My Beloved Fiat Petra 1.6 (2005 To 2018)


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Hi friends,
Here is my ownership review of Fia Petra 1.6 2004/05 from 2005 to 2018.

It was in late 2004, around Oct/ Nov, I started looking for car for my family. I had relocated from US to Hyderabad. I had no clear target as to which car I'd buy, initial considerations were based on hearsay and hype.

I was looking for the following things in my future possession,

1. Safety for family
2. Budget about mad 5-6 lakhs
3. Fun to drive
4. Gadgets, whistles and bells optional
5, Has to be new, would not risk a used one for potential maintenance issues
6. Had to be a petrol car as Diesel emissions were still considered more damaging than Petrol

The initial sights were on Scorpio for its hype. I realized it would go out of my budget to. Infact budget was worked out as I was narrowing down to a car. As a new driver in India (I drove a 4 wheeler only in the USA earlier), though I had driven a Yezdi Road King in Bangalore earlier, any discomfort in driving position was felt many fold.

Mahindra Scoprio:

Big, looked muscular, was also told it had torsion bars or whatever for stability. One concern with it was parking space. As I was also looking for a rental flat, I was told Scorpio was too tall to get in in a few apartment complexes with basement parking. As the initial superficial enthusiasm evaporated, I decided to look around for other cars even before test driving one.

Then I started in a little, with sedans like Esteem, Baleno and Accent. I can not recall if I saw Petra Ad and Auto Car India's review before, after or during test drive of other vehicles, it is true I was quite impressed with the review and what is in there.

As I narrowed down the 4 cars to test drive, it came revelations came one by one

Maruti Esteem:

First impression was the difficulty to get in and get out. I did not feel it was spacious enough and felt crammed. I banged my head a couple of times getting in/out.This aspect pretty much ruled out Esteem purchase. Added to that was lack of strong build and slightly dated looks.

+ve: Good acceleration, A/C, easy to maintain
-ves:Low seating, Getting in/ out difficult even for medium size

Maruti Baleno:

I fell for the looks of Baleno when it was launched initially in 2000/01 timeframe. It is time to figure if it can offer me what I am looking for.
I was impressed with drivability, acceleration, very good A/C. Rear and Front seating comfort. I can see road going underneath my bonnet, meaning visibility is good.

I drove it a couple of times and almost made up my mind to go for it. A co-worker's recommendation played a role in building confidence too. The person bringing car for test drive enquired when would I make my decision and what other cars I am considering. When I told him Accent and Petra, he was unsure. He did mentioned Petra is a great car sir, but maintenance may be an issue. This triggered my desire to test Petra before finalizing Baleno.

Hyundai Accent:

The salesman came for a test drive. I started driving the car, it felt lifeless almost. I had to struggle hard for acceleration and also its suspension felt different. Back seat comfort seemed fine. Halfway during the drive I let the guy drive and switched to back seat. Accent had been ruled out as it confused me.

+ve: Ride and comfort seemed good
-ves: Did not pretty much like any other aspect of the car.

Fiat Petra 1.6:

Impressed in the first look itself. Alloy wheels and stance made a great impression on me. Getting in was a positive, seating position, door thud, engine quiteness. Yup, great. Second thoughts about maintenance were still at the back of my mind. We went out for test drive. The car felt like an extension of my mind and personality, it felt like we were in sync.

Now the decision:

I had to chose between Baleno and Petra. Potential maintenance issues were overriding my ideal choice Petra, let it be coworkers suggestions or reviews regarding Fiat gave up service support for Siena, Petra's elder brother.

For a short period before the purchase the choice was Baleno despite lacking in build and not necessarily being my sweetheart. Practicality aspects were dominant in my mind hence decide to negotiate Baleno price first. A significant difference in price between VXi (top end?) and middle (LXi) was because of a couple of things: Alloys and rear Defogger. If my memory serves me write, it was approximately 50K or more. VXi probably came to about 6.25 L andLXi was like 5.50L to 5.75L or so. I wanted VXi or VXi equal features in LXi. Pricing feature balance did not workout finally. They could not offer VXi equivalent to or VXi at the expected price.

The decision definitely became easier, it had to be Petra + maintenance concerns if at all there were some. I had to finalize features/ version with the dealer. It came out to be EL PS with 5 Alloys as I wanted a full size spare. The whole thing came to be about 5.75 L or so, I was happy getting the car I loved and saving HALF a lakh over Baleno VXi.

Finally It is Petra 1.6 EL PS in silver with beautiful OEM alloys and art leather seats of soothing color. I got steering cover fixed outside, for some reason it shows up whitish in light.

An interesting thing with the stance of this car is, it looks slightly shorter without load, looks beautiful when loaded.

Forgot to mentions:

Honda city had rave reviews both in driving pleasure and reliability. It did not appeal for someone who liked mostly American and European cars, also I always thought Hondas and Toyotas are overpriced. The only two Japanese cars that appealed to me in the US were Camry and Avalon. The major factor in ruling out Honda city was price for what it offered.

Josh machine (Ford Ikon) looked interesting, but there was this bad reputation of exorbitant spare cost at that time aside from braking being inadequate. I think I actually test drove one.

(Will Continue with driving experience, service aspects, etc..)

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350Z

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Hi @MeanderingSoul. That’s a crisp review. It brought back the nostalgia. Thanks for sharing. Please also upload more snaps if available.

First impression was the difficulty to get in and get out. I did not fell it was spacious enough and felt crammed.
It seems apart from pricing factor, the tall stance of Petra also worked in favor as most sedans back then were low-slung. I’m curious if Tata Indigo was ever considered?

Here is my ownership review of Fia Petra 1.6 2004/05 from 2005 to 2018.
Since you’ve owned the car until recent past, how’s been the service experience and sourcing the spare parts from Fiat?

Drive Safe,
350Z
 

Akash1886

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Hi friends,

Maruti Esteem:

First impression was the difficulty to get in and get out. I did not fell it was spacious enough and felt crammed. I banged my head a couple of times getting in/out.This aspect pretty much ruled out Esteem purchase. Added to that was lack of strong build and slightly dated looks.

+ve: Good acceleration, A/C, easy to maintain
-ves:Low seating, Getting in/ out difficult even for medium size
Having owned an Esteem for a decade plus till 2017 March, I can vouch it was actually easy to maintain but at later stage MSIL ASC began charging for spares quite a lot. Apart from low seating, the brakes too were not very good. As far as build quality is concerned, I would say, having had a accident in 2008 in Delhi, I could still come out without a scratch on me and car drove back to ASC at 60km/h. It only had seat belts and no airbags et al. Still, the build quality is a vast topic to discuss with numerous technicalities involved. However, in general sense, Maruti's steel and even their heartech platform and all is an eye wash. A chemist in my locality got Baleno couple of months ago and recently someone stood next to his car for sometime and the front right fender got pressed just by the weight of person's body. I don't think present day MSIL cars are any stronger either. Old Gen MSIL cars were still a face-saver for them though to some extent.

Regards
Akash
 
Thread Starter #4
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Hi @MeanderingSoul. That’s a crisp review. It brought back the nostalgia. Thanks for sharing. Please also upload more snaps if available.


It seems apart from pricing factor, the tall stance of Petra also worked in favor as most sedans back then were low-slung. I’m curious if Tata Indigo was ever considered?


Since you’ve owned the car until recent past, how’s been the service experience and sourcing the spare parts from Fiat?

Drive Safe,
350Z
Tall stance, build and driving pleasure combination is what I'd say. The car's response felt better, like a pet obeying orders. It would have been interesting to decide if Baleno had the build and slightly taller stance, a more difficult decision to make, it might even have gone in favor of Baleno despite the price.

Tata Indigo was ruled out because I had been very familiar with gearbox problems in the initial versions of Indica. Indigo was supposedly a modified Indica. Asking around did not reveal anything better about Tata gearbox improvements. TBH, even heart was not there because it had no special appeal.
The hatchbacks popular then, like Santro, Palio, Matiz, etc.. were never considered for lack of boot space. I always liked sedans anyways.

I'll surely be extending this experience adding overall ownership and highlights of good and otherwise. I should probably have written, "Continued".
 
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It took time for me to enjoy the nuances of the vehicle as my daily commute was not much. I was also learning to appreciate the dynamics. Before that, I shared my concern with FIAT India and dealer. Dealer assured me there would not be a problem of spares and high maintenance. FIAT India responded with a catalog of spares and costs that looked reasonable.

2005-06
The vehicle was fine for almost a year without problems. I had a long trip to home town about 450 KMs one way, was proud of my new possession and learned to handle it on the highway. A few good overtakes and 'cuttings' going well on those single lane roads. The scheduled maintenance within a year went well (albeit less KMs), cost about 2500 INR each.

This was about a year after the vehicle was purchased. We were returning after a cricket match, parked the vehicle at office. I came out to return home, the vehicle would not start. After a few tries. I left the vehicle at office as it was Sunday. Thought battery died and got it recharged. The problem returned after a few days.

After contacting ASC (Anuroop Hyderabad), I had to take the car to workshop for repair. They diagnosed it and it was the Alternator unit. Since they do not fix individual components of the unit, they had to replace it. It came to probably about 10K at that time. I was not happy with unit replacement business, really had hoped, they had fixed the problematic component. I even asked the dealer if they had given me a lemon. I was not really happy with alternator unit going bad in just over a year.

There were good things though within the first two years that made me smile. One coworker parking his hand on the car chatting, asked me to start the car before I head out. He was surprised to know engine had been running :) Another complement was from Baleno colleague saying the car looked like a smaller cousin of premium cars. there were other general, "it is looking pretty, powerful ..." kind of complements.

Then around the end of 2006 I had a minor accident, that could have been more serious. A city bus had blocked the two laned road. I waited for a few minutes, honked a few times to let me know I am going around him and start. The bus moves as I reached around his drivers side causing a long dent along rear side panel and back door. Cost to fix another 10K.

There were a few niggles and fixes, a broken door handle, low brake oil, head light clip burnt. They did not cost me much, each probably < 100, but door handle was about 500 INR or so.

The Fuel Efficiency had started around 8.5 KMPL and was went well up to 11.5+ KMPL whenever we travelled 50+ KMPL from the city.

2007-08

Only regular maintenance, no issues. Some minor issues like A/C vent rattling, brake oil level low kinds.

Until the end of 2007, Anuroop was the ASC. I can't recall if it was because of Anuroop not serving any more or I was not happy with them, I switched over to a multi-brand service center in 2008 for service.
Issues faced were, a few lights stopped functioning, A/C leak, broken door handle again, minor things mostly. And, I had driven on a flat tire and had to get one new tire.

We also has a good long trip lasting for almost a week in mid summer of 2008. The A/C and driving comfort served me well. Indica driven by our companion families did not have a chance against us on highways. I was happy with acceleration, braking and stability at good speeds. It looked like acceleration is better if I go to higher speeds in 4th and maintain it in 5th (OD). I think Petra had even 4th gear OD.

At the end of the trip, a relative of mine locked the keys inside the car. Instead of waking me, they tried maruti-hyundai way of opening it using plastic scale in the window. that caused a big trouble, I was unable to lock the car fully with remote. I was told this has classical pully kind of mechanism driven by electronics or something like that. I had to live with this problem until I returned home.

My next refuge after FIAT-TATA alliance (probably) was to go to Malik. I was billed 4.5K to fix the mechanism, still there were problems. I had to get a few components from (was it concorde motors?) and get the whole thing fixed along with a new handle set.

I had gone to my native for some rituals and had left the car parked for a few days. While returning we realized some belts had chewed on belts in the engine compartment. One issue faced throughout was, it is hard to get any fix needing parts done in non-metro cities and smaller towns on this vehicle.

FE on highways was constantly above 12.5 KMPL on highways and between 9.5 to 10.5 KMPL mostly in city. Whenever there were a little longer drives out of the city, it was around 11-11.5 KMPL.

2009-10

By this time I had switched over to Solar automobiles for my service & mtce as I heard good reviews about a mechanic there. This proved to be true and the association lasted even after I moved to Bangalore.

These years saw a good amount of work on the vehicle. A/C pipe had a whole, had to be replaced. A/C switch had to replaced, silencer developed a hole. I realized problem with silencer as there were two sounds coming when the engine was on. It was caused because of the way silencer pipe is routed. It took a couple of attempts each to solve A/C problem and silencer sound issue. Silence was welded, but it would touch the cross member on the rear wheels every time there was suspension action. Similarly A/C pipe was fixed reverse, so it had to be worked on again. A/C problem was due to incompetence in work and silencer needed skilled work and multiple attempts for complexity involved.

In 2010, suspension needed replacement. I was not surprised because I had carried excess load both in city and rural for compelling reasons. Real glass would make noise at speeds and on uneven roads. Found out, silicon seal broke and had to get it done. Radiator fan unit had to be replaced. Interestingly we tried to fix it at Malik, they said spares were not available. We had to go personally and fetch the part.
Left headlight was almost pulled out by a cool drink truck when it had cut across. I was happy not to replace it, silicon or rubber seal helped us save a few thousands there.

Around early 2009 I decided to change tires of a different profile. I went with Michelins with profile 185/65R14. This probably was not a great decision as the car frequently went to areas where roads were really bad. Not that they are rural, but upcoming localities with a lot of construction activity.

When I drove about 450 KMs without A/C and windows partially open, I got an FE of 14+ KMPL. This was due to A/C not turning on as belts were chewed by rodents.

A clutch cylinder failed and caused oil leak. Got it replaced One night I was going to drop mother at bus station when the gears got stuck. I was stuck in traffic and had to try local FNG, proved to be a wrong move that cost me much and terrible inconvenience. Coming back to the issue, it was master cylinder failure.

There were a few niggles like RPM surge, and some electrical wiring issues. I think it is really around this period I started to get worried about the issues with the car.
(To be continued)
 
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2011-14

This is a period of major inactivity for the car, meaning very less running. Earlier in this time clutch cylinder broke down again, had to spend 15 K in total for the incompetence of FNG and partly loot. This is the reason I felt going to FNG was a bad move. Another major problem was, the car would misfire after a few KMs drive. It turned out to be an ignition coil going bad. We had to make do with some Taiwanese aftermarket part at half the price. Aside from this there were issues due to incompetent wallet parking guys that did not know to pull the gear rod knob up for reverse. The switch broke a couple of times and had to be replaced. 2011 was an expensive one for car maintenance.

Until 2014 there were no major problems. I moved to Bangalore, was in two minds. Whether to buy a new one or keep this since much had been spent to keep it good.

2015-18 (Bye Bye to the car too [sad])

Got the 60K service at 10K and a little more spent on oil changes, etc.. By this time Michelins were looking awful, almost bald due to the treatment meted out by almost non-existent roads. There was a major scare for out of state vehicle owners here. COPs were not very kind on out of state cars. First was replacing Michelins to be replaced, spent a good 15+ K on Yokohama.

In between I gave a thought to getting a used car with local registration. Tried looking for a used Chevy Optra Magnum diesel. There were not many to be found, the ones I encountered did not appeal or looked jugad ones.

After the 60K service, made a couple of trips to Hyderabad. In the second trip there used to be puddle of water near front passenger foot area (below glove box), A/C leaking. It took a couple of attempts to fix it. Aside from that the car was struggling to move forward at slopes as if brakes were being applied simultaneously. This was due to worn out clutch, duly replaced.

2016=17 overall punched hole in my pocket again. There was stator and rotor failure (alternator?), head light stalk on steering wheel replaced, Noise started in the right front tire area, diagnosis reveals engine mounts, struts, kit bearing and tie rod had to be replaced. This was like, is it the end of Petra love affair?

Around the same time, running costs wee going up too. FE for daily run (~35 KMs) 7-8 KMPL. Luckily I got a car pooling option, hence the runs were occasional. There weren't many long trips either,

About the mid of 2016 is when I decided to get a new car and potentially keep Petra as second car. After all the service activities, I felt the car lost its rhythm and not as good as it used to be.

I acquired my next drive, Vento TDI 1.6 2013 model around end of 2016 and occasionally drove Petra for short trips. The desire to keep it faded for lack of second parking and battery going bad a couple of times. Selling an out of state car would not be straight forward affair, one jugaad guy asked for the car if I wanted to sell. I was not keen on jugaad, rather explored how to sell it off in Hyderabad. As I shifted to a new house, the parking problem got worse. Another person in the neighborhood approached me, but backed out as I gave him a day or two to decide. By that time I was taking the help of my Hyderabad mechanic to sell it off. One fine day, I sold it off to someone in Hyderabad through my mechanic there.

Adieu to Petra 1.6 that gave me many good times.

I will try to summarize some fun times, inadequacies felt and overall service experience.
 
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Now about the driving experience in city and highways
  • Driving position is definitely comfortable, visibility not bad, precisely figuring front left corner is slightly difficult in like many sedans
  • A/C is not bad, it is on the better side compared to other cars.
  • Acceleration was good, pulling out of congestion is great provided one is ready for quick gear shifts.
  • Gear throw felt slightly buttery
  • If you are stuck in sand or getting slowly out of unpaved roads, steering felt heavy despite being power steering, hydraulic one, On highways the feeling felt so good, beautifully weighted.
  • Both 4th and 5th gears being OD, it probably worked better to use 4th gear to get to required speed and maintain it in 5th. Many times 4th itself was sufficient at cruising speeds.
  • Overtaking was easy on highways with power at hand being transferred quickly to accelerate. I was amazed by a couple of cars overtaking me at high speeds and unable to keep up with. Fiesta and Octavia. Not sure if it was because I'd not go beyond certain speed risking safety or their acceleration in-gear is better.
  • Another car I could not keep up with in longer distances was Verna with 100+ BHP engine
  • Most of the drive would be always with A/C, no lack of power despite A/C running
  • It felt very stable up to speeds of 120 KMPH, Some highways had 120 as allowed speed.
  • City FE mostly varied around 10 KMPL varying between 9.5 to 11 KMPL (A/C always on) in Hyderabad. It dropped down to < 8 KMPL mostly and occasional 9 KMPL in Bangalore.
  • Highway FE used to typically be around 13 KMPL in normal driving, 12.5 KMPL in spirited driving (A/C always on)
Build Quality & comfort
  • Simply great I'd say. Noise insulation inside and quietness are not matched by many cars in that segment
  • Despite a few hits by cars and bikes even bumpers stayed intact with only scratches on them. I appreciate it even more after seeing what happens to Vento in similar situations
  • Back seat seemed very comfortable despite going over curvy roads. A similar driving style in SX4 caused a lot of trouble in the rear seat.
  • Vento does not seem to give the same spacious and comfortable feel as Petra, may be taller seating factor
Issues faced
  • Paint had started fading on bonnet about 10 years after purchase
  • Many issues were human error or incompetence of the workshop. Example, using scale on windows to unlock car, fitting A/C pipe in reverse, inability to fix cylinders properly (clutch/ gear)
  • Many electrical problems also faced, but did not cost a bomb.
  • Most money was spent on electrical and clutch related issues, later on struts and mount related
Sourcing components/ parts
  • Initially for the first few year there was no problem of parts.
  • When Tata-Fiat alliance started there was some issue in getting components, e.g Malik motors saying radiator fan assembly is not available despite having it, had to go get door handle set from concorde. Then ignition coil was not available, was forced to use an aftermarket one.
  • Coming to Bangalore, many parts were available with one or two not being available, I had realized 99rpm had all parts and sourced some from them. I could even get a rear bumper reflector.

I pretty much covered most aspects of my ownership experience with Petra. In future I'd also share how I acquired Vento despite liking FIAT cars.
 
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  • Despite a few hits by cars and bikes even bumpers stayed intact with only scratches on them. I appreciate it even more after seeing what happens to Vento in similar situation.
Vouch that. Friend had a Palio and T-boned a Dzire straight in the middle and the bumper didn't budge an inch while the latter suffered severe frame damage. Just a kilo of putty fell off from ours.[lol]

We had plaguing electronic complaints as well. Once I was driving late night and ran through a pool of water, may be a foot deep and all electrical boomed and continued without headlamps or wipers, luckily engine was running.

Car is now rotting somewhere in Bangalore due to lack of parts and mechanics not interested in working on them. Last time it was reverse gear not engaging. It was a 1.2 and was returning around 6 kmpl in city.
 
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So true. I have always been shocked about why such well built vehicles sell in low numbers in India. Running costs were one factor in selling off mine aside from lack of good mechanics.
No match for the build quality of Fiats. I test drove Linea diesel before buying Vento, build quality remained the same minus thrill of Petrol. A T-Jet would probably return 7-8 KMPL in Bangalore!
 
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So true. I have always been shocked about why such well built vehicles sell in low numbers in India. Running costs were one factor in selling off mine aside from lack of good mechanics.
No match for the build quality of Fiats. I test drove Linea diesel before buying Vento, build quality remained the same minus thrill of Petrol. A T-Jet would probably return 7-8 KMPL in Bangalore!
FIAT's image was already tarnished beyond repair with the Uno. They chose their old partner, Premier, for come back, at the time they were screwing Peugeot in India with their license-raj-era attitude and poor sales and service network. Still many cases going on at various courts across India for the refund of failed deliveries. They backed off from partnership and came back with Sienna and Palio, but failed to create any excitement. Still people feared buying a FIAT. They ran business with just Punto and Linea without bringing any newer models, selling Multijets to MSIL, Tata and other partners.

Parts warehousing strategy was also another issue. All were from MH warehouse if I remember correct. Minimum order amount was ₹ 25k at dealer end for them to process. Say, for a ₹ 10 bolt, dealer have to order ₹24990 worth other parts or have the customer car at the backyard till they meet the ₹ 25 grand mark. Cousin was SA at Tata-FIAT dealership and still says, it was his toughest time convincing customer about parts delay.

I have just crossed the time boundary to edit the previous post, adding a few outdoor pix
Use the insert full image option for bigger images. Can notify the admins by clicking report button for merging images with old post.
 
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........They ran business with just Punto and Linea without bringing any newer models, selling Multijets to MSIL, Tata and other partners.

.........All were from MH warehouse if I remember correct. Minimum order amount was ₹ 25k at dealer end for them to process. .......



Use the insert full image option for bigger images. Can notify the admins by clicking report button for merging images with old post.
I also heard they were doing good with just 1.3 MJD engines. The India plant was probably in Ranjangaon near Pune, if my memory serves me right.
 

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