Captain Misery's Miserable Mishaps

It's all a load of bollocks, quite frankly

>Long Term Test – Fiat Stilo 1.4 Active

>Most car magazines tend to do long term tests on selected cars to show how reliable (or unreliable) they may be. But in these tests, cars tend to be kept for 6-12 months and then that’s it. So I’ve decided that the Stilo qualifies for one of these long term test jobbies seems I’ve owned it for just over five years and 50,000 miles.  If you’re a normal person, stop reading now. No, seriously. However, if you are a complete nerd like me, pray continue.

First, an introduction to the Stilo. A car launched to replace the old Brava and Bravo (and ironically replaced by the …er…. Bravo) in 3 and 5 door form. Whereas the 5 door version is as appealing as sawing your arm off, the 3 door is a fantastic looking car and that would be my car in the picture. A little time later, the versatile and smart Multiwagon estate version was launched.

So, just over five years ago I decided to purchase a 3 door 1.4 Active. An ex-demonstrator that had covered 180 miles over 12 months. A saving of £4,500 on list price was certainly order of the day. It did raise a few eyebrows, as the Stilo had a horrendous reliability record when first launched. It really did seem like as good an idea as Ben Collins wanting to reveal himself as the Stig, the big, greedy unknown arse bucket. However, my car is a Phase 2 Stilo which means it had a whole host of improvements to make it “better”.

So, first of all, how does it drive? It’s average, to be honest. The electronic steering has as much life as a corpse and as much communication as a monk who has taken a vow of silence. The handling is a bit Golf-like. However on the plus side, the ride is outstanding and the interior comfort is as good if not better than anything in its class. The engine, if underpowered in a car this size at just under 100bhp, is a gem and wants to be revved and is coupled to a six speed manual gearbox which is positive and slick in action. Which is just as well as it does need to be used a fair amount. Interior space is good, with ample room for five Mafia types and enough storage spaces and cubby holes that would shame Ikea.

As it’s poverty spec Active it is bottom of the range so it comes with some seats and an engine. It does have a few extra bits though such as alloy wheels, remote locking, electric windows, electric heated mirrors, trip computer, decent sound system with MP3, six airbags. Did I mention seats? And an engine?

So, we’ve established it’s a fairly run of the mill drive, but an excellent looker and it has some seats, but what has it been like for reliability? To be fair, pretty bloody good after 50,000 miles. As far as spending money on it goes, I’ve had it MOT’d (it’s been through three and passed every one, and I didn’t even have to bribe or sack the tester!), serviced it, replaced wear and tear items such as cam belt, brake pads and the exhaust, as well as tyres, petrol and insurance. It’s never broken down, never left me stranded, never failed to start. I can’t exactly mock the legendary Italian build quality either as nothing has ever fallen off and it’s pretty rattle free also.

In the six years, the blips which can be put down to the car include:
– One or two spurious warning lights coming on early on in its life. But it is a Stilo.
– Replacement wiper linkage at 2 years old due to noise (replaced under warranty)
– Speedo stopped working
– 1 of 4 coil packs failed after 5 years and 46,000 miles. The other three are originals. If you drove a petrol engined Renault, you’d be replacing these coil packs every 6-12 months.

However, it has had more replaced than it need to due to an accident in which Her Indoors hit a patch of diesel and span it 360 in the middle of the road, smashing into curbs before eventually mounting a boulder (oooh errr). Three damaged alloy wheels (two of which snapped clean) meant it had to have a new set of wheels and tyres, bent rear axle, stub axles, front wishbones, wheel bearings all round and a general sprucing up of the bodywork. All of which meant the insurance company had a bill just short of £3,000. That’s hardly the fault of the car, though.

The Stilo does have an iffy image problem, due to Fiat wanting to make a Golf clone, the early reliability issues, the styling of the five door model and the slightly average dynamics. But is the image it has deserved? Judging by our experiences with the Stilo, not a bit of it. Yes, the dynamics could be sharpened up a bit, but it’s still better to drive than the equivalent Golf, Renault or Vauxhall for example. It’s also proved to be a generally fault-free car, and considering the treatment the car has had from myself and She Who Must Be Obeyed, I personally think it’s stood up and made a case for itself pretty well.
See, if you bought one now, even an early one, most if not all of the bugs would have been ironed out, and because of the image these cars had, the depreciation was that steep that you can pick one up for less than a grand. Would I have another one? Yes, but as they make the Bravo now (which shares the Stilo’s underpinnings) I’ll have one of those. Would I recommend one? A resounding yes. It’s a used car bargain.

September 11, 2010 - Posted by | Motoring

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