Family Road Test: Fiat Freemont Urban Diesel
The new Fiat Freemont is a very intriguing car, not the sort of model you would expect from a manufacturer famous for its small cars. It comes with an Italian badge, has American parentage and is made in Mexico. But perhaps most intriguing of all is how inexpensive it is – it looks like tremendous value for money.
So we were very excited to get our hands on a couple of Freemonts for a thorough test. You can read about what we thought of the petrol engined top of the range model here, and below you can find out how we got along with the mid range oil-burner version, the Freemont Urban Diesel.
This road test was very much a family affair. During our time with the Fiat Freemont Urban Diesel we dropped kids off at sleepovers, took them to soccer games, went grocery shopping and even took it to an eventful day at the Ashes! So how did it perform, what did we like and what did not care for?
Big Is Best?
The first thing you notice about the Freemont is that it is big, really, really big. When we parked it up next to the ItalianCar 1968 Alfa Romeo Giulia (admittedly tiny by modern car standards) it looked almost out of scale and freakish as it towered above its distant cousin.
Now we knew it would be on the porky side seeing as the Freemont is the twin sister of the familiar Dodge Journey SUV (a product of the Fiat-Chrysler marriage) but it seems even bigger than we had imagined. A look at the stats reveals that our eyes were not decieiving us, the Freemont is indeed longer and wider than the Journey at a whopping 4910mm and 1878mm respectively.
To give those figures greater perspective the Fiat is longer than the Land Rover Discovery, the Ford Territory and even the mighty Jeep Grand Cherokee – it’s a big unit alright.
For some this may further reinforce Fiat’s value for money proposition. If you want maximum size for you buck then look no further. The size also allows plenty of room for the 7 seats and we predict that this will be a very popular option with Freemont buyers. The 7 seater option is available on all trim levels and adds roughly $1500 to the price.
Driving The Freemont
So the Freemont is big, but how is to drive? Well the size and general chunkiness is definitely a double edged sword when it comes the daily run around with kids. We loved its solidity and the way it felt like it could soak up the inevitable abuse that three kids and a dog would deliver. And we liked its commanding driving position and general king-of-the-road attitude. What wasn’t quite so appealing was the Freemont’s maneuverability in tight spaces and poor visibility.
The good news is that when driving the Freemont on the open road the bulk seems to fall away; the controls are light and the responsiveness of the Multijet Turbo Diesel is impressive. On the highway the ultra tall sixth gear provides for very lazy, unstressed progress with 100 kph coming up with the rev counter barely nudging 2k.
The gearbox is very nice to use with a good, positive action and well spaced ratios. But it is the aforementioned engine that is the real star when it comes to driving the Freemont. It’s only a two litre but it manages to the haul the big car around with aplomb. You’re not going to win any traffic light grands prix but you’re also not going to get too much sand kicked in your face by nippier cars. Something else that impressed us about the engine was the relative lack of turbo lag; put your foot down in the Freemont and it will dig in a go rather than providing the typical and unnerving turbo diesel spooling delay. We found this particularly impressive after jumping out of our regular family car, the trusty Citroen C4 Picasso.
An area where the Freemont does not score so well in is visibility. This again was exaggerated by comparing the Fiat with our Picasso which has class leading visibility and impressive airiness to the cabin. The Freemont’s high and narrow windows, repetitively small rear screen and humongous a-pillars that could hide a road-train, lend it a tank-like feel.
Big Car Thirst?
I’m going to sing the praises of the two litre Multijet turbo diesel engine again because the fuel consumption of this big car is very impressively low. During a week of mainly city driving often will a full load of kids and accouterments we averaged 7.7 l/100km – the fuel gauge hardly twitched.
The Freemont felt like a safe car due to its bulk and surefooted handling. Backing up this underlying feeling of security is the impressive list of safety features which includes:
- Electronic Stability Control
- Active front headrests
- Side curtain airbags
- Hill holder
- Rollover mitigation
For me the only blot on the Freemont’s safety copybook is its visibility, with the bulky a-pillars being particularly troublesome.
Our test car was a mid range Urban model which meant we had to forego the top of the line toys such as DVD player, heated seats, satellite navigation and leather upholstery. But we still think the spec list is impressive for a car that retails for a mere $36,315 drive away. Here are some of the highlights:
- Dual zone climate control
- Electric drivers seat controls
- Tyre pressure monitoring system
- Keyless entry
- Rear parking assistance camera
- Uconnect phone with Bluetooth® audio streaming
- Roof bars
Have Fiat got a winner on their hands with the chunky Freemont? We think so, but time will tell. On paper the car has so much going for it that it almost seems to good to be true, but what is truly remarkable is how the car doesn’t disappoint when you are behind the wheel.
We played a game while we had the car whereby we asked anyone who travelled in it, or commented on what they thought it would sell for. Everyone, without exception, guessed a figure way higher than the actual sticker price with the highest coming from our neighbour who thought the Freemont was worth $80k!
As already mentioned we think that the 7 seater option will the big seller. It offers handsomely rugged good looks combined with impressive family swallowing capacity – how many cars can claim that?
So, If you want a capable big family car and you want to impressive the Jones’ without spending a fortune the Fiat Freemont Urban Diesel may be right up your autostrada.