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Fiat hatches return to Golf sector

Date: 27 July 2015   |   Author: Guy Bird

Fiat's last five-door hatchback offering was the Bravo

Fiat is planning a return to the compact hatchback and estate market dominated by the Focus, Astra and Golf. The new hatch is expected late in 2016 with the sportwagon to follow in early 2017.

The brand's last five-door hatchback offering was the Bravo, which went off-sale in 2014, and it hasn't offered a compact estate since the Stilo Multiwagon went out of production in 2007.

Based on the same platform as the Aegea saloon that was unveiled at the Istanbul motorshow in May but which is currently not planned for the UK, the car's new name has yet to be confirmed, and given the market's size it could soon become a massive volume contributor for the brand as part of its plan to resurrect a more rational range of products to appeal to businesses.

As Elena Bernardelli, head of Fiat and Abarth brands in the UK told BusinessCar: "The segment represents a quarter of the overall market and it's all about fleet. As long as the car has the right engines and margins, the volume will be there. Built in Turkey, it will have lower production costs and could be our second biggest seller, with 20,000 units a year."

The Fiat 500 and 500C's 44,000 units last year represented virtually two-thirds of the firm's 67,162 total, of which Bernardelli says the majority were retail. With other 500 model variants such as the 500X and 500L and 500MPW - plus the Panda(10,000 units) - scooping up most of the rest, a rebalance was deemed sensible and urgent.

The new car range will join the Panda on the rational side of Fiat's line-up and is set to boost the overall range's 36% fleet sales mix considerably. Bernardelli also told BusinessCar that within Fiat UK's fleet split, daily rental (6000 units) and Motability (3000 units) still feature and hinted at more, in line with growing market share, as she added: "10% or less daily rental within total volume is okay."

To keep the emotional side of the brand in motion, a Fiat Spider, joint-engineered with Mazda, is due in quarter three of 2016 after its sister brand Abarth gets its version on the same platform in quarter one.

Bernardelli also revealed the firm's intention to expand its Abarth dealer network by adding 20-plus more sales outlets - all likely to be within existing Fiat dealers - to push the total to 85 as the business seeks to increase its current 2200 annual sales.