Fiat Marea 5-cylinder (1996 – 2002), noble engines at rock bottom prices, from €1,500

In the 1990s, Fiat, under the impulse of its general manager Paolo Cantarella, experienced a relatively prosperous period. The Italian giant acquired a range with a strong and modern style, the Punto which started in 1993. The Coupé arrived the same year, followed in 1995 by the Barchetta and the Bravo-Brava duo in the compact category. This, like the Coupé founded on the basis of the Tipo, was initially a great success. The decision to derive a more expensive model from it also seems relevant at first sight. This more luxurious car is the Marea, which has since been forgotten.

The Marea was available as a sedan and as a Weekend station wagon. The latter, much more attractive and practical, sold much better.

Why ? Because Fiat has notoriously invested too little to develop the Marea. He didn’t distinguish it sufficiently from the Brava, of which he is the clone, or almost, from the rear doors. From there, the Marea is available as a 3-volume sedan or as a Weekend station wagon, the latter proving particularly well designed with its high-mounted lights. Under the hood we usually find the blocks of the Bravo-Brava, including the excellent 5-cylinder 2.0 l petrol valves of 147 hp.

At the wheel, the dashboard of the Fiat Marea remains that of a Brava.  It's not bad, but a real differentiation would have been commercially beneficial.
At the wheel, the dashboard of the Fiat Marea remains that of a Brava. It’s not bad, but a real differentiation would have been commercially beneficial.

In addition, the Marea is entitled to the 2.4 l, still 5 cylinder, already seen in the Lancia Kappa. It is a turbo diesel with indirect injection that develops about 124 hp, so a very estimable cavalry. This block is associated with two finishes, ELX and HLX. The first already includes electric front and rear windows, K7 6HP radio, regulated air conditioning, driver airbag, alloy wheels and front fog lamps.

Despite its ribbed boot lid, the Marea sedan lacks a bit of personality when viewed from behind.
Despite its ribbed boot lid, the Marea sedan lacks a bit of personality when viewed from behind.

The HLX adds ABS, passenger airbag, electric rear windows, CD radio with steering wheel controls or even painted side moldings. The 2.0 l is also only available in HLX. Prices start at 134,900 F (current €28,200 according to INSEE) for the TD 125 ELX. The HLX trim requires an extra 13,300 F (all the same!) and the SW body 4,700 F more. For its part, the 2.0 l is shown from 142,300 F. Interesting prices in absolute terms, but high considering the image of Fiat, and these are explained by the fact that the Marea replaces not only Tempra but also partially Croma.

The very pleasantly designed Fiat Marea Weekendbreak benefits from a spacious trunk, ranging from 500 l to 1,550 l.
The very pleasantly designed Fiat Marea Weekendbreak benefits from a spacious trunk, ranging from 500 l to 1,550 l.

In any case, the engines guarantee good performance (from a maximum of 195 to 205 km / h), a pleasant soundtrack and a smooth use that is unusual in the category. After that, the Marea will evolve relatively little. In addition to a light restyling at the beginning of 1999 (revised interior plastics), the biggest change concerns the diesel supply, which will receive a common-rail injection in 1999.

The result is more power (131 hp) and lower fuel consumption. For its part, the 2.0 l climbs to 155 hp. The Fiat will continue in this way, with a few minor adjustments, until 2002. Too bad that the 2.4 20v and 2.0 l turbo petrol offered in Brazil never made the crossing to Europe!

In March 1999, the Fiat Marea benefited from a very minor retouching on the outside.  They are more sensitive inside and under the hood, where the blocks gain strength.
In March 1999, the Fiat Marea benefited from a very minor retouching on the outside. They are more sensitive inside and under the hood, where the blocks gain strength.

How much is it ?

The market that the Marea excellently ignores is offered for a pittance. Count $1,500 for a TD in good condition, and $2,000 for a JTD. Petrol will charge €2,000 instead. Station wagons are slightly more expensive, around €300. The most expensive cars are around € 4,000 with a low mileage.

A 1999 JTD130 Weekend station wagon, in HLX finish, distinguished by its body color headlamp washers and side bars.
A 1999 JTD130 Weekend station wagon, in HLX finish, distinguished by its body color headlamp washers and side bars.

Which version to choose?

More stylish and practical, the station wagon seems to be preferred. For diesel, opt for common rail, which is more efficient, economical and reliable.

Major advantage of the Marea Weekend station wagon: the bumper that tilts to lower the loading sill.
Major advantage of the Marea Weekend station wagon: the bumper that tilts to lower the loading sill.

Collector versions

Any Marea in perfect condition and with low mileage could potentially be considered a collector’s item. In theory…

Well designed and built, the Fiat Marea is a very reliable car, but few are in good condition at the moment: the low rating does not encourage you to maintain it well...
Well designed and built, the Fiat Marea is a very reliable car, but few are in good condition at the moment: the low rating does not encourage you to maintain it well…

What to monitor?

Mechanically, these cars are very durable if properly maintained. They are quite numerous in advertisements every 300,000 km, which does not mean that there are no problems. Mechanically we are going to keep an eye on the turbo on the diesels, especially the 124 hp. Another source of problems on these blocks, the flywheel and clutch, but little more. Essentially, we will replace the camshaft phase shifter when replacing the timing belt, a rather painful operation due to the lack of space under the hood (also valid for diesel).

The electronics are also a source of trouble, on the part of the coded immobilizer and the airbag warning light, which comes on for no reason. Corrosion can affect the underside of units used in areas where the roads are very salty in winter, which is not alarming given the age of the cars.

On the road, the Marea Weekend 2.4 is safe and alert, while its powerful engine produces beautiful music.
On the road, the Marea Weekend 2.4 is safe and alert, while its powerful engine produces beautiful music.

The driving

Always a nice look for the Marea WE, especially outdoors. The dashboard, typical of the 90s with its chubby design, is less attractive, but the ergonomics are a model of its kind. Too bad his plastics aren’t more flattering. At the rear, the suitcase swallows a considerable luggage volume and benefits from a very low threshold, thanks to the folding bumper. In the front, although the steering wheel is only height-adjustable, the driving position is impeccable and the seat offers very acceptable comfort. The engine revival transcends this spacious but lackluster cabin.

A very typical 90s cockpit for the Fiat Marea, here a 2.4 JTD HLX from 1999 with optional leather upholstery.
A very typical 90s cockpit for the Fiat Marea, here a 2.4 JTD HLX from 1999 with optional leather upholstery.

Needless to say, a 5 cylinder is beautiful. A little quiver at low revs, the block then reveals iron health, full of torque in the midrange. Then he would almost sing at the beginning of the red zone: what a temperament! The box, handy and well staged, is the perfect second. The chassis too! Sufficiently precise, healthy and predictable, it even shows a certain liveliness, even if the suspension remains a bit firm. Finally, the braking is effective. In short, a very homogeneous and lively car, which consumes an average of 6.5 l/100 km.

The Newtimer Alternative

Fiat Croma JTDm 200 (2005 – 2010)

Hard to imagine less sexy than the line of the Fiat Croma II, here in 2005. Too bad because the 2.4 l 200 hp block is economical and pleasant to the ear.
Hard to imagine less sexy than the line of the Fiat Croma II, here in 2005. Too bad because the 2.4 l 200 hp block is economical and pleasant to the ear.

Although signed Giugiaro, the Croma II’s line, halfway between the sedan and the break, doesn’t cause the crush. It’s the least we can say! The passenger compartment, on the other hand, is very welcoming and very well made: a Fiat had never reached this level. Unfortunately, if it is spacious, it lacks a sliding bench seat.

Following the Fiat/GM agreements, the Croma platform comes from the Opel Vectra, as opposed to the diesel engines, which are very Italian. Among them, the 5-cylinder 2.4 l is particularly attractive, with its power (200 hp), its torque (400 Nm) and its sound. Coupled exclusively to a six-speed automatic transmission, it gives this large and comfortable car great performance, reaching a maximum speed of nearly 220 km/h. From € 3,000.

Reasonably neat rear seat in the Maera, where the passengers benefit from an armrest and central ventilation opening.  Here, a weekend from 1997.
Reasonably neat rear seat in the Maera, where the passengers benefit from an armrest and central ventilation opening. Here, a weekend from 1997.

Technical specifications Fiat Marea 2.4 JTD (1999)

  • Engine: 5-cylinder in-line, 2387cc
  • Fuel supply: common rail direct injection, turbo
  • Suspension: McPherson struts, coil springs, stabilizer bar (AV); wishbones, coil springs anti-roll bar (rear)
  • Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • Power: 131 hp at 4,000 rpm
  • Torque: 304 Nm at 2000 rpm
  • Weight: 1295 kg
  • Maximum speed: 197 km/h (manufacturer data)
  • 0 to 100 km/h: 10 s (manufacturer data)

Visit the La Centrale website to find a used Fiat Marea

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