Our version is the top-spec 20v 2.0-litre HLX which sports the wonderful five-cylinder engine that also powers the Fiat Coupe. Packing 147bhp, it reaches 62mph in just over nine seconds and takes the vehicle on to a top speed of 127mph. But that's only half the story. Where it excels is in its instant acceleration between 50mph and 80mph, enabling it to overtake most of its road rivals with ease.
But Weekend is not just about its engine, superb though it is. It is also a highly attractive and very practical companion. Interior spec on the HLX is good with ABS, driver's airbag, power sunroof and electric windows, 15-inch alloy wheels, leather steering wheel and gear lever knob, remote central locking and alarm to name but a few sought-after features. Our version also came with air conditioning, something which is becoming the norm rather than the exception nowadays.
The controls are easy to hand and easy to use with only the over-complicated in-built radio/cassette being too fiddly. Cabin space is good although not as generous as with some of its rivals as Fiat has placed Marea in a niche that straddles the lower and upper medium sectors, but in reality can best be described as Escort meets Mondeo or Astra meets Vectra. However, anyone who drives Fiat's 'rep' contender will soon realise it competes more with its larger rivals than its smaller stablemates.
Handling is good and the steering is light yet effective, although the ungenerous steering lock can make parking in confined spaces a delicate manoeuvre. Our estate has plenty of room in the back, a facility that is helped by the practical tailgate which drops down so that luggage can be easily stored without the need to trouble the local doctor or osteopath.
Contract hire rates are pretty fair too as are the likely residual values, and although a little thirsty on fuel, I believe it represents good value for money. I have had few complaints with the Weekend, save for one or two electrical faults (mainly on the radio) early on, and will genuinely miss it when it goes back.
Fiat is known more for its success with smaller cars (Bravo/ Brava and Punto for example), yet here is a vehicle that competes well with rivals in this highly important market segment while retaining a style and presence all of its own which few can match.