The Geneva Motor Show will be the setting for a world premiere of the compact Multi Purpose Vehicle to be marketed in major European countries between this autumn and the beginning of 2004.
Known in-house as the 'Project 350', the originality of this new model lies in its marriage of two conflicting motoring concepts. Handling and compact size on the one hand (it measures a little under four metres in length, 1.70 metres in width and 1.66 metres in height) - and all the modularity and versatility of a true MPV on the other.
This ability to meet diverse needs will make the model the new benchmark in the compact Multipurpose Vehicle market band: a fast-changing subsegment that the most prestigious manufacturers are queuing to enter and where Fiat is poised to play a starring role.
And more: the new car is designed for all but is bound to appeal, in particular, to 'early adopters', i.e. the sort of customer who is more curious about new products, more open to brand new solutions and more willing to accept them.
Such people are more mentally open and active by nature at work and at play. They are men and women who have learnt how to make the most of their time between one engagement and the next, whether personal or job-related. They are good at snatching time to relax and obtaining gratification wherever they can. They see their car as an ideal place to do this if, like the 'Project 350', it offers an opulent, warm and welcoming environment. A flexible, modular space that can be altered to accommodate changing needs. A space where you can enjoy all the special comforts that come from being able to choose colours and fabrics, make the most of the space available and enjoy an impression that is sophisticated yet carefree.
Such customers are the privileged exponents of the sort of elegant yet comfortable and informal design philosophy that gave us deck shoes that are ideal for sailing boats but also perfect for an evening stroll and aperitif. Or a sports shirt that would look equally good on a more dressy occasion.
This is the background to the 'Project 350', a radically innovative model that offers exclusive equipment and devices: automatic dual zone climate control system, six airbags and an advanced robotics gearbox that can work in sequential and automatic mode. Oh, and the 'Project 350' is also one of the most comfortable cars in its segment. The evidence is in the details: great ease of access, adjustable steering wheel and driver's seat, wheelbase of 2510 mm - and a broad luggage compartment that can be modulated by moving the sliding rear seat.
The 'Project 350' is an ideal vehicle for young families who are always on the go, a faithful companion in town traffic on working days and an oasis of relaxation and calm during weekends and on long trips. The model is aimed at customers with different needs, tastes and lifestyles but one common goal: the desire to own a good-looking, comfortable car that can satisfy their need for freedom.
The 'Project 350' is thus a Multi Purpose Vehicle first and foremost. For one thing, it is higher than segment B and C vehicles. This means that the driver sits in a different position in relation to the ground for easier access and mastery of the road.
And more. Just climb aboard the MPV to find out what it really means to be comfortable in any situation. For our customers, this means plenty of room exactly where you need it. It means being able to get into and out of the car easily and, once you are sitting comfortably, it means having an airy, well-lit environment with oceans of glass and a large sunroof - also in glass.
All this on a car that is much smaller on the outside than a conventional multipurpose car.
The 'Project 350' looks solid and secure yet also original and stylish. It is easily identifiable from the outside by broad shoulders and generous wheels brought together by a clean-cut, up-to-date shape of great personality. The smooth shape without edges communicates a sense of subtle power and emphasises a nurturing, protective shell-like passenger compartment that guarantees safety while promising comfort. Interior comfort is sustained by a versatile passenger compartment with the greatest attention to every aesthetic and technical detail. The sophisticated, harmonious design of the cabinetwork and trim reflects combined excellence in the fields of ergonomics, acoustic comfort and climate control. The result is an ideal environment for travelling in comfort and relaxation. The model's welcoming, versatile passenger compartment reveals attention to the tiniest detail. The sophisticated, beautifully-proportioned design of the cabinetwork and trim furthers the car's underlying goal of emphasising interior roominess and balance to ensure a comfortable, relaxing trip. The designers strove for excellence in the fields of ergonomics, acoustics and climate control.
Thus the upper part of the innovative facia is as soft and yielding as on a higher segment car. An original-looking dashboard is set into the centre while the keys and controls are easy to identify and use. The gearbox is in the middle of the facia close to the steering wheel in an ergonomic position. And more: the facia offers two roomy closed glove compartments and a double DIN compartment in the centre, These are complemented by large pouches on the door panels, a roof compartment and a roomy console between the front seats. Even the backrests offer storage space. Apart from anything else, all five seats are comfortable, user friendly and safe. A few swift movements can also put them into different configurations, including a novel position designed for optimum relaxation. In this case, the front seats fold forward to form a table while the rear seat backrest tilts back by more than 45 degrees. The space inside the 'Project 350' can also be changed to meet your requirements. This is achieved due to a tilting front seat and the fact that the two rear seats slide forward and backward and can be reclined independently.
As far as safety is concerned, the new compact MPV is at the top of its segment. The model offers up to 6 airbags (front with two activation stages, sidebags and windowbags that protect the rear passengers too); adjustable front seat-belts (with pretensioner and load limiter) and three point rear belts (including a central position). The model also comes with ISOFIX attachments to enable you to carry even the smallest passengers in absolute safety. The 'Project 350' is also well-equipped for active safety with ABS with EBD and Brake Assist as standard while ESP can be added as an option together with a Hill Holder for easier hill starts.
Scintillating performance but low fuel consumption: the winning features of the engines packaged with the new model. All are particularly noiseless due to exhaust systems with optimised layout and configuration. The range available at the launch will include a petrol-driven 1.4 16 valve unit and a 1.3 Multijet 16v, both combined with a manual or robotised 'Dualogic' gearbox. Over the ensuing months, these will be followed by a 1.2 16v and a 1.9 JTD Multijet.