Fiat has introduced the latest version of its venerable small car, the Uno.
Launched to much mirth on the local market in the early 90s, the Uno quickly established a reputation for miserly economy and simplicity, with a requisite dash of Italian design style. Unsurprisingly, 116 000 units were sold.
The latest version, produced in Brazil, is well suited to South African driving conditions.
Positioned in the South African market space as an affordable and durable transport solution, the new Uno has much to offer.
Aesthetically, it looks strikingly similar to the old model, albeit more substantial. The styling is very much of the box-shape industrial design school which is hardly contemporary but does yield useful interior space utilisation.
Three models will be available initially, a three- and five-door as well as a five-door raised body variant called the Way.
All three models are powered by a fuel-injected 1.2-litre, eight-valve, four cylinder powerplant well known to Palio owners.
Producing 50kW and 111Nm and weighing in at under a ton, the Uno provides reasonable performance.
The 0-100 km/h sprint takes 13.4 seconds and if you really flog it you could see just under 160 km/h at the top end.
All out performance is hardly the point though, and miserly fuel consumption is more tangibly the performance benchmark for the new Uno.
A largest-in-class tank capacity of 50 litres and combined cycle consumption of 7.2 l/100 km yields a range of nearly 700 km and is sure to make plenty of sense for budget-minded buyers.
Dirt road king
On the launch route just outside Brakpan we only got the drive the raised body Way version. With 43mm more ground clearance it cuts a cheeky if odd appearance. On the road, especially off-road, it proved quite capable.
Considering its entry level requirements, the interior is of a decidedly utilitarian nature with no radio and everything adjustable only by hand. Despite this, the dash is finished in a nice soft touch plastic trim that enhances the overall cabin ambiance.
Dynamically the 1.2-litre engine provides reasonable go, as long, as the optional air-conditioning is not in use. The five-speed manual gearbox shifts with some accuracy, but the offset pedals are horribly hinged and require some getting used to.
Suspended with independent MacPherson struts and lower wishbones at the front and a torsion beam axle at the rear, the Uno handles with relative ease and retains a tight turning circle.
On the off-road portion of the launch route, which included severely rutted dirt roads, tight corners and even some little mini-cross like jumps, the front suspension's integrated roll-bar and rear suspension stabilizer bar came in their own.
With its raised ground clearance, the Way may seem to some as a very peculiar small car joke, but it took a severe amount of dirt road punishment very much in its stride. In a country where most of the rural road network is either underdeveloped or deteriorating it makes an awful lot of sense.
The braking system, which consists of a front disc and rear drum set-up has vicious bite and should reign the Uno in with consummate easy, even when fully laden.
From a safety perspective there may not be airbags, but the steering column is collapsible and there are side-impact bars for peace of mind.
Sparsely equipped, keenly priced
The spare wheel mounted in the engine compartment adds mightily to its utilitarian nature and allows the new Uno to have 290-litres of bootspace, a best in class figure.
Priced at R69 900 for the entry level three-door right up to R74 000 for the five-door raised body Way version, the Uno range is very keenly priced.
In the line of features you do not get an awful lot at the list price and if you fit some of the options such as the requisite air-conditioning or central locking the bargain pricing structure might start to alter.
There is no argument in the wholesome, self-maintenance nature of the engineering and the raised body usability of the Way. It should attract a lot of attention, especially from entry level buyers in rural market areas.
The Uno is back, and a market which regarded it with muffled mirth in the 90s has been replaced with one which regards it with begrudging respect today.
Uno 1.2 3-dr R69 900
Uno 1.2 5-dr R71 900
Uno 1.2 5-dr Way R74 900