Wise Buyer: Fiat Coupé

Wise Buys: Fiat Coupé

by practical-classics |
Published on

1993-2000 - Fiat Coupé Italian panache and class leading dynamics at an affordable price, reckons James Walshe

Jaws dropped across the universe when Fiat unveiled its Coupé back in 1993. Buyers were captivated by its dramatic science fiction shape and an array of delightfully unique details. There was substance underneath, too. The Coupé was based on the brilliant Tipo platform, which meant sublime ride and handling composure and, later on, a top model yanked along by a new 20-valve five -cylinder firecracker. The 150mph Turbo pushed out 220bhp and hit 60mph in six seconds, with its front-drive torque steer kept in check via a limited-slip diff and beefed-up suspension. While this era of Fiat wasn’t what you’d call fragile, there are still some rather important things to be aware of when it comes to buying a Coupé.

What’s out there?

Decide which model you want before searching and focus on its condition and maintenance history. The earliest car you’ll find will have a 1995cc 16v engine, 137bhp normally aspirated or 195bhp turbocharged. From November 1996, all Coupés got the 1998cc five-cylinder in normally aspirated or turbocharged guises. The Limited Edition (300 UK sales) arrived in July 1998, while June 1999 saw the 147bhp normally aspirated 20v engine superseded by a 154bhp 20v VIS (Variable Inlet System) unit with a fly-by-wire throttle. The six-speed gearbox became standard soon after and the Turbo Plus appeared with Viscodrive LSD, 16in wheels and leather trim.

What to look for

Lift the boot carpet and check for rust along the seam where the floor meets the wheelarches. Water ingress through poorly mounted Pininfarina badges low down on the rear flanks can also cause unseen corrosion, so see how secure these badges are, and be prepared to do some resealing. The front jacking points can rust, as can the front slam panel (to which the radiator is bolted). The black stone-guard used on the sills can chip and wear away, which can lead to paintwork issues and surface rust.

Fun fact… the 1995cc four-cylinder unit in early Coupés is like the one found in a Lancia Integrale.

Properly serviced the unit is reliable, but ultimately the camshafts wear out, while the oil cooler pipes below the radiator can corrode and fail with catastrophic consequences. The most common problem, especially with 20v cars, is a failed thermostat. This normally fails in the open position and results in a slow warm up and cool running, with high fuel consumption being the result. Replacement is cheap.

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