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Size counts

February 9 2005 at 4:28 AM
Alex Shepherd 

I feel that a replacement for the X1/9 needs to be small, cleverly-packaged, and lightweight.

A common trend over the last ten-fifteen years of car design has been ever-increasing car sizes. That has lead to improved safety, comfort, and of course passenger and luggage space. If the size of the bodyshell is reduced, there are unavoidable compromises in suspension design, safety of the cabin structure, and the level of refinement (NVH) enjoyed by the occupants.

Even considering all the above, FIAT has excelled in packaging over the years. Take the original 128 saloon - even the spare wheel fitted into the engine bay! - and for a more recent example, the clever Multipla.

Look under the bonnet of a Japanese saloon and you see a flat bulkhead with the wiper motor bolted on. This is an area where FIAT deserves to enjoy the advantage built up over years of packaging small cars - including the design of the X1/9.

Therefore I feel that a key element of the X1/9's successor is the clever packaging required to produce a small, lightweight two-seater sports car. This is not going to be an executive saloon or a family wagon. The compromises outlined above need to be addressed, in a similar way to what Lotus and Smart have achieved.

If this packaging compromise leads to the re-introduction of X1/9 features (fuel tank and spare wheel behind seats, front and rear luggage compartments, roof manually-stowed in front compartment) then so be it, that does not need to be seen as retrospective for the sake of old times. If there are better solutions made possible by modern materials and technology, or if safety regulations force the adoption of conventional (or innovative) solutions, those solutions will be perfectly acceptable as well.

I am confident that a target-consumer study would reveal that potential 'X1/99' buyers already have access to larger vehicles for their transport requirements. So why not create a unique vehicle with exemplary packaging and style?

-Alex

 
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