Tuned: Fiat Palio S10

Cars are machines with character and charm, and few have the enduring appeal of the Fiat Palio S10
The Fiat Palio S10 was one of the first 'warm' hatchbacks in the country – and this one has been TUNED!
The Fiat Palio S10 was one of the first 'warm' hatchbacks in the country – and this one has been TUNED!Abu Abraham

The Fiat Palio is a special car, it was the first warm hatchback in the country and was perhaps one of the few cars actually focussed towards enthusiasts. Most people would sum up the Palio as a car with terrible reliability and poor build quality. Speak to any enthusiast though, and they’ll tell you that the Palio is indeed one of the finest hatchbacks the country has ever seen. And this example here isn’t extensively modded like the Polo you read about earlier in our TUNED Section. Instead, it is more ‘OEM+’ — just enough to heighten the Thrill of Driving and not make you cream your pants.

“I wanted a unique car,” says Akhil who owns this Palio. More than a decade ago, Kerala was seeing a massive rise in the tuner car culture. In fact, Kerala might have been the epicentre of the initial movement in the country, and pioneers of some mods that hadn’t been seen in India before. But, the cars used were mostly Japanese — reliability aside, getting parts for old Hondas and Marutis is also easier. But Akhil always lusted after the Canary Yellow S10, and after years of hunting for a good example he finally found one. “I bought it in 2012 with just 7333km, a grandpa owned it, and he never really drove it” says Akhil. He took the car straight for a full respray to restore the yellow paintwork and got brand new tyres onto it.

17-inch Lenso rims look beautiful
17-inch Lenso rims look beautifulAbu Abraham

“Then after a year I started slowly modifying it.” Akhil initially got new Lenso Venom 17-inch rims, wrapped in Nitto 205/40 R17 tyres, a full Raj Hingorani exhaust system with headers, and later remapped the ECU from Pete’s. Soon after the remap came the WilWood big brake kit, Green Cotton stock replacement air filter and the Hotbits adjustable coilovers to lower the car and improve handling. In terms of numbers, this Palio is making approximately 113bhp, the stock car produced 98bhp. The car hasn’t been dyno’d so we can’t tell you an exact power and torque output, but torque should also be up by about 10 per cent, from stock to about 150Nm. There are also a bunch of cosmetic modifications to this S10 including the super cool Hella 450 auxiliary fog lights, an OMP hood pin kit and an Auto Gauge RPM meter on the inside.

Perhaps the biggest question with any Fiat is reliability, but in the 8 years of owning the car, Akhil says trouble has been minimal. “Take your Fiat to a Fiat mechanic, it’ll be perfect,” he says. Timing belts are a common problem with these cars and Akhil takes his car to the mechanic once a month just to make sure everything is working as it should.

Pete's map bumps up the power by approximately 15 bhp
Pete's map bumps up the power by approximately 15 bhpAbu Abraham

He also added that engine modifications on Fiats should be kept minimal, which is why the Pete’s map is fairly mild and no other engine work has been done to it. “I owned a turbocharged S10, but it kept breaking down”. Fiats are only unreliable if they haven’t been taken care of, or if they’re not driven often. Akhil tries his best to do both, hooning the Palio at every chance he gets and treating it like the poster car it once was to him. Parts availability is also sorted out by a Fiat owners group. “Fiat owners are too into it,” he chuckles. The owners group helps source original parts either from old leftover stock from around the country, refurbished second- hand parts or from overseas. In other cars you could get away with third party bits, “but for a Fiat you need the original parts”.

Akhil intends to keep this Palio S10 with him for a long time, and not change much more to it. Honestly, as an owner of a fairly unreliable car myself, it sounds weird but a car that needs care and maintenance has a closer bond to you. Newer cars all work well, and have a tonne of electronics to let you know even when to shift gear. The newer cars are certainly more liveable. But sometimes you need a car whose only focus is to drive well, and to look cool while doing it. And no one does that better than the Italians.

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