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FCA’s new bet in the still growing Brazilian subcompact market segment, the Fiat Mobi, looks better in photos than in the metal, largely because the nose appears exceptionally large compared to the truncated rear. It’s based on a shortened Uno platform (an older Fiat model it supplements for now) and was designed at the Betim Development Centre in Minas Gerais state, home to the main FCA manufacturing plant.

Using the shortened Uno platform presented certain limitations  – compared with the outgoing Uno, the Mobi is 21cm/8.26 inches shorter on a wheelbase 7cm/2.75 inches shorter with the new body 4cm/1.57 inches narrower.  This has resulted in quite limited rear seat leg and shoulder room and just 215 litres/7.6 cubic feet of cargo boot space (this rises to 235 litres/8.3 cubic feet if the under-floor, removable ‘cargobox’ is in use).

The biggest problem is cost. The new car will face competition within the Fiat range itself from the old Palio Fire and the new Uno. Pricing ranges from BRL31,900/US$9,114 to BRL43,800/$12,500.

Stefan Ketter, CEO of FCA’s Latin American region excluding Mexico, said the brand was seeking to resume market leadership “without compromising profitability”. Yet Fiat has always been renowned for having the most affordable model range. And the new Mobi soon faces additional competition in the form of Renault’s new ’emerging markets’ Kwid late in the second half of this year.

Mobi’s power comes from the Uno’s I4, one-litre/61 cubic inch engine which, in a year or so, will be replaced by a new, same-displacement, six-valve, I3. The eventual arrival of a new engine is, however, expected to affect the value of older Mobi models in the used car market.

The new car is up to 60kg/132lb lighter then its Uno ‘cousin’ and is reasonably nimble in heavy traffic.

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Highlights are a well-tuned suspension, nice interior plastics finish, two-position adjustable split rear seat backrest, wide rear door opening angle and a tempered-glass tailgate. Front seats are newly designed and softer than average for the brand yet provide good side support.

From June, Fiat Brazil will offer a new infotainment system to connect smartphones which will include applications such as Spotify (music) and Waze (navigation). The holds phones only horizontally, however, which is sometimes inadequate for map reading.

Less satisfactory are poor rear visibility when manoeuvring, tight boot access due to bumper design and small rear windows.