Counting imports, the number of new car models launched in Brazil this year should top 60 and local manufacturer Fiat alone plans seven: a major revamp of the four-variant Palio family (hatchback, saloon, estate and pickup), new hatchback and saloon versions of the premium Punto and the ‘pocket rocket’ Abarth.

This will require a third shift at the plant, rising from the current 2,500 units a day to the capacity limit of 3,000 as necessary.

Only the roof and windscreen are carried over to the new generation Palio and some local commentators think the car has lost its distinctive personality, gaining a resemblance to the VW Gol from the rear. It also manages to appear larger than it is.

Inside, there are few changes apart from simplified controls and a digital fuel gauge.

A third of the car’s parts are new and the front end restyle is claimed to cut body repair costs following a minor crash. Extra equipment includes load-securing hooks in the luggage compartment, larger 14-inch wheels with wider tyres, fog lamps, glasses holder, three headrests on the rear bench seat, and other upgrades. New option packages group popular items together for a saving over individual cost; these include air conditioning, and electric pack and alloy wheels.

The 1.4-litre/81 hp engine is the key power plant. The underpowered 66hp one-litre is offered only in a base ‘popular car’ model and the 1.8-litre/115 hp unit is now reserved for the sport version. Soundproofing has been improved, too.

The new Palio reflects the complexity and variety of compact cars sold here in Brazil. The local factory still builds the veteran Uno, two Palio versions and, soon the premium (Grand) Punto premium, all in the hatchback segment. Volkswagen will soon have four hatchback models, one more than today.

Indeed, Brazil can be described as ‘compactland’ and that’s now the main battlefield for the automakers who either build locally or import.

Fernando Calmon