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