GENEVA - Fiat's revolutionary Ecobasic concept makes its show debut this week, three months after it was first presented to journalists in Italy.
Alongside an entry-level model, which would cost A5,000 at today's prices, Fiat will unveil a A11,000 version at Geneva. The more expensive model features luxury interior trim, integrated in-car phone system and satellite navigation.
The highly-specified car is designed to show the flexibility of the Ecobasic concept.
Despite being just 3500mm long, 1710mm wide and 1470mm high, the Ecobasic seats four adults and offers a surprising amount of luggage space. It could be also seen as Fiat's interpretation of a four-seat Smart.
The Ecobasic was designed at Fiat's internal styling center by Roberto Giolito, who was also responsible for the Multipla. With the Ecobasic, Fiat Auto is approaching the minicar segment with the same boldness as Giorgetto Giugiaro, who created the Panda in the late 1970s. Ecobasic is seen as a close preview of the 2005 Panda replacement. But it's not just the packaging and styling that's new - the Ecobasic also shows how the manufacturing and the distribution of a next-generation small car could be reinvented.
Fiat has used a steel spaceframe construction for the Ecobasic. All the body panels are plastic, with molded-in color - an innovation created by GE Plastics. The new panels mean a paint shop at the assembly plant is not necessary.
To keep weight under 750kg while still meeting safety requirements, Fiat and GE Plastics used different types of plastics for the body. The Eco-basic's door frames, hood and roof are in thermosetting plastic. The one-piece tailgate has a polycarbonate back window treated with anti-scratch solution. Fiat claims the window is as clear as traditional glass. The rear quarterlights are also made of polycarbonate.
The Ecobasic comes as a four-door car in standard form: one door for the driver, two on the passenger side, plus the tailgate. A second door for the driver's side would be available as an option.
The main assembly line would be extremely lean for a car such the Ecobasic. The entire spaceframe and all the body panels could be outsourced, as could the front-end module and the complete interior.
The Ecobasic is powered by Fiat's new small turbodiesel, a 1.2-liter, 16-valve engine capable of 61hp at 3500rpm with a torque of 160Nm at 1800rpm.
The Ecobasic uses Fiat's second-generation common-rail direct-injection system, called MultiJet. The car has a top speed of 160kph and a 0-100kph acceleration time of 13 seconds. Ecobasic is also Fiat Auto's first car to burn less than three liters of fuel every 100km.
Almost 50 patents relating to the Ecobasic project were deposited during its 14-month development period.
Fiat will also show the Multipla Hybrid Power at Geneva. It is not planned for series production. Fiat claims the car is the first hybrid built by a European carmaker that could be used as a true zero-emissions vehicle in the city. Using only its electric traction system, the car has a range of 80km.
The Fiat Panda celebrates its 20th
birthday at Geneva. More than 4 million units have been built since its show debut in March 1980.