FIAT BARCHETTA REVIEW

Forget its Punto origins and the lack of a steering wheel on the right side – the Barchetta handles beautifully and offers a lot of classic roadster for the money.

We Brits might have snubbed the beautiful Barchetta en-masse when it was new – thanks to Fiat’s refusal to sell it here with right-hand-drive – but it now makes great sense an affordable 1990s sports car.

Despite undercutting Mazda’s MX-5 and the MGF when new the slower sales mean it’s now a much rarer sight in the UK, but once you’ve got used to the Barchetta’s LHD layout (which takes all of five minutes) you’ll be treated to one of Fiat’s best looking and best handling cars.

It was sold here in two stints – the original 1995-2002 cars, built by Maggiora before its bankruptcy that year, and then a facelifted model built by Fiat itself at its Mirafiori plant between 2003 and 2005.

Whichever version you go for the Barchetta is a grin-inducingly good drive – and you’d never get bored of looking at its pert, Andreas Zapatinas-penned proportions.

VITAL STATISTICS

ENGINE 1747cc/4-cyl/DOHC

POWER 130bhp@6300rpm

TORQUE 121lb ft@4300pm

MAXIMUM SPEED 120mph

0-60MPH 7.9sec

FUEL CONSUMPTION 27-33mpg

TRANSMISSION FWD, five-spd manual

 

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

IS IT AN IMPORT?

The Barchetta’s LHD layout – and the predictably slow sales in the UK as a result – means plenty of buyers have imported cars, particularly from Germany and Holland. While there’s nothing wrong with these cars there’s a good chance they’ll have the instruments calibrated in KM/H and the incorrect lights – and don’t pay the premium UK market Barchettas fetch for one.

 

DOES IT SOUND LIKE A LONDON TAXI?

In 1999 there was a recall for a sticky control valve on the engine’s variable valve timing, which if left unrepaired both blunted performance and gave the Barchetta with an uneven, diesel-esque engine note. Check the history and find out if the work’s been done – and the engine should be smooth and eager to rev when starting up.

 

A GRAND OPENING

The slimline door handles are one of the Barchetta’s best stylistic features – but they are prone to failing with age, so check both carefully as replacement items can be tricky to source. It’s also worth checking the roof for signs of damage – if they’ve been folded on particularly cold days they can get damaged. Cars sold with hard top roofs go for a premium – typically around £700 – but look at them carefully for any signs of them letting in leaks.

 

WATCH FOR PRANGED CARS

The Barchetta’s body is galvanised so corrosion isn’t too much of an issue. If you see any rust setting in, particularly around panel caps or near the corners of the car, it could be a sign of poorly repaired accident damage, as are any uneven panel gaps or signs of overspray. Key places to check for signs of any crash damage are the inner panels under the bonet, the sills for straightness, the rear structure underneath the car and the inner structure of the boot.

 

HOW’S THE PAINT?

You’re more likely to see signs of stone chips or blemishes, particularly around the bonnet edge and the front bumper. They’re easily treatable if they’re minor cosmetic blemishes – and shouldn’t put you off buying one – but cars with parking-related dents that need replacement panels are trickier to sort out.

 

SEE RED OVER A MISSING KEY

Barchettas were sold new with a master key – distinguished by its red plastic grip, rather than the blue grip used on the car normally used when driving the car. These keys were used by Fiat dealers were used for recoding replacement keys and cannot be reordered – so view a car being sold without one with suspicion. Swap the battery over and you’ll need the master key for the immobiliser to allow you to start up again, so it’s a potential headache if you haven’t got one.

 

OUR VERDICT

While it might cost more than an MX-5 of the same age it’s better looking and due to their comparative scarcity in the UK far more likely to attract intrigued glances at classic events. It’s also big fun to drive – dismiss it as a Punto roadster at your peril – and the parts commonality with other 1990s Fiats mean that sourcing replacement mechanicals is far from tricky. Buy one that’s been looked after and carry on cherishing it – that way you’ll end up with a curvaceous Italian roadster before the rest of the UK realises what it missed out on and starts pushing prices up.

Recently Added

65340 1Sponsored Ad
2016
£57,948
4.4 SD V8 Vogue SE
  • 14,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Automatic
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 Other
  • Refcode: TA1138772
1 Previous Owner, Metallic Santorini Black, 2 owners, 5 seats, Located at Our Emerson Park Showro...
1
01227 388 764
View details
65607 1Sponsored Ad
1966
£Auction
  • 55,119
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1138686
![CDATA[The Land Rover Series IIa is considered by many to be the hardiest Series model construct...
10
01279 793500
View details
Img 1330Sponsored Ad
1970
£29,950
3.2 convertible
  • 130,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1140163
970 PORSCHE 911 - EGT44J We have recently acquired this stunning looking 1970 911 . Being a 1970 ...
30
07962 376666
View details
Img 1983Sponsored Ad
1937
£26,450
Flat Rad
  • 2,014
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: DIY1140060
1937 Morgan 4/4 Flat Rad
9
01484688678
View details
Img 1993Sponsored Ad
1963
£10,250
  • 54,200
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: DIY1139981
1963 Rover 110 P4 Saloon
7
01484 688678
View details
Ba6e439f f021 4420 934a ec130913ea8fSponsored Ad
1999
£5,750
  • 57,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Automatic
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: DIY1139892
BMW 740i E38, low mileage, excellent condition
14
07895109968
View details
Img 7007 1 1030x687Sponsored Ad
1972
£32,950
  • 81,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1133262
Ending a terrific line of models the TR6 finished production in 1976 and all subsequent models li...
7
01296 509887
View details
Img 7301Sponsored Ad
2003
£27,950
  • 73,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1133317
At the 996 launch many traditionalists were displeased and missed the revered air cooled cars. Th...
23
01296 509887
View details
Img 4866Sponsored Ad
1975
£67,950
  • 55,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Automatic
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1117857
Cast your mind back to the late 60s the news a grim mixture of industrial strife and discord in t...
20
01296 509887
View details
Img 1883Sponsored Ad
1974
£34,950
  • 20,000
  • Transmission 69197354786223e29b85070a0695cc247a4c2b215c743673c2d02e864b4cd687 Manual
  • Steering ca68a9643bbb915d30839040f432af59e679db8cf98e23a4378cbef2ed805059 RHD
  • Refcode: TA1104489
Ending a terrific line of models the TR6 finished production in 1975 and all subsequent models li...
16
01296 509887
View details
See All Classic Cars for Sale