Stilo is the Italian word for style - but the look of Fiat's family car has never caught the imagination of buyers. However, this makes it a great used choice, as heavy depreciation ensures it can now be had for Punto money.
The three-door looks sportier than the upright five-door, but if it's space you're after, go for the latter. All are well equipped, but some of the electrics can be troublesome, so check thoroughly.
Engines are delightful, with even the base 1.2-litre proving lively, if lacking in torque. Best is the 1.6 petrol, or the 1.9 JTD turbodiesel. But be sure to vet any Stilo carefully - there's a lot that can go wrong (see Checklist, below).
* Electrics: airbag warning light frequently flashes. In April 2003, Stilo was recalled over fault with cooling fan control unit. Check records to see the work has been done.
* Engine: ECU faults are depressingly common. Warnings often flash up on instrument panel without there being a fault; such 'ghost' messages will normally disappear.
* Trim: headlights can suffer from water condensation. It's not usually a major worry, but can damage the unit if it gets too bad. Fuel filler flaps are flimsy and often break.
* Suspension: early models suffered creaking rear suspension, which in some cases was solved under warranty with a new rear axle. Front shock absorbers have also been known to be troublesome.
* Finish: interior trim can rattle, especially in hard-used cars. Exterior trim is often faulty too, while paintwork on some cars chips easily or suffers from 'orange peel' effects.
The Stilo's controls feel alert and responsive, particularly the sharp steering and throttle. The gearchange is rubbery but slick, while the Selespeed semi-auto is typically jerky on upshifts.
Petrol engines need lots of revs but are smooth and eager, while the JTD is torquey and strong. All are quiet at speed. Roll is excessive through bends, but the benefit is a fine ride in town.
The Fiat is roomy inside, but some find the seats hard and the pedal positions awkward. Indeed, the Stilo's cabin layout is its downfall, so ensure you're entirely happy with it before buying.
Although it offers good value, the Stilo is plagued by the fact that there are so many better mid-sized family cars on the market. That, along with Fiat's traditionally below average residual values, means a new one doesn't make a lot of sense unless it's at an incredible price. Used, though, the situation is different. Dealers are offering cars that are less than a year old for half their original screen price. Just don't expect to get much money back when you come to sell. Jeff Paterson, senior editor, Glass's Guide
Life With A Stilo
My Stilo has lots of space and I I got a good deal, but my wife can't get comfortable in the seat and has trouble with the gearbox. These aren't its greatest features. Neil Singleton, Okehampton, Devon
I had a Golf before my Stilo, and I swapped because I thought the Fiat looked better and would be racier to drive. It does feel sportier, but the VW was miles ahead in terms of quality.Jon Knowles, Burtonwood, Staffs
Fiat has played it safe with the Stilo. But while nearly every aspect of the car follows convention its execution is, in design terms, first rate. Comfortable, refined and well equipped, it answers the compact family brief to the letter. Unlike rivals, the Stilo even offers a sliding rear bench, with a 60/40 split. And although some will yearn for more visual excitement - particularly in a market where style and image are increasingly important - the Stilo's competence can't be ignored.