As early as 1947, Fiat's genius chief engineer Dante Giacosa had patented his transverse engine design. Unfortunately, chief test driver Carlo Slalmano hated front-wheel drive cars and hindered their development at Fiat. But he left the company in 1962 and Giacosa, also prompted by Issigonis' Mini, resumed developing his FWD transmission package.
This resulted in the Autobianchi Primula, which, in 1964, sported a transverse engine whose crankshaft was in the same axis as the gearbox: simple, reliable, cheap to make and very compact. At last convinced, Fiat's leaders decided to make a wider use of it. In 1969, two cars appeared that pushed the formula forward: the 128, a small family car, and the A112, a city car. Then came project X1/4 - the future Fiat 127, whose development had begun in 1968.
It was simply penned by Pio Manzoni as a two-box coupe, replacing noth the 850 and 850 Sport. It was as roomy as a Ford Escort whilst boasting a decent boot. But it was with its remarkable handling that it stood out. It also had excellent performance, frugality and low price. Fiat had unintentionally found the very recipe of a supermini. the state-of-the-art 127 was crowned 1972 CoTY, and a hatchback was offered as an option that year.
The 127 immediately became a sale hit, which led all Fiat's European rivals to copy its packaging: Audi's 50 and Ford's Fiesta, in order of appearance.
Torque: 46lb ft@3500rpm
Maximum speed: 87mph
0-60mph: 15.0 sec
Fuel comsumption: 37-43mpg
Transmission: FWD, 4-spd manual