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Fiat Viaggio Dodge Dart at Beijing on cards for us

The Dart was high on the shopping list for Australia when it was unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show in January.

A multicultural compact car with connections to Italy, the USA and China could become Fiat's new star for Australia.

The Fiat Viaggio is an Italian rework of a car developed for the USA as the Dodge Dart, which was originally born with Alfa Romeo DNA, and will be unveiled this week at the Beijing Motor Show.

It is already being considered as an addition to the local lineup of the new Fiat-Chrysler import operation, which was created when the Italian company resumed control of its local future - previously in the hands of Ateco Automotive - and merged it with its Chrysler outpost.

The Dart was high on the shopping list for Australia when it was unveiled at the Detroit Motor Show in January, but since then Fiat-Chrysler Australia has decided to cull the Dodge name and badge from its local lineup. A lack of right-hand drive production is also a major hurdle.

Switching to the Viaggio would make more sense and, with the Dart just confirmed with a $15,999 starting price in the USA, it could easily make it to Australia in the second half of 2013 with pricetags starting around $25,000.

Fiat-Chrysler admits the Dart thrust has been blunted but will not be drawn on the Viaggio. "The Dart is still a very attractive car. But at the moment it's not made with the steering wheel on the correct side for Australia," says company spokesperson, Lenore Fletcher. "We need to team up with some right-hand drive markets and see what we can do."

So, is the Italian connection a more likely link, particularly as the Fiat Fremont - a re-badged Dodge Journey with some extra European flair - is already a near-certainty for Australia.

Because the Viaggio has original Alfa Romeo DNA, it would also be easily tweaked for right-hand drive production and Australian design rules and customer preferences. "It's too early to comment on the Viaggio," Fletcher tells Carsguide.

The Dodge Dart lineup points to the various options with the Viaggio, with a range of engines including Fiat's 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo, five trim levels up to the R/T at $23,290, and a potential high-performance SRT car. Dart deliveries begin in the USA in June.