK include the Tuning Shop in Pangborne, Berkshire http://www.tuningshop.co.uk/acatalog
• RGS Motorsport of
Northampton can provide spoilers - they have a range of Abarth style
kits first noted for the Cinquecento and since expanded. 'Phone 01933
441451. Their site has motorsport information but no products on it
• Kool Motorsport have
a range of style items http://www.koolmotorsport.co.uk
• Also try http://carzonespecials.com
• Interesting catalogue
for performance tuning parts
• and if you're
stuck for parts try http://www.directcarparts.co.uk
please don't use motor factor cambelts and head gaskets though,
stick to Fiat's own.
• Demon Tweeks on