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Why? because it may have rolled away by the time you get back. so always leave it in gear.
Reason for buying -------------------------
I needed a car as my daughter is a too small to travel on the back of the motorbike. Besides even if she was big enough, I couldn't always count on the weather in the UK if she needs a lift. My brother had hired a Schumacher version of the Seicento out a few years ago and it handled like a go-kart. One other thing that I liked though, was the fact that even with my girlfriends 206 parked on the drive, there was enough room for the Fiat and still not overhang the pavement.. I made up my mind I would look out for one, when I finally got round to trading in my old bike.
Fiat Seicento Suite -------------------------
I found a Silver sporting model for sale in Dewsbury, which was asking about £2000. Then I saw a silver Suite parked up in a dealers just a few streets away from my house, I had a good look round the car and also again when the dealers opened the next day.
The Suite is based on the SX model, which is in turn placed above the S. The SX has the electric windows, central locking, sunroof and colour coded interior. Also pretty handy is the internal boot release between the drivers seat and door. The Suite version adds Air Conditioning, and also has the 1100 FIRE sporting engine. (The FIRE engine is designed not to be damaged should the cam belt fail). so as the car was about £1500 (knocked off £100 for cash), I decided to place a deposit.
Unfortunately 2 days after I picked it up, the handbrake cable snapped, and asking back at the dealers, they said it wasn't covered by the warranty. Due to a close family member having health problems around this time, I couldnt really be bothered to argue, but my girlfriend hit the roof, along with being concerned for me, she demanded that the cable be replaced for free. The garage decided to back down and sorted it.
Living with the Suite -----------------------------
The Seicento seems a bit more girly than its older "brother" the cinquecento, which is more boxy, but I prefer the curvy style anyway. The upholstery colour is a bit iffy though, but Ive tolerated it because I love the car.
Even though the car is small, there is quite a lot of room for the driver and passenger, but people over 5 foot 8 may get a bit cramped in the back, but kids should be ok. In fact after a girls night out, I picked my girlfriend and 3 of her mates up from the nightvlub to give them a lift home, it managed it ok, and yes the car is actually classed as a 5 seater. The boot is small yes, but if you need to get quite a bit in, the rear seats fold down, and can split if needed, and once down it is suprising how much you can actually cram in there. This is helped by the large rear door. The silver paintjob is attractive and has a slight pearlescent sheen to it when catching
Pictures of Fiat Seicento 1.1
the light, but for some reason the bonnet looks a little "orange peely"/ Wether this is due to a respray, or just how it left the factory I don't know. Its only when you get up close and actually feel the finish that you notice it.
The Seicento is alot of fun to drive, and compared to some of the cars I've driven. and the couple I've owned, it makes me grin nearly as much as my motorbike. Of course with the car, you get the weather protection too. Being short and coupled with a decent wheelbase it handles quite well too, although the amount of body roll can be a bit off putting at first. The power steering makes for a very light touch on the wheel, and this may have spoilt me for my girlfriends 206SW, as I just find it so easy to drive. Coupled with the smaller steering wheel. Although at higher speeds the steering feels like it is getting heavier. Wether this is just imagination, or Fiat have built in a system to the steering to make it so. Although I would have thought this would only be available on more expensive models of car.
The engine has decent power for the type of car too, its not going to win any drag races against GTI's so don't try. If you do, chances are you will blow the head gasket which can be fragile if the car is thrashed. Although there is a recent aftermarket "Spesso" gasket which is supposed to be an improvement. Once moving though, the Seic' can give a decent turn of speed, and can cruise at motorway speeds comfortabley. The odd hill though will make it struggle and may force a change of gear, or just simply have to put up with the fact you will have to let it climb the hill at its own pace. The suspension gives a fim ride, but is supposed to be a little softer than the sporting model's
Although I haven't driven any other Seicento's, this one seems quiet until upto high speeds (over 60). You can hear the engine, but it doesnt really intrude, just loud enough so you can hear what its doing, there is no rev counter so its easiest to judge by engine note. At high speeds, the wind noise starts becoming apparent, but again, doesn't really intrude, and people in the car can hold a conversation without shouting, or listen to the stereo without it ever having to be near full volume. You also get the low rumbling of road noise too.
The stereo itself being a DVD-radio with removable front, which I believe is standard for this model, although there is no manual. (Easy enough to find one from Sony website though for free download). There are twin speakers in the front dashboard, and are adequate for this size of car. The stereo glows a warm orange and coupled with the instrument green lighting, gives a conforting glow on those dark nights, this has been commented on by a number of family and friends.
This is the first car any of my family has had to have air con. Funnily enough I forgot that the Seic had it until on the warmest day of the year. The sunroof was open, the windows were down, and everyone in the car was still baking. Then I noticed the little snowflake button on the center console and suddenly remembered. Hit the button, closed the windows and sunroof and put the air on recirculate and wham! what a difference. In fact the next 206 my girlfriend bought, she made sure had A/C on, and my Dad's next car too. It can affect the fuel economy though, you can feel the power drain on the engine when it kicks in, so I try to use it as little as possible when in slow traffic. Using the sunroof without air con does blow a cooling breeze into the car when moving, but at higher speeds it starts to become noisy, Its never going to reach a deafening roar, but at motorway speeds I wonder about the aerodynamics of it, so its usually shut at those speeds and the air con goes back on if it's too warm.
Under the bonnet there isn't much free space, but everything you need to see for topping up fluids is easy to find. Just be careful when lowering the bonnet, as some owners have dropped them a little too hard and split them, best to lower it right down, then push around the bonnet badge area to click it into place.
One of the luckiest finds though, was the clubcento owners club, which I found on the internet. The amount of hints and tips that the members have is invaluable. I joined up soon after finding them, and with the discounted parts service offered by some of the members, I have saved quite a bit of money too. (This has paid for the membership fee alone). Its also on the clubcento forums that you can find the faults with the little Fiat. The handbrake and clutch cables are quite notorious for snapping, even to the point a few members carry spare cables around with them.
As for my Seic;, the rear brakes are in serious need of overhaul now. Luckily I have got the parts via the club, for not much money. But compared to the good condition of the front disk brakes, the rear brakes are pretty appalling. As I hinted at in the title. The strength of the handbrake isn't the greatest at the best of times, and on its last service, I mamaged to get a good look at the rear drum brakes, and just about everything (Backing lates, brake arms, cylinders, shoes) need replacing. Although I feel this should have been mentioned a few months earlier when it passed it's MOT (a different garage). Elsewhere on the car, the bodywork and chassis is in good order, with no worrying signs of rust, then again most of the body work is plastic anyway, but there are still areas that are steel, and have been galvanised. I will make sure I keep an eye out for any signs of corrosion.
Tyres seem quite cheap, even though the 13 inch wheels are a rarity, and four new Federal tyres were fitted for less money than one rear tyre from my motorcycle.
Fuel economy? I can fill the tank up for between £20-£25 (with fuel currently around the 85p per litre mark. If I do nothing else but travel to work, which I would class as mainly urban style driving, then I get about 250 miles to the tank. On long runs though (perhaps motorways) then this can go up to 300+ miles.
The NCAP rating on the Seic is quite low, but that doesnt worry me overly, the reason being that I don't want to be involved in an accident anyway. I feel that the more safety features a car has, the worse people will drive - risk compensation basically. Safe drivers make safe cars, not airbags and ABS systems. Saying that the steering wheel does have an airbag fitted, but the passenger side has no airbag. There are 3 seat belts in the back, The two at each side being 3 point type, and the one in the middle being a lap harness. There is a slight difference in buckles so you cannot plug the two side belts into the lap harness catch by accident. There is a toolkit located under the boot carpet, where you will also find the spare wheel, which is a space saver, but not much smaller than the standard wheels anyway.
Fortunately I got used to people sneering at my choice of vehicle ever since I started riding bikes, and if people are so insecure that they have to brow beat your choice of car then thats their problem. There is enough people who think the car is quite a tidy little thing, and these are the people who are important to me so tuff on everyone else. Other problems I have had on occasion is that it seems to be so underrated on performance that some drivers think they can overtake and/or cut you off at will. Again I am used to this from being on bikes, but it could cause a big problem if I let it.
The little Fiat has a big heart, and given the right TLC should last for a good few years: The car is worth a little work to keep it running sweetly, and I see no decent alternative available to fit in the small space past the 206 and next to the bike.
update New wheels new car ----------------------------
FOund some 13inch alloys for the Seicento on the owners club forum - The lad selling was wanting rid as he was fitting 14" wheels. From looking around it seems that 13" alloys are pretty rare as most of the sportinig models have them on already, and if anyone gets new alloys for a car which has standard steel wheels- they go for the 14s most of the time.
So I hopped over to Chester to pick them up, and suprisingly they make a difference to the appearance of the car. In fact alot of people at work have commented on how good they look, and how much better it makes the car look.
Although I am keeping the standard wheels for winter use I am quite chuffed with this inexpensive mod to the car..The downside was that the brakes are now visible through the wheels, and this accelerated my getting down and dirty with overhauling the rear drums.
I knew at least one side was in a bad state and planned to completely replace most of the parts, except for the brake shoe springs. and brake drums - which were cleaned up and resprayed (see photo) Once done, the difference was immediately noticble in the handbrake (it works) and I'm alot happier with how they look.