Fiat Chrysler Automóveis Brasil has launched the new Fiat Cronos; the sedan version of the Argo hatchback, it will take the place of the elderly Grand Siena doubling up the new B-segment model range while offering one of the most spacious boots in its class.
Although it’s almost identical to the Argo apart from developing a boot and new rear structure to replace the hatch there are also plenty of styling upgrades to the front clip in order to clearly differentiate it and give it a more premium sedan feel to contrast with the sporty-feel of the hatchback version which launched last summer.
Being spun off the Argo it’s thus underpinned by the new MP-S (Modular Platform Sedan) platform. Codenamed, X6S, the Cronos is the work of the FCA Design Center Latam. It's certainly a conventional 3-box design but shows plenty of neat styling touches that are a long-time trademark of Fiat's Brazilian division.
The all new rear end has a very pronounced horizontal step in the bootlid between the rear lights which is the sedan version’s key new styling feature. Above this distinct feature, the top section of the bootlid, which integrates a lip spoiler, is concave in form and the new large style rear ‘FIAT’ badge is thus mounted proud of the panel, another deft touch. Lower down there is a fairly conventional real bumper and spoiler with horizontal reflectors, eschewing the form of the Argo’s curved ones.
The key selling point of the Cronos is its class leading boot capacity of 525 litres which puts it narrowly ahead of the 521 litres space that’s being offered by its key rival, the just-launched VW Virtus (the sedan version of the Polo).
Following a longstanding tradition for Fiat models in Latin America, the sedan versions of its hatchbacks also gain new styling upgrades at the front end to emphasise their more upmarket focused differentiation and with the Cronos it’s the same case as there are a number of clear visual differences to the well-received Argo.
While the Cronos retains the same headlights, bonnet and wings, the front grille has a new mesh pattern, there's a thick black finisher inserted between the grille and the headlamps (the headlights and grille actually butt into each other on the Argo) to give it a flush and harmonious feel while there is a chromed whisker to either side of the badge. The front end and the grille treatment pay a big styling nod to the European market Fiat Tipo.
On the lower spoiler the fog lamp has been removed from its position in the Argo where it's embedded into the lower grille and moved outwards to a separate bezel which replaces the hatchback’s slightly awkward dummy brake intake vents. That means the lower spoiler has been reshaped and as well as a new mesh pattern is trimmed with a thick chrome finisher running across the top. That all means the horizontal space between the upper and lower grilles has gained a distinct crease and the spoiler edges have new profiles.
Along the flanks of the Cronos - which feature the highly distinctive double creases of the Argo - the colour coded handles of the Argo are now painted in a chrome finish while there are new chromed horizontal strips running across the lower door sections. The trim level of the higher versions is designed by a wing badge as well as on the bootlid.
The Cronos comes with two engines options, the 1.3-litre Firefly and 1.8-litre EtorQ Evo, meaning the entry level 1.0-litre Firefly option offered on the Argo hasn’t been carried over as the weight of the Cronos sedan rises slightly.
In terms of safety the Cronos offers side air bags, ESC (Electronic Stability Control), TC (Traction Control), Hill Holder and ISOFIX child seat anchorage system.
The Cronos also benefits from the improved construction technology of the Argo, and boasts a 7% increase in torsional rigidity and an 8% increase in flexural stiffness.
Inside there is the now ubiquitous 7-inch Uconnect Touch multimedia system, in the floating style of a tablet and compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This comes as standard across four of the five trim versions, allowing access to ‘Waze’ and ‘WhatsApp’, among other applications. The equipment can be used via controls on the multifunction steering wheel.
The list of technological features on the Cronos also includes iTPMS – tyre pressure sensor – which another standard item across all versions as well as Start & Stop system for better fuel economy, key-operated keyless entry, electrically operated folding and tilting door mirrors, fog lamps, rain sensors, twilight and dazzle sensors, digital automatic air-conditioning, rear camera with dynamic lines, parking sensors and electrically-assisted power steering.
The Cronos will be assembled at the Fiat Chrysler Automóveis factory in Córdoba in Argentina following a R$500 investment and will be exported to all of the major Latin American markets, starting with Brazil. The Córdoba factory currently builds the Siena sedan and has been assembling this strategic B-segment car on and off since the plant first started production in 1996.
The Cronos is a strategically important model for Fiat Automóveis Brasil on its home market. The ageing Siena’s sales have plummeted by two thirds over the last couple of years. The Siena’s latest major makeover came back in 2012 when it was relaunched as the ‘Grand Siena’. The segment the Cronos is set to attack is the second biggest in Brazil and will account for around 330,000 units in 2017 while in Argentina it will be equivalent to about 100,000 units.
Fiat has enjoyed long term strong success in the affordable sedan sector in Brazil and over the last six years it has sold more than four hundred thousand examples of its three mass selling sedans, the Siena, Grand Siena and Linea. The Linea in fact has high residual values and enjoys robust demand from used car buyers.
However, there are more than thirteen popular models on sale in this ever-crowding segment so the Cronos has a tough task ahead to seize the leadership. The new model’s biggest rival in the showrooms is expected to be the just launched VW Virtus (Polo sedan) while the Ford Ka+ (which arrived on the market in Brazil in more than two years ago), the Chevrolet Prisma (the sedan version of the Onix hatchback, which debuted locally in 2013) and the Hyundai HB20S (introduced in Brazil during 2012) will all be targets. All four models of these are assembled in Brazil. Also, in the frame as a strong future rival will be the new Toyota Yaris ATIV.
The range encompasses five versions which offer a mix of two engines and three transmission options:
The entry-level model is the Cronos 1.3 which is powered by the four-cylinder 1.3-litre “Firefly” engine with 109 hp and 14.2 kgfm torque, both figures obtained when using 100% ethanol. The gearbox is five-speed manual.
Coming as standard equipment is air conditioning, electric steering, front electric windows, electric door locking, key with remote control, radio with Bluetooth and USB connections, on board computer, steering wheel with radio and phone commands, TFT 3.5 inch and high-resolution instrument panel, ISOFIX points, iTPMS tyre pressure monitoring system, driver's seat height adjustment, ESS (Emergency Stop Signal), three-point seat belts for rear occupants, rear centre headrest and height-adjustable steering wheel.
Cronos Drive 1.3
Compared to the entry level version, the Cronos Drive 1.3 adds the Uconnect Touch 7-inch Multimedia System 7 and a second USB port for use by the rear passengers.
Optional items include fog lights, split rear seat, alloy wheels, rear-view camera with dynamic lines, parking sensors, electrically-operated mirrors with tilt down, rear electric windows and alarm.
Cronos Drive 1.3 GSR
This version is equipped with the Firefly 1.3 engine and GSR (“Gear Smart Ride”) Comfort five-speed gearbox with button control from the central console. The GSR Comfort functions include ‘Sport’, which offers a sportier driving mode, and ‘Auto Upshift Abort’, which provides stronger speed pick up. This version also has paddle shifters located behind the steering wheel, through which the driver can change gears manually.
In this configuration the Cronos offers the best fuel consumption of the range, either with ethanol or gasoline in the tank.
Also included in addition on this specification level is Start & Stop, ambient lighting, which gives the interior of the Cronos more refinement and sophistication, cruise control, driver’s armrest and rear electric windows. Safety features are ESC, TC and Hill Holder. It can optionally be fitted with fog lights, split rear seat, alloy wheels, parking sensor with alarm sensor and alarm.
Cronos Precision 1.8
Featuring the five-speed manual transmission, this version kicks off the second engine option as it’s equipped with the E.torQ Evo VIS with 139 hp and 19.3 kgfm torque, both being achieved when using 100% ethanol. This engine offers a variable intake manifold system - VIS (Variable Intake System), which ensures more power at lower revs.
Standard equipment for this version, in addition to those of the Drive 1.3, include headlights with LED lights, 16-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, folding electric mirrors with tilt down feature and integrated turn signal repeaters, rear electric windows, split rear seat, rear parking sensor and alarm.
Optionally, the Fiat Cronos Precision 1.8 offers front-side air bags, rear-facing camera with dynamic lines, 7-inch TFT display, digital automatic air conditioning, rear-view mirror with dazzle sensor, electrically-operated exterior mirrors, Keyless Entry'N'Go, rain sensor, light sensor, leather seats, door handles, chrome door trims and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Cronos Precision 1.8 AT6
In this configuration, the Cronos comes with a six-speed automatic transmission, the same as is used on the Toro pickup and the Argo hatchback. That’s mated up to the 1.8 E.torQ Evo VIS engine and features ‘Neutral Function’, which helps fuel economy by decoupling the engine from the transmission during traffic stops.
It also comes with steering wheel paddle shifters for optional manual gear selection, cruise control, ambient lighting, driver’s armrest, leather-wrapped steering wheel and door handles as well as chrome door trims. The optional items list is the same as for the Precision 1.8, except for the chromed trims and handles which come as standard on this version.
The Cronos comes to the market with eight body colour options. Three are solid (‘Banchisa’ White, Vulcan Black and Alpine Red), three metallic (Bari Silver, Scandium Gray and Vesuvius Black) and two pearls (Alaska White and Marsala Red).
The Fiat Cronos has a three-year warranty with no mileage limit. That period may be extended through the Mopar Vehicle Protection (MVP) scheme while the accessory list offers more than forty optional items.
The range kicks off with the entry-level Cronos 1.3 priced at R$ 53,990 and that Firefly engine option completes with the Cronos Drive 1.3 at R$ 55,990 and the Cronos Drive 1.3 GSR at R$ 60,990. Then comes the bigger engine options, across two version, namely the Cronos Precision 1.8 (R$ 62.990) and the Cronos Precision 1.8 AT6 (R$ 69.990).