Fiat has started testing a new compact-SUV for its international markets. Dubbed as Project 363, the upcoming small SUV from the Italian manufacturer shares some charm of the Fiat Argo hatchback and is expected to hit global markets (mainly Europe) in the first half of 2021.
As per reports, it will be positioned under or near the same price category as of the popular Jeep Renegade, in a bid to appeal to a wider mass. It shares multiple structural and functional components with the Fiat Cronos and Argo; both of which are based on FCA’s MP1 (Modular Platform 1) architecture.
Production of Project 363 is planned at FCA’s manufacturing facility in the city of Betim in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Aimed to rival the likes of the Nissan Kicks (not the Indian version) and Volkswagen’s upcoming A0 SUV, Project 363 will come powered by either a 1.3-litre NA petrol or 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine, coupled to a traditional 5-speed manual transmission or a CVT unit.
Furthermore, the company is also working on a coupe version of the same, dubbed as Project 373. Sharing the same power plants mentioned above, Project 373 is meant to lock horns with the Volkswagen Nivus; a compact crossover coupe based on the MQB A0 Volkswagen Polo (not to be confused with the PQ25 Polo model available in India).
Also seen alongside Project 363 in the spy shot is a large SUV prototype which we believe is the upcoming Jeep 598. Expected to reach Indian shores at some point in the future, the Jeep 598 is based on the American brand’s popular Small-Wide platform. It was initially thought to be 7-seater version of the Jeep Compass, but latest reports have confirmed that it’s not the case. However, it will still share some components with the Compass including FCA’s 1.4-litre Multiair turbo petrol and 2.0-litre Multijet diesel engine; possibly in different states of tune and in accordance with the latest emission norms.
At present, Jeep India is not doing particularly well on the Indian market even though the brand enjoyed a short-term burst in sales with the launch of the made-in-India Compass. Prior to that, the company only had premium CBU products with a rather unreasonable price tag (especially in comparison to the SUV products offered by the popular Germans). However, with the launch of more affordable alternatives to the Compass in recent years, Jeep India’s sales chart started to see a drastic fall.
Towards the end of 2018, FCA group was left with no other option than to withdraw the Fiat brand from India on account of poor sales. As per the Fiat India website (which is still active, interestingly), the company ended its business with five products: Punto Evo, Urban Cross, Abarth Punto, Linea and Avventura. The fun-to-drive and heavily-underrated Abarth Punto was officially sold out in early-2019 after the final unregistered six units available in the country were bought together with a discount of Rs 2 lakh from its ex-showroom price of Rs 9.5 lakh — making it quite a deal.
Chances of Fiat India making a return are bleak at least as of now. However, if the brand does plan a comeback, Project 363 could be a good product to start with, especially since the Indian automotive market has a strong interest in affordable compact-SUVs.