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Fiat Freemont SUV has an Italian heart

The Freemont is a mid-sized people mover with a flexible cabin that brings five seats and up to 1461 litres of cargo space.

The American shell is just the same, but the Freemont has an Italian heart that reflects the future of transatlantic development deals between Fiat and Chrysler.

It comes to Australia with a starting price of $27,000 driveaway, as well as smaller engines and a five-seater cabin - with seven on call - that provides clear space around the Journey and a new opportunity for Fiat.

The Italian brand claims the Freemont is the most fuel efficient vehicle in its people mover class, thanks to the 2-litre turbodiesel that starts at $32,600. 

The Freemont is not the most imaginative model spawned by the Fiat-Chrysler Alliance, with Maserati set to tap the Jeep well for its upcoming SUV and also picking up parts from the 300C, but it shows the new thinking at the company

"This is the start of our new product offensive. You have to start somewhere," says Clyde Campbell, the president of Fiat Chrysler Group Australia.

"This was readily available and we thought we should give it a go. We think it will do reasonable volume, be a good contributor." Campbell, who has led the re-branding the re-positioning of Fiat and Alfa Romeo in Australia, says there is a lot happening at the Italian-American conglomerate.

"The thinking behind the Fiat-Chrysler alliance, which has become more than an alliance, now, is that they can share from what each other does well. We'll see it in multiple platforms.

"Fiat is good at small engines, so the Freemont gets launched here with a four-cylinder petrol and a good little diesel engine. Dodge and what Dodge stands for is probably not a 2-litre petrol."

The Freemont is a mid-sized people mover with a flexible cabin that brings five seats and up to 1461 litres of cargo space - third-row seating costs $1500 - with Base, Urban and Lounge trim levels but even the starter car getting remote central locking, 17-inch alloys, aircon and power steering, rear parking radar, tyre-pressure monitoring and a 4.3-inch touch screen for an infotainment system including Bluetooth audio streaming.

"There's a lot of value. And there are a lot of trim levels, compared to the Dodge," says Campbell. But it's the planning around the Freemont that shows where Fiat-Chrysler is going.

"Chrysler builds it and ships it. But they fit it with the Italian engines," Campbell says. And he says there is much more action planned for 2013.

"We've got other Fiat product coming this year. We're going to re-launch the Punto and launch the Panda.

"We've already re-positioned Fiat and Alfa here with lower prices and more models. Now it's the product."

This reporter is on Twitter: @paulwardgover