Fiat do Brasil this week begins sales of the third generation Palio Weekend station wagon and Siena sedan compact models. The new cars are based on the new Palio hatchback model that was launched in Brazil last November, writes Rogerio Louro.

The models are made in the Betim plant, in Minas Gerais state.

Like the second generation, introduced in 2000, the new Palio Weekend and Siena (like the Palio hatchback) were dersigned by Giorgetto Giugiaro. The first generation was designed by the IDEA studio.

The Palio Weekend range now features a pseudo-SUV Adventure version with "off-road looks" - suspension height increased 20mm, fog lights, side bars and roof bars plus all-road tyres.

The Weekend and Siena also have also a revised interior based on the Stilo's cabin and equipment upgrades.

The two models are the first Fiat vehicles equipped with the Powertrain 1.8-litre eight-valve flexfuel system engine that runs on petrol, alcohol or a blend of the two. It is the same engine used in the Brazilian-made GM Corsa, Meriva and Montana pick-up since last year.

But while the GM engine uses Delphi´s multi-fuel technology, the Fiat engines have a Magneti Marelli system. The power output varies between 106hp and 110hp depending on the fuel used.

The Palio Weekend and Siena models have the option of the 1.3-litre eight-valve 70/71hp flexfuel system engine that was launched with the new Palio hatchback last November. The Siena sedan is also offered with a one-litre Fire eight-valve petrol engine developing 65hp.

"In a competitive market only agile companies survive. We have a plan to modernise our ranges to continue leadership of the Brazilian market. The new Palio Weekend and Siena models will help us increase our sales", said Fiat Auto Latin America president Cledorvino Belini.

This is in response to the growth of General Motors and Volkswagen who are tussling with Fiat to lead the Brazilian market. In the first quarter of 2004, GM sold 44,409 cars, VW 43,583 units and Fiat 38,315 cars.

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In the second half of the year, Fiat will complete the Brazilian-made Palio range revision with a new generation Strada compact pick-up.