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What Car? says

3 out of 5 stars

For The roomy cabin is easy to get into, and there's lots of storage space inside

Against It's neither as versatile as some of its competitors, nor as good to drive

Verdict The Idea's interior space belies its tiny dimensions, but it could be more versatile

Go for… 1.4i Dynamic

Avoid… Eleganza models

Fiat Idea Hatchback
  • 1. Equipment levels are good, but the Idea's interior quality isn't up to rivals’ standards
  • 2. Check the power steering works properly. A few faults have been reported
  • 3. Mechanically, the Idea's good. Its engines and gearboxes are from the Punto, and they're pretty sound
  • 4. Ensure that the recall work on the rear seatbelt mountings has been carried out on cars built between March and April 2004
  • 5. The petrol model has a lot in its favour. It's cheaper to buy and more refined than the diesel
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Fiat Idea Hatchback full review with expert trade views

The Fiat Idea is one of those tall, top-heavy superminis that use MPV-like design to maximise interior space. Somehow, though, it looks a bit less cumbersome and ungainly than cars such as the Renault Modus or Vauxhall Meriva, and more like what many might call a 'proper' car.

There's plenty of space inside, too, and enough room for five adults to travel in reasonable comfort. You can also slide the rear seat to alter the bias between rear kneeroom and boot space, depending on your needs.

The problem, though, is that the Idea isn't as good overall as a Modus or Meriva. The rear seat doesn't fold into the floor, for example, and the drive isn't as good either. The Idea's softly sprung suspension means lots of body lean in corners, and the ride is upset too much by larger bumps. Finally, the Idea's interior quality isn't up to rivals’ standards, although equipment levels are good.

Trade view

John Owen

Whose Idea was this?

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

There are two engines - a 95bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, and a 70bhp 1.3-litre turbodiesel - and both are pretty good.

The petrol gives punchy performance and is frugal. However, the diesel has much stronger mid-range pull, and although it isn't quite as quick as the petrol outright, it still has an impressive turn of pace considering its size.

Nevertheless, of the two, we'd recommend the petrol. It's more refined than the diesel and it's cheaper to buy.

There are three trim levels to consider, too. Active is the base model, and it provides a height-adjustable steering wheel, remote central locking and electric front windows. Dynamic models are much better equipped, but the price is significantly higher. We'd recommend it if your budget allows.

Range-topping Eleganza models are only available with the petrol engine, and these come with climate control, alloys, curtain airbags and powered rear windows.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Still a rarity, has found its level and a 1.4 Dynamic is popular

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The Idea isn't the cheapest supermini by any means, but it compares well with rivals.

Residual values aren't terrific on new examples, so there are some used bargains to be had. The car has only been on sale since 2004, so used examples won't be dirt cheap, but try to find an example on the earliest 53-plate to maximise your saving.

Running costs aren't too bad, either. As you'd expect, the diesel is the more fuel-efficient, returning an average consumption of 55.4mpg, but the petrol is hardly what you'd call thirsty, managing a reasonably creditable 42.8mpg.

The diesel is also better on insurance costs, in group 4 or 5 depending on which trim level you go for, while premiums for the petrol will range from 5 to 6.

Servicing costs are about average for the class, as are the 12,000-mile service intervals.

Trade view

John Owen

Whose Idea was this?

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

Fiat has a satisfactory record for reliability, and usually puts in an average performance in our regular reliability surveys. Only fault-ridden older cars such as the Cinquecento prevent Fiat from placing higher.

As far as the Idea is concerned, its engines and running gear come from the Fiat Punto, and this gives it an excellent start. These parts have been proven over the years, and the Punto is one of the firm’s most mechanically sound cars.

The Idea has so far proved to be just as tough as the Punto, and although it's still early days, we can't see this changing. A few faults with the power steering have been reported, though.

If buying a car built between March and April 2004, check the service history to make sure that the recall work has been carried out on the rear seatbelt mountings.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Still a rarity, has found its level and a 1.4 Dynamic is popular

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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