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Fiat Stilo, the poor mans Golf?

01.02.2010 (05.02.2010)

Cheap, pretty, plentiful

Dealerships, dealerships, dealerships .

Recommendable Yes:

Detailed rating:

Road Handling




Value for MoneyExcellent

Fuel consumptionSatisfactory

6 Ciao members have rated this review on average: very helpful See ratings
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So here we are, the Fiat Stilo. Now out of production for 2 years, but what a bargain it is for the family tight on money. There's a model to suit every family member, but today we're going to talk about the 1.2 3-door model.

The 1.2 3-door model is perfect for the young adult in the family, I still consider myself a young adult, not as young as I was when I first bought my stilo in 2003 but the Stilo is a car I still enojy as much today as when I first purchased it.

So whats the car like to drive? In a word pretty good, its not as pointy into corners as a Focus, then its not as uncomfortably rock hard as a Focus either, the Stilo is a good compromise between handling and comfort. When fitted with the optional Fiat 17" alloys it will corner as well as a similarly spec'd Focus, but it won't feel quite as planted. Although I'm a great believer that the this slight woolyness in the driving feel is down to the electric powersteering robbing you of some feedback, however it does make long distance driving relaxing.

The electric power steering is pretty light, but you get sufficient feedback unless you have poor quality tyres fitted. The one thing I have learned is mid-range tyres or better get the most out of the car. The better the brand of tyre the better the feedback, the stilo also requires that you keep the wheel tracking in tip top condition, so look out for kerbed wheels, it'll probably mean the tracking is out. Poor tracking really ruins the cars feel, it will wear through tyres alarmingly quick. Its not the end of the world, £40 of full 4 wheel laser alignment will restore the ride, handling and comfort and will also make your tyres last a lot longer.

The Stilo has had a lot of bad press about reliability, but i strongly believe the biggest issue is lacklustre dealerships, I know this is something Fiat are trying to rectify so that cars like the new 500 don't get a poor reputation.

As far as my cars reliability is concerned, I had 1 broken air vent (sloppy dealership should have fixed this), 1 non functioning interior light (which was traced down to the ECU in the drivers door), recently the remote central locking key stopped working, although it works when you put it in the door. The cost of a new key is £200, so i've not bothered. Both front springs broke, but I partially put this down to the terrible state of the roads where I live. And the exhaust holed, but it had lasted 7 years. None of these faults actually stopped me using the car, I was able to drive to the garage for repairs, never stuck on the hard shoulder.

The Stilo is pretty high tech, you can pick up a 2003 model for £1000 and for that money you'll get a car which should have no rust (not too many parking dings, they are tougher than Punto's of the same vintage). You'll have as standard ABS, EBD, electric windows, electric heated mirrors, 6 airbags, and ISO-fix in the rear. You also get remote Central Locking (although with the 1.2 you only get 1 remote key and 1 regular key).

Fuel economy is pretty good, if you drive sensibly you can easily get close to the 44.8mpg that Fiat claims the Stilo will do. On long drives, at a constant speed you'll get well inexcess of this. I've seen 60mpg on holiday trips. This is probably due to the long 6th gear, if you can maintain a sensible speed then you'll reap the benefits. But if your mainly doing town driving your economy will dip into the 30's.

Colours, the stilo came in a wide range of colours from garish bright yellows and blues, perfect for a teenager. Dark colours make the car look quick, and metallics and light colours give a classy look. The colour in the picture above is called Sassy Grey and is a metallic blue that appears grey silver in winter and a very pale silver blue in summer. Almost all colours suite the Stilo, however there is a dark non-metallic green which Fiat used for a number of years on Punto and Coupe models which does the 3-door Stilo no favours, although this colour does suite the 5-door and Estate.

So would I recommend buying one? Well they don't make them any more, but if your on a budget you can still pick one up from a dealer, only just out of warranty and you get a whole lot of car for very little money.

My money is on the 3-door, its the prettiest of the cars and looks quite sporting, and the 1.2 petrol engine suits it well, revvy and powerful enough, but not so powerful that it means high premiums, and a car you could trust a new driver with.

Things to make you walk away when viewing a Stilo...

Massive alloy wheels, 15's 16's and 17's are the standard sizes of alloy wheels used on the Stilo. Make sure they are genuine Fiat wheels, anything else ruins the handling. The 17's give great grip, the 15's are great for economy. Avoid anything with aftermarket 18's or 19's.

Lowered cars should be treated with suspicion, the car may ride a little high, but its the perfect height for clearing speed humps, any lower will undoubtedly cause undertray or exhaust damage and also puts excess strain on the drivetrain.

Bodykited cars should be avoided. There was an Abarth kit which consited of sideskirts and a boot spoiler, anything other than this just makes the car look tacky.

Massive ram air filters should be avoided, the 1.2 engine will not benefit from it, a new panel filter is best fitted.

Aftermarket stereos should be avoided, the Stilo like many German cars has a CAN-bus network, this controls many things the stereo included. There is no switched live feed so aftermarket stereos need to be bodged into a 12v live, hacked about electrical systems are best avoided.

The Stilo came in a vast range of colours and none are particularly bad or should be avoided, but be careful. for cars with poorly matched paint (suggesting accident damage).

High milage isn't such an issue for the 1.2 Stilo (this engine has been in production for a number of years and proves reliable), but walk away if the service history is missing.

Colour coded engine bays, the sign a Chav has owned the car. The engine bay should be a black engine cover, black air filter housing, black battery cover. All rubber pipework should be black/dark grey.
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Comments about this review »

plipplopfromdooyoo 05.02.2010 14:46

That last section is particularly useful - well done!

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Product Information »

Product details

Range Fiat Stilo
Body Type Hatchback
Range + Engine Type 1.2 4-Cylinder
Transmission type 6-speed manual
Fuel Type Petrol

Show all Product Information

Review Ratings »

This review of Fiat Stilo 1.2 has been rated:

"very helpful" by (100%):

  1. Soho_Black
  2. TheHairyGodmother
  3. HarryKgh

and 3 other members

The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.

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