FIAT COUPE REVIEW

Classic Fiat Coupe Review

Classic Fiat Coupe Review

Launched in 1993 with a four cylinder 2.0-litre derivative of the Fiat Twin-cam, the Tipo-platform based Fiat Coupé was a hit. Later five cylinder and turbocharged examples only added to the car’s appeal, with the turbo the fastest front-wheel drive car of 1995. With edgy, ahead of its time styling by Chris Bangle, a stylish Pininfarina interior and a marvellous driving experience, it makes an excellent modern classic today. Want to buy into the Fiat Coupé experience? Read on.


VITAL STATISTICS

Engine 1998cc/5-cyl/DOHC 

Power 145bhp@6100rpm

Torque 137lb ft@4500rpm

Top Speed 132mph

0-60mph 8.9sec

Economy 25mpg

Gearbox 5- or 6-speed manual


WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Bodywork

Watch the underbonnet scuttle panel for corrosion; a known weakspot. The sills usually have stonechip protection, but if this has worn and stones have damaged the paintwork, blisters can start and the sills can become vulnerable. The exhaust tailpipe rusts where the chrome trim is spotwelded to it, and the trim can fall off. And watch around the rear lights for issues too. We’ve heard of issues with subframe mountings and radiator mountings, and the rear arches aren’t immune either.

Engine and Gearbox

Even Fiat dealers weren’t always aware of the servicing schedules for the Coupe, so make sure you read the service history. A full Fiat history is desirable, but if it’s been care for by a specialist that’s even better. Exhaust manifolds can crack, and replacement could cost up to £500 to be done properly. Cambelts need changing regularly – every 72000 miles/6yrs on 20vs and every 30000 miles on 16vs. Check 20v cars for clutch slip – replacing a clutch is a fiddly job and isn’t cheap. It’s easier to do it while changing the cambelt – so best to combine the two if they need doing.  Leave it on tickover after the test drive and check for blue smoke – this will indicate worn turbo oil seals.

Running Gear

As 65% of the weight is over the front end, suspension can wear from as low as 40000 miles. Listen for clonks that could be failing wishbones, track rod ends or ARB droplinks. Also check the brakes by braking hard from 70mph. The steering wheel shouldn’t shudder – a slight even vibration may indicate grooved and uprated discs. Don’t panic about brakes squealing when warm – all Fiat Coupes suffer from this and it’s normal.

Interior

Cloth was standard on early and low spec cars, with leather available throughout in beige and tan. Leather is more desirable, especially when twinned with the optional air conditioning system. This will often need re-gassing, but be sure it’s not a faulty system! The grab handles in the back can shear, and while it’s meant to have a rear ashtray they’re usually missing – double check this! Check the heated mirrors, too – they operate on the rear demister circuit, repair is difficult and replacement expensive.

Electrics

Fiat Coupés come with three keys in three different colours. Blue denotes a "service/valet" key, silver the normal key and red the master key. If your car is missing the red key, don’t buy it. This master key contains all the ECU coding crucial for setting new keys and tying them into the ECU. Check it’s a real red key – turn the ignition on and off, leave the key in, and turn the ignition on. The word CODE should remain lit on the dash. A new keyset and ECU – if you can source it – won’t be cheap. Also check the standard alarm by locking the car on the remote, leaving it two minutes, and then attempting to open with the key. If it doesn’t sound, something’s wrong.


VERDICT

Why should you buy one? Because you want a daily driver that’s separate, that looks like nothing else and has one of the best front-drive chassis in the business. You’d like to tell the world you own an Italian sportscar, yet practicality means you need the surprisingly commodious boot and the occasional rear seats. Or maybe it was the car you dreamed of as you climbed the dreary Vectra-led company car ladder in the mid 1990s. Regardless of why you want it, now’s the time to buy.

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