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What Car? says

1 out of 5 stars

For It's cheap and has plenty of kit and good engines

Against Outclassed in every respect by too many rivals

Verdict Passable if you put price above space, style and quality

Go for… 1.9 JTD

Avoid… 1.6 petrol

Fiat Marea Saloon
  • 1. The Marea's based on the Bravo, so it's not as spacious as a Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Vectra
  • 2. The suspension and axles should be inspected closely, as they're the biggest source of problems
  • 3. Check for signs of overheating (specifically a milky emulsion around the oil filler cap) because Mareas are prone to it
  • 4. Engines that run rough or rev inconsistently could indicate problems in the fuelling system
  • 5. Catalytic converters can fail and are dear to replace
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Fiat Marea Saloon full review with expert trade views

The Marea saloon, like the Weekend estate, is based on the chassis of Fiat's small family car, the Bravo. That means it isn't as spacious as, say, a Ford Mondeo or Vauxhall Vectra.

The boot will take the family's clobber and two adults will fit across the back seat, but three is a bit of a squeeze.

The cabin owes a lot to the Bravo's, too, which means a mostly decent layout of controls, but cheap-looking plastics and a less than ideal driving position.

On the positive side, though, it handles with a touch of Italian verve. There's plenty of grip, not too much body roll and good, responsive steering. However, the ride is firm at best, and it deteriorates in town, so the Marea isn't nearly as comfortable or as refined as other family cars.

On top of that, there's also too much racket from the tyres and a lot of wind noise at motorway speeds. The engines stay quiet, though, and are all pretty decent performers.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Little retail interest. Saloons are hard work, but TD 100 SX estate will sell

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Choose either of the 1.9 JTD turbodiesels (badged 105 and 110), which are smooth, punchy and frugal, or the 152bhp five-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol, which performs well and is surprisingly quick.

The older 1.9 TD turbodiesels (75, 100 and 125) are frugal, but aren't as refined as the JTDs.

We'd also give the 1.6 petrol a miss - it's not as strong and no more economical than the better 1.8 petrol. The 2.4 JTD turbodiesel is a slick, strong perfromer, but harder to find.

Trim levels go from entry-level SX, through ELX to top-spec HLX, and it's the higher two trim levels that we recommend. All have anti-lock brakes, but the earliest, most basic cars lack air-con.

Whatever you're looking for, independent traders and classified ads are the best places to look for one.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Excellent reliability. Expect low repair bills and few visits to the garage

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct

The Marea's greatest appeal is that it's cheap to run. Let's be honest: few people go out with the express intention of a used Marea, but those who end up with one often do so because it's cheap.

Routine servicing isn't dear, either, especially if you go to a decent independent garage instead of a Fiat main dealer. Warranty Direct data suggests that you could save more than a third on the labour bill that way. Repair costs of Fiats tend to be higher than average, but nothing outrageous.

Fuel economy is reasonable, too - the petrol engines all give around 30mpg in normal driving, while the diesels will return between 40mpg and 50mpg - and the insurance won't sting you either. The diesels range from groups 8 to 10; the petrols kick off at group 10 (the 1.6) and top out at the group 14 of the five-cylinder 2.0.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Little retail interest. Saloons are hard work, but TD 100 SX estate will sell

James Ruppert
Used car guru

The suspension, axles and fuel system should come in for special attention - these are the areas that give owners most trouble, according to claims made by Warranty Direct customers.

Watch out for smoky diesel engines (possibly a sign of faulty injectors) and engines that run rough or rev inconsistently, which may show potential problems with the fuel delivery.

While you're looking at the engine, check for signs of overheating (specifically a milky emulsion around the oil filler cap) because Mareas are prone to it.

The manual gearbox isn't the most robust in the world (Marea autos do exist, but are quite rare) and catalytic converters have been known to fail. Likewise, the electrics can be iffy, with niggling little faults.

Check the cabin carefully, too, especially if the car has led a life of carting the family around. The Marea's trim, which could rattle even when new, doesn't withstand hard use well.

Trade view

Duncan McLure-Fisher

Excellent reliability. Expect low repair bills and few visits to the garage

Duncan McLure-Fisher
Managing Director,
Warranty Direct
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