When Giorgetto Giugiaro began designing the new Croma, his brief from Fiat was to create not just another, ‘me-too’, medium-range saloon, but to produce a car that would really appeal to business people with families. As a result, he had to address two seemingly conflicting attitudes.
Most business people like the smooth, sleek styling of a modern saloon, but often find the cramped interior uncomfortable and totally unrealistic for their families - the spaciousness of an MPV is much more practical.
By contrast, most MPV drivers acknowledge the comfort and practical benefits of their people carrier, but still have a hankering for the handling, drivability, and feel-good factor of a modern saloon.
With these criteria in mind, the new Croma was created - a car that addresses both issues. It’s considerably taller than its main saloon rivals, giving it a large volume of versatile interior space, and making it particularly comfortable and easy to get in and out of.
Meanwhile its saloon underpinnings and strong engines make it a satisfying car to drive.
Right from the start, Giorgetto Giugiaro had a clear idea of what he wanted to achieve: "I sought to make the Croma what it should be: extraordinarily spacious, highly innovative, and stunning in looks and quality. In this type of car, interior roominess takes top priority, so I looked back on the experience I gained from the design of the Maserati Buran concept car in 2000 - a high-performance, luxury car that was also extremely spacious and functional. In fact I used the same roominess and access co-efficients. All the while I was thinking about the importance of easy access, onboard space, and a comfortable interior."
Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of the new Croma is its height - it stands some 10 cm taller than the average medium-range saloon car, providing easy access, superior all-round vision, and loads of space. You don’t have to bend down or step up to get into a Croma.
Style-wise, it features deep flanks, a steep sloping bonnet with a dramatic V-shape in it, and flamboyant sweeps that lead into the front wheelarches and out of the rear ones. The nose benefits from the new Fiat family look and, at the rear, the Croma’s flared wheel arches give it a decidedly muscular and powerful appearance.
Compared with its compact MPV rivals, the new Croma certainly has the edge over them in terms of length, meaning more front and rear legroom and exceptional loadspace - over three metres in length with the front seat folded down.
"In the last 20 years, technological progress and marketing expectations have evolved rapidly," considers Giugiaro. "We just have to think of safety and the work involved in inserting airbags in the most effective positions, the services offered by electronics in terms of individual comfort, active and passive safety, and of information. I would say that, compared to the three-box Croma of 1985, the new Croma has taken on board the lessons learned from people movers - tall cars in which the space can be interpreted freely according to circumstances - whilst maintaining the image of a very comfortable saloon."
The front of the new car features elegant, distinctive styling combining streamlined headlamp clusters, a large grille instantly identifying the Croma as the latest addition to the Fiat range, a seamless, body-coloured bumper which integrates the strong, deep ‘V’ coachwork lines locating the front grille and reinforcing the bonnet, and a deep front airdam complete with integral foglamps.
Aided by flush, frameless junctions between the windscreen and both roof and A pillars, as well as carefully considered wing mirror and roof rail detailing, the new Fiat’s powerfully aerodynamic front profile rewards the car with an outstanding Cd figure of just 0.28, affording the Croma an exceptionally quiet interior at motorway cruising speeds.
From the side, muscular wheel arches linked by a strong door sill line reinforce the Croma’s purposeful, dynamic stance, whilst integral, full length, satin-finished aluminium roof rails, blacked out B and C pillars and a sloping, panoramic rear windscreen emphasise the clean, cohesive homogeny of the design. An enlarged quarterlight maximises visibility to the rear and contributes to a particularly generous glazed area.
At the rear, prominent, wrap-around LED light clusters and a sloping upper tailgate section articulate the design of the new Croma in the manner of a sporting estate rather than an abruptly truncated MPV, whilst the top of the integral, colour-coded rear bumper is sharply rebated to offer flush, low level access to the loadspace via a top hinged, full width tailgate.Published 9 August 2005