Geneva Motor Show: Fiat revives an icon, Alfa guns for the Q3

Fiat’s Centoventi is its 120th anniversary revival of the Panda, this time as an electric car


Fiat, which had fallen way behind many rivals when it comes to developing and launching new cars of late, has swung back into action at the Geneva motor show with the Centoventi concept. It’s a 120th birthday present to itself (Centoventi…) and is, in is simplest form, a concept version of the next-generation Panda.

And simple is the watchword here. Fiat has decided to play to its traditional strength, saying: “We do what we do best. Stay at the forefront of democratic mobility. Less is more.” The interior of the Centoventi is designed to be as simple and as stripped out as you like, with basic models coming with a single, small all-digital instrument panel, backed up by a mounting point for you to slip your phone or tablet to, integrating your personal screen into the cabin of the car.

You can specify a larger, more impressive full-width 20-inch screen if you prefer, and the dash roll-top has been designed to be full of holes. No, not an ironic comment on Fiat’s old reputation for rust, but a patented system that allows you top clip on and clip off various components such as cupholders, map pockets, or other storage pods — it’s basically an IKEA furniture system in your car. And if the compact cabin isn’t roomy enough for you, there’s a simple clip-in, clip-out roof box system.

To maximise the interior flexibility, the lightweight front passenger seat can be removed entirely and replaced with a modular system that can either act as a cargo carrier or can even be fitted with a custom-designed child car safety seat.

Fiat says that some of the car’s optional add-ons will, eventually, be available to be downloaded and 3D-printed at home, and HP printers were namechecked in the speech presenting the car, with Fiat taking inspiration from the world of printers — it’ll be cheap to buy, but there will be a plethora of aftermarket add-ons to keep money flowing to Fiat after the initial sale.

It’s an electric car, with three separate battery packs designed for Fiat by Samsung. The car will come as standard with a single battery pack, with a range of just over 100km (it is designed to be a city car after all) and you can choose, either at the point of purchase or afterwards, to add extra battery packs to the car, including one that that be slid into and under the rear seat at home, raising range to as much as 500km. There’s also a solar panel on the roof that can keep the interior chilled on a sunny day by powering the air conditioning system. There’s even a digital display screen built into the boot, which Fiat has suggested could even be a space for owners to sell advertising space to local companies.

Style-wise, it’s square and chunky with interchangeable colour panels, and as a throwback to the original Fiat Panda, there are small ‘cooling’ slots built into the front panel.

Tunnel vision

Meanwhile. across the Fiat-Chrysler stand, Alfa Romeo was pulling off that rare thing — a Geneva motor show surprise. The storied Italian brand was much-rumoured to be about to show off a new compact SUV model at the show, but had managed to keep a lit on the styling and mechanical makeup until mere hours before is official reveal. Called the Tonale, it’s a compact SUV, designed to sit beneath the current Stelvio in the range, and it will be a rival to the likes of the Audi Q3 and the BMW X1. Appropriately, Tonale is the name of a pass through the Italian Alps, which sits some 300-metres lower than the Stelvio Pass…

As well as being Alfa Romeo’s first small SUV, it’s also the brand’s first plugin hybrid, using a combination of 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine and battery pack that will be shared with the Jeep Renegade and Compass 4x4e models. It produces 240hp, and uses electric power to provide energy to the rear wheels, meaning that it doesn’t need a heavy propshaft running to the back of the car. Co2 emissions are expected to be less than 50g/km and electric-only range of around 50km. Alfa hasn’t officially said what chassis the Tonale is using, but given that it shares its hybrid system with the Renegade and Compass, it’s likely that those vehicles also donate their closely related components to the Tonale.

Style-wise, it’s very much an evolution of the Stelvio’s look, but has cleaner, smoother surfacing, hidden rear door handles for a more coupe-like look, while at the front the LED lights seem to create a three-lens effect that seems like a bit of a throwback to the Brera coupe and 159 saloon of the early 2000s.