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First drive: Cut-price Fiat Freemont arrives

Seven for less: Buyers can get a Fiat Freemont with the optional seven seats for $28,500 driveaway.

Bargain basement pricing sees Fiat Freemont kick off from $27K driveaway

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9 Apr 2013

UPDATED
10/04/2013FIAT’S Australian range expansion begins now, with the company making a bold play to capture some of the strong crossover SUV market with the sharply priced Freemont.

A derivative of the existing Dodge Journey that will remain on sale in Australia, the Mexican-built Freemont – part people-mover, part SUV – will offer more space than price-point rivals, as well as the option of seven seats across the range.

At the base level buyers will be able to get into a seven-seat Freemont for $28,500 driveaway – cheaper than rival seven-seat people-movers and SUVs alike, with the exception of Kia’s much smaller and soon-to-be-superseded Rondo.

The Freemont will book-end a growing Fiat passenger car range in Australia alongside the existing 500 – until now its sole model Down Under excluding a pair of commercial vans.

Over the course of this year, the company will add the Panda and Punto hatchbacks, and later a jacked-up off-road version of the Panda to boot.

Fiat will market the high-riding Freemont as a rival to popular front-drive versions of family SUVs such as the Holden Captiva 7, as well as lower-end people-movers, with the SUV segment providing potential for far greater sales.

The company will offer three specification levels – Base, Urban and Lounge – all three with a 125kW/220Nm 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine matched with a six-speed automatic transmission. Fuel consumption is listed as 9.8 litres per 100km on the combined cycle.

The mid-spec Urban can also be had with a 125kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel paired with a six-speed manual only, slashing fuel consumption to a claimed 6.3L/100km.

The company will offer only front-drive configuration in order to provide further differentiation from the front-wheel-drive Journey – which, unlike the Freemont, is powered by a thirstier but faster 206kW/342Nm V6 petrol engine – and to keep the bottom line under control.

And it is the bottom line that the company will use to grab potential buyers’ attention, with the company leveraging advantageous exchange rates to keep the starting price for the Base petrol automatic to $27,000 driveaway, with an additional $1500 for the optional third row of seats and three-zone air vents.

Without this special deal, the price changes to $25,990 plus on-roads.

The walk to higher specification levels is short, with the mid-spec Urban petrol retailing for $28,300 plus on-road costs (driveaway pricing is on the Base only), and the Lounge commanding $30,300. Again, the third-row seats cost an extra $1500.

Meantime, the sole diesel option – the Urban specification with six-speed manual gearbox (there is no automatic option) will retail for $32,600.

Only the smaller Kia Rondo ($25,990 plus on-roads in manual guise) offers seven seats for less, with the Fiat undercutting front-drive SUV rivals such as the Holden Captiva 7 (starting at $32,490 plus on-road costs).

The Freemont’s pricing also compares favourably to its Journey twin, which starts at $32,400 plus on-roads and climbing to $35,700. Higher-end seven-seat crossovers such as the Toyota Kluger (from $39,990) and Mazda CX-9 (from $44,525) also command higher pricetags.

Standard equipment at the base level is relatively generous, including 17-inch alloy wheels, a leather-clad steering wheel, dual-zone air-conditioning, cruise control, keyless start, heated/folding door mirrors, automatic headlights, rear parking sensors, a 4.3-inch touchscreen and Bluetooth audio.

On the safety front, all models are fitted with six airbags (dual front, side and curtain), hill start assist and rollover mitigation. Also standard are active front headrests and Volvo-style integrated boosters in the second row of seats.

A diesel version tested in Europe scored the maximum five-star NCAP safety rating.

Moving up to the Urban specification adds roofbars/crossbars, tinted rear windows, dual-zone climate control, a folding passenger seat with storage compartment, electric driver’s seat, reversing camera and an 8.4-inch touchscreen borrowed from the Chrysler 300 (albeit with no navigation).

The flagship Lounge variant adds leather seats, chrome roofbars and doorhandles, 19-inch alloy wheels, satellite navigation and more potent 368-watt Alpine sound system with subwoofer. A nine-inch rear screen to keep the kids at bay is also a $1500 option at this spec level.

The Freemont’s dimensions – 4910mm long, 1878mm wide and 1705mm high on a 2890mm wheelbase – make it bigger than the average large SUV, and comparable to plus-sized people-movers.

With the rear rows of seats folded flat (and they do fold completely flat), cargo space is a claimed 1461 litres to the roof. This drops to 784 litres with the second row in place, and 167 litres if the third row is optioned and in place.

Underneath the boxy body sits all-round independent suspension (MacPherson front and multi-link rear). The steering is hydraulic, the turning circle is a claimed 10 metres and the all-round disc brakes are 302mm in front and 305mm at the rear.

Fiat Freemont pricing*
Base 2.4 petrol (a)$25,990
Urban 2.4 petrol (a)$28,300
Lounge 2.4 petrol (a)$30,300
Urban 2.0 diesel$32,600
* Plus on-road costs

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