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Fiat Croma

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  • mind you they'd probably pay you to take it
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      16.09.2002 04:48
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      • "mind you they'd probably pay you to take it"

      There must be something of the masochist in me. No, seriously, I am a real sucker for cars. I fall in love with them and just as quickly fall out of love. It is very much a sexual thing- you know, all the fiery passion of the first encounters, the continued passion as you settle down with one another, and then you just take each other for granted. I am particularly fond of Italian cars- not the sleek and sporty numbers, you won't catch me driving a Lamborari or a Maser-Romeo- my tastes are ultimately more down to earth..... I have owned a number of Fiats in my life. I should know by now that FIAT does not, after all, stand for Fix It Again Tomorrow, but indeed for Fabricca Italiano Automobili di Torino (ever the language teacher. me!). Counting up now I can state that I have owned the following Fiats: Panda Uno Punto Tipo Bravo Croma Yes, yes, yes, I hear you say, all household names... well, what was that last one? Cromer? That place in Norfolk? Nolly old chap,this is an opinion about cars, not suitable places for holiday nookie! It's not spelt Cromer, it's CROMA, and frankly I'm not surprised you had never heard of it. You see, it wasn't what you could call one of Fiat's success stories. They have gained their name from building nippy small cars, haven't they, and this wasn't a nippy small car, not by any stretch of the imagination. Let me take you back to the late 1980s, a time of corporate homologation and efforts to drive down costs. I don't know if you know this, but Fiat owns three brands that all have a different ethos: FIAT (basic, no-frills) ALFA ROMEO (sports) LANCIA (luxury) In the late 1980s the Italian corporate giant made itself a very strange bed-fellow- the Scandinavian company Saab! Jointly they developed what became known as the 'Type 4' chassis. It was to provide the basis for four separate cars, each ha
      ving its own look, engine, fixtures, fittings, bells and whistles. The four cars were: Alfa Romeo 164 Lancia Thema Saab 9000 Fiat Croma The best sellers of the group were the Saab followed by the Alfa. The Lancia was soon pulled as the brand disappeared from the face of the UK in 1989, but the Fiat lingered on, and that is what I came across! I purchased a 1990 Fiat Croma 2.0 ie Super in 1994. It had 30000 miles on the clock, had been serviced regularly, and had had no problems. It's list price in 1990 was £14425- not exactly cheap, but four years later I bought it for £3500! You see, large Italian cars by Fiat suffered from depreciation- and I mean really suffered. The price dropped quicker than a falling paving slab! Therefore, as a used buy, it was an absolute snip! The equipment levels were not exactly opulence itself, but were not exactly stinting, either. The model I bought was the middle one of three. there was the 2 litre CHT (non fuel-injection), mine, and then the big brute 2 litre turbo. My car included power steering , electric front windows and sunroof, and a 4 speaker Blaupunkt stereo- cars back then didn't have as much kit; nowadays you just have to have the combined climate control and bidet unit on your car or you're nobody. So what was the car like to drive? Well, it was comfortable, which is very useful considering my 6 feet eight inch frame, was certainly capable of cruising serenely on the motorways, and handled well around the country lanes of the Garden of England where I lived. Top Speed was apparently 128mph- I got scared at 110mph on an Autobahn once and didn't try and stretch it to its limits! Fuel economy was pretty good. The car would do about 30mpg in town, rising to about 38mpg on a longer run. Of course, fast motorway sprints in the Federal Republic of Germany brought the figure down to about 25mpg. The one downside was other motoring costs- insurance w
      as a high group 14, and spares and servicing were none too cheap either- a new tyre set me back £50 even then! However it was a great car to own until its untimely demise- cursed as it was by the overbearing influence of what I, and many others (I am by no means being original here) call 'the Italian Metal Moth'. Rust has never been kind to these cars, which is a shame, because they are seriously cheap barges. If you come across one for £50 nowadays, and have a reasonable bank balance to run it, they are a potentially good bet- just look after them and rub them down with a towel after every shower- yep, very much like a relationship! Neil September 2002

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        29.10.2000 05:31
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        We bought a Fiat Croma i.e. Super new in June 1987 to replace our Fiat Uno 55 that had given 3 years' 'reasonable' service. At that time our 3 children were aged 9, 7 and coming up to 6 years' old and were finding the space in the Uno back seat a little too restrictive. We would have loved to have bought a Mitsubishi Spacewagon, or one of the new Renault Espace, but we just couldn't afford it. We couldn't afford the full price of the Fiat Croma, but we needed a larger hatchback car, and so we researched the market. The very maximum we could afford was about £7000, and the Uno was worth about £2,200. We considered the Vauxhall Cavalier (about £7,000), and the Ford Sierra, but we found them both noisey (on our test drives) and the headroom in the rear of the hatchback Cavalier was restrictive. I then saw that our local Fiat Dealer in Edinburgh had some special offers on the Fiat Croma 2 Litre CHT model (a reduction of almost £3,000 with a net price of about £7,500) but by the time we had traipsed the 'tribe' over to the garage, the two examples were sold. We spoke to the salesman, and had a test drive in their demonstrator, an 'i.e. Super' model (which had a fuel-injected engine rather than the lower powered carburretor engine of the CHT). The price was way out of our league with an £11,500 list price. However, the children had plenty of room in the back and the car drove well and the wife (Heather) was impressed. The salesman asked about our current car (which he had sold to us almost 3 years before) and he looked the car over 'to get an idea' (it was, as we say in Wales, "tidy"). The Fiat Croma design was the result of cooperation between the Fiat group and SAAB, so that the basic bodyshell of the Croma was the same as that used in the Alfa Romeo 164, the Lancia Thema, and the SAAB 9000. I think they were called the 'Group 4' concept - or somethi
        ng like that. These cars were all reknown for their spacious interiors, and the Croma was by no means the 'poor relation' of the bunch. Sadly we told the salesman that the price was just too high and we could go no further.... Two weeks later the telephone rang and I was asked if I might still be interested in a Fiat Croma "at the right price" ? I said "Yes" immediately, and was asked if I could visit the showroom, preferably that same day. So at about 6pm I met the salesman again and he ushered me towards a Fiat Croma with BROWN paintwork. This was not the colour that I (or most of the British public) would have chosen, but it did have a beige coloured velour trim, which I immediately recognised as being the specification of the injection engine (2 litre i.e. Super model). It also had the 'computer controlled' heating system (a 'climate control' concept lacking air-conditioning) The car had 83 miles on the clock and was unregistered. The salesman made me an offer, which I couldn't refuse, so after telephoning Heather and explaining the offer she agreed and the deal was done. The story we were given was that they had received enquiries by a couple wanting to buy a red Uno 5 door, that had one owner who must be a non-smoker. That decsribed our current Uno exactly, so the dealer wanted to do a deal with this particular Croma (which had been in a showroom in Glasgow), but it had to be done "today", with a June registration. All efforts to delay registration until 1st August (for an "E" plate) were resisted. The only problem that I could find was a small cigarette burn on the drivers' door panel. The price we paid was £5,000 plus the Uno, exactly the maximum that we wanted to spend, so that D649FSF became our property ! We ran the car for almost exactly 6 years, covering 92,355 miles, with only a few problems. These were: failure of the clutch and
        flywheel (cost £320); and failure of the ignition coil (£120 !). We also needed one new battery and one new exhaust, and I bought only 6 tyres which was excellent performance. Fiat dealers were not very good then at carrying out servicing, with loose spark plugs or plugs set at the wrong gap size a problem at all the services up to 24,000 miles (at which stage, I started carrying out my own servicing). The fuel consumption was 25 mpg around town and up to 35mpg on a run. The dealership closed down for redevelopment in 1990, and when I was carrying out some surveying work on the site, I met the Service Manager who was just clearing out the workshops. He recognised the car ("Only one we sold of that colour" - "OBVIOUSLY" was my reply !), and he asked "Will this be of any use to you ? (Holding up a full Croma Workshop Manual) - WOW !. By the time we came to the end of our ownership, there was also a power steering leak and the engine was beginning to leak and burn a little oil, but we weren't complaining. So how did this idylic picture of satisfied car ownsership end ? Unfortunately, by catastrophe ! I was driving towards Edinburgh city centre one Friday evening in June 1993 at about 5 pm, to collect my son from the skating rink. I indicated a right hand turn, positioned myself correctly to turn right off the main road and stopped to let oncoming traffic pass, when THUMP, a single decker bus hit the car from behind very hard. Fortunately, only 5 days' I had before watched an Esther Rantzen TV program (never one of my favourites!), when she made suggestions about the correct setting of car head restraints, which caused both Heather and I to evaluate the positioning in the Croma. Needless-to-say, they were badly wrong, so we adjusted them as correctly as possible. The nearside rear was pushed in severely, the bodyshell ('not particularly strong', alleged a
        German car magazine) was twisted (so that afterwards I could only open the drivers' door), and my front seat all-but totally collapsed. However, I felt my neck being supported by the head restraint - so NO WHIPLASH INJURY. Indeed, I remember the engineer who examined that car afterwards before (obviously) declaring it a write-off commented that "whoever was driving this car will be suffering with their neck for some time". My insurance company were obvioulsy very impressed with my honesty about there being no claim for whiplash, because the settlement given for the car was £2,250 !!!. They claimed the sum from the bus company insurers and money to compensate me for 'loss of use' of the car (when I used our Mercedes 190 - see my review of this car). Only days before the accident, we had been visiting showrooms again and had test-driven both a Renault Espace (see my review) and a Toyota Previa. By now, our growing family had engaged in furious hand-to-hand combat whenever put in the back together, and we needed to separate them. The 'net' part-exchange allowances that had been offered were £1,150 and £870 !!! I had a friend who wanted to buy the Croma for £1,250, and loose arrangements had been made with him for when we intended to replace the Croma in August 1993. So I was both relieved (that I had not been injured) and well, at least smiling all the way to the bank. Although we have been happy with the Espace, it is fair to say that we have missed the Croma. The colour 'grew' on us. We only saw one other Croma in that colour (which was more popular for the smaller Regata model of that period), but I doubt if I'll ever even sit in a brown car again. It was quiet, very spacious and very comfortable Definitely a very-under-rated car. I understand that the CHT was under-powered and the Turbo was too powerful for the chassis, so the "i.e." was the best compromise. If you can fi
        nd one of the very few good ones still remaining, then proceed with caution. Parts are probably now difficult to source, and I suppose that I would direct you towards a SAAB 9000,or an Alfa Romeo 164 all of which sold more in the UK than the Croma (and are therefore probably easier to get parts for). Copyright Sidneygee 2000

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