I’ve had plenty of comments in the week I had the Freemont saying it looks like a Dodge and those comments are essentially right, the Freemont is the first car to benefit from the partnership between Fiat and Chrysler and is a pretty much a Dodge Journey although there are some differences that set the Fiat Freemont apart from it’s Dodge twin.
Lots of people have said that they didn’t know Fiat made SUV’s so the Freemont stirred up more interest then I actually thought it would, but after driving it around for a week that interest is greatly deserved. Although while it may have SUVish looks I would say it’s more like a cross between a family wagon and a people mover.
The Freemont is available in 3 trim levels with the base model aptly named the Freemont Base which at the moment you can pick up for 27k drive away says Fiat have priced it extremely competitively and below the price of it’s Dodge twin.
I’m reviewing the Top of the range Freemont Lounge model which I recon is a good way to describe this car as this car is loaded to the gun walls with features, the minute you sit inside you swallowed with luxury you would expect from something more expensive.
The Leather seats are just plain and simply awesome they offer the perfect mix of support and comfort the drivers seat has electrical adjustment ion 6 directions combined with a 4 direction electrically adjusted lumbar support which made it extremely easy to find the perfect driving position.
The passenger seat offers manual adjustment and lumbar but also the seat base tilts forward to reveal a very handy 29 x 23.6 cm storage spot which is great for keeping your personal possessions out of public display. both front seats are also heated to keep those cold mornings at bay.
The wrap around dash which features chrome accents on the door trims, steering wheel, instrument panel, a strip running across the middle of the dash length wise ties it all together and gives the Freemont the classy European touches you’d expect from the Italian manufacturer.
The leather bound steering wheel is very comfortable to hold even after several hours behind the wheel, the switch gear on the wheel is very Chrysler family looking which lets you control the cruise control, voice recognition for the audio system and the buttons that allow you to access the myriad of vehicle functions available via the LCD screen nestled in between the tacho and speedo.
The instruments which are also very Chrysler looking light up a mixture of red and lights at night is simply very pleasing to eye’s and one of the best looking instrument setups I’ve seen.
The centre of the dash is taken up by the 8.4 inch colour touch screen for the Fiat UConnect system and while this car has many, many features this was one of my favourite parts of the car. The lounge is blessed with a Alpine audio system packing a 368 watt amp and subwoofer is simply the best sounding factory audio system I’ve had the pleasure of testing the sound is just amazing.
The Uconnect system is essentially the heart of the car as you can control just about all the of the car functions via the 8.4 touch screen including various audio and media settings and the climate aircon controls. It has full Bluetooth connectivity so you can wirelessly stream your phone’s music, the Bluetooth was extremely easy to use and took no more then 20 sec to setup my phone. The voice recognition works well and allows you to not only make calls, but will let select the music track you want to listen to.
There is also a USB connection and AUX port for you to connect you iwhatever up as well.
The Lounge was also fitted with a sat nav system which was extremely easy to use the bonus is the turn by turn instructions that come up the instrument panel lcd screen.
This particular car came with the optional 9″ video screen which works well and is good for keeping the younglings entertained on long trips.
The back seat is accessed via back doors that can open up to 90deg which makes loading the car seats a breeze, this car also came with the optional Flexable Seating Group which includes the 3rd row seating (which fold into the floor giving it a almost flat rear load space), adjustable sliding second row, built in booster seats which is great if you have younger kids and tri zone climate control air conditioning.
Now for the downsides I found the back seat flat and not extremely comfortable, leg room was barely adequate and it would be a squeze to get 3 adults across the back seaat and if you did the one in the middle ends up sitting on the seat belt buckles.
The news is pretty much the same for the 3rd row seats is there is very limited legroom for anyone but younger kids.
The rear load area offers a resonable amount space and the 2nd and third row seats do fold flat to open up the storage space to 1461litres, this car is all about storage as there storage spot everywhere including 2 storage bins in the floor behind the front seats.
The Fiat engineers have managed to wave magic wand over the suspension and steering ( to make it more responsive then it’s Dodge twin ) and while this is good for the Europen market it doesn’t quite tick all the boxes for me. The ride is a touch firm but this does help the Freemont corner well the compromise though is that while it rides really smooth on decent roads it does get a touch jittery on the your typical Sydney back road but not bad enough to be off putting. The brakes work very well and offer good pedal feel which I like.
The Freemont comes with a 2.4L naturally aspirated 4 cyl engine developing 125kw and 220nm of torque backed by a 6 speed auto transmission, which in my just enough power to get by with it keep up with traffic alright but the problem is this car weighs a touch over 1800kg so fuel economy does suffer specially in the bumper to bumper traffic I have spend my time in during the week. Now my well published right foot concretitist means that every car I test other people could get better mileage then me but in stop start, stop start traffic I struggled to keep it under 19L/100km, on the highway though it did get down to a respectable 8.1L/100km and in a mix of extra urban and highway driving it returned 10.1L/100km so you can get respectable economy numbers specially when your average speed gets above 15km/h. The not very big torque numbers also mean you have to plan any overtaking moves on the highway.
There is an optional 125kw 350nm diesel engine which means better economy and performance but the downside to that is it only comes with a manual transmission.
The 6 speed auto shifts smoothly but it can get a touch confused when faced with hills in at times it will hunt for gears, specially on the highway or when you have a few people on board but that could be because of the lack of torque.
Safety wise the Freemont gets full marks from me as it’s packed full safety features including Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), electronic brake distribution (EBD), electronic stability control (ESC), airbags, anti-lock braking (ABS) with brake assist, Hill-Holder and electronic roll over mitigation, reverse sensors and rear view camera which one of the clearest pictures I’ve seen on rear view camera system.
Over the week I found Fiat Freemont rather enjoyable,it’s extremely comfortable and I think it’s ideally suited to a couple offering wagon size room or a couple with young children specially with the built in bootser seats. The Lounge model is very lavishly equip, it’s packed full of safety features, the UConnect system offers easy Bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition, the sound from the Alpine audio system is simply unbelievable for a factory system in car in this price range.
Sure there are a few negatives for me such as rear seat legroom (my eldest daughter is nearly as tall as myself so she would have issues), lack of performance from the 4cyl engine (there is an optional turbo diesel) but they might not be downsides to other people and certainly the legroom wouldn’t be an issue if you have small children.
if you are in market for an SUV with plenty of features for a very little price then certainly you should have a look at the Fiat Freemont, for more info on the Fiat Freemont or Fiat’s great range of vehicles visit their website http://www.fiat.com.au big thanks to the Fiat Chrysler group lending me the Freemont for the week.