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Fiat Coupe

Fiat Coupe Published: 21st Mar 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fiat Coupe

What The Experts Say...

Fiat specialist DTR European Sports Cars of Surrey is a real fan of the 20V Turbo and says it is a much better car than Alfa’s GTV. The problem is fi nding a good one out of the comparative few that’s left. Leading Coupé experts Solo Italia (see advert in this issue) fully agrees, and adds that their lowly values fosters neglect and skipped servicing. Rick Howes has special deals on two of the most critical service areas (clutches and cam belts) plus sells refurbished cars with fresh MoTs and full warranties from a bargain £3000. It currently has a pair for sale, including, arguably, the World’s only diesel model which Howes converted using Tipo parts of which the car is based upon. Stealth Racing (01926 812259) is one of the few Corrado specialists and primarily deals in the VR6 versions, which are now the most popular pick. Vince says these are fi ne cars and handle better than a Golf GTi, albeit a bit too softly, and are still strong value even though prices are rising. Mechanical parts are not a problem as they are Golf/Jetta/Passat-based, although body panels may become an issue.

Fiat Coupe
Fiat Coupe
Fiat Coupe
Fiat Coupe
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Let’s face it, we all love a coupé. Yes, you pay for the privilege for having less space and practicality all for eye-catching looks but for most of us, it’s a price worth paying either as a brand new car or a classic. There are a few options, among modern cars, for those who love sporty looks and performance, but need the comfort of four seats and even – shock horror! – the use of a boot big enough to contain more than a toothbrush: BMW offers the sleek looks of 4-series models, Volkswagen has Scirocco in its range, and virtually all main-stream car manufacturers market their two-door versions as a sensible option for the fashion and performance-conscious family man and woman. Yet, there are at least two cars which may claim to have started the trend, if, by ‘trend’, we mean availability of a model on a relatively wide scale, and not rare, one-off beauties: the VW Corrado and the Fiat Coupé. We go back to the late Eighties and early Nineties, when big corporate manufacturers’ marketing plans began to cater for niche users within more mainstream models.

Which one to buy

More than simply a matter of good looks?

The Corrado was originally planned as the replacement for the Scirocco and arrived in the UK fi rst, in 1989. Based upon the Golf/Jetta platform and powered by the 1.8-litre engine carried over from the Golf 16v; the (K-Jetronic fuelled) engine was mated to the newer cable change gearbox originally introduced in the Passat. Consisting of an amalgamation of Golf, Jetta and Passat parts, one could be forgiven for assuming that such combination would result in a marketing mess, yet upon its introduction, road testers were reaching for their thesaurus in order to heap new superlatives on its chassis performance. Of course with the 1.8 litre (139bhp) engine in a vehicle weighing about 1100kg, it was never going to be fast, but the Corrado’s 0.588 CdA meant that it eased up to 130mph. A 2-litre model gave the same power with more torque and a supercharged G60 model (160bhp) was a real goer, but to appreciate a Corrado you have to sample the VR6, a narrow angle “V” 6 for 190bhp. The early Corrado 1.8-litre cars are still great everyday cars, and the G60 can be seriously good fun, a bit of a hand grenade (with the pin out).

The 190bhp VR6 transformed the Corrado into a genuine ‘junior’ GT. It can be expensive but it’s a relatively unstressed and as long as you look after it, it’s very strong and reliable. In complete contrast, in 1995 the Corrado was also made available with the plain 8v GTi engine to perk up disappointing sales and one of the reasons for the car’s lack of success stems from its bulky looks which you either love or loathe. The Italians came up with the striking looking, rather suave Fiat Coupé in 1993 (Italy launch). It was so desirable on looks alone, that the UK clamoured for it, eventually getting the model as part of the Fiat UK range in 1995. The launch here was preceded by a massive national poster campaign, with caption line: “In Italy, nobody grows up wanting to be a train driver.” It was Chris Bangle’s best (he of the notorious BMW 5-series design) and came with mellow 16v engines, normally aspirated and turbo version. Those engines were an updated version of the good Fiat twin-cam unit. Later versions were the better and more sought-after five-cylinder options, promising 140bhp and 225bhp (non-turbo vs turbo). Even when the Alfa GTV 3.0 was putting out 220bhp, the five-cylinder Coupé Turbo was the fastest and most powerful car in Fiat’s range, hardly surprising given that the engine was effectively from the Lancia Integrale. Later models, by far the more desirable, saw a variable inlet system which pushed performance up by 5bhp in the non-turbo version, and a six-speed gearbox plus a very elegant push-start red button in the Turbo. Who would have thought that a Fiat would be a sportier buy than an Alfa?

What’s the best to drive

Two of the very best

Before we get started, it’s worth mentioning that in their heyday, this pair were regarded as two of the best handling cars on the road, so you’re unlikely to be disappointed. If the Italian stallion takes your fancy, it depends on whether the Coupé has turboed ponies or not. The latest turbo version of the Fiat is simply better than the Corrado VR6, at least on paper: it has a six-speed gearbox, limited slip diff,more power, more torque, better brakes and a more modern chassis. The normally aspirated Coupés are heavy with long gears and little power but the turbo version (no matter what ‘vintage year’ it is) is a truly great car, destined for classic status (if it’s not already!). It is also expensive to maintain and arguably less reliable than the Corrado VR6.
It is, however, a design that is six years younger, so one could opine that it should be better. Behind the steering wheel, frankly, in terms of acceleration it’s not that much quicker. However, the Coupé, as a model, has a more modern suspension design which (like for like) improves its ride comfort; the turbo mid-range torque (coupled with the six-speed gearbox) makes for a much easier cross-country progress.

The rest of the Fiat Coupé range is fat and underpowered: it may be a match for a ‘cooking’ Corrado but remains pretty hopeless against a G60 or the VR6, which is able to cruise comfortably at three figures with rock solid stability and little NVH in the cabin. It’s great off the motorway too, the body is well controlled with a toe correcting (passive steer) rear axle and quite accurate steering. The Corrado was considered an even better handling car than the Golf of that time which is saying something although you really need a 16v at least to make it entertaining. The VR6 is scintillatingly fast and sweet with it. In short, the Fiat offers pretty much everything you’d expect from an Italian but the frumpy looking VW is more than a match – plus of course will appeal to those who like the feel of an old school VW.

Owning and running

Cheap to buy if not repair

Both these coupés could double up as a delightful daily driver.The Corrado VR6 just about gets 30/32mpg on a run, mid to low 20s round town, and if you take it to the track and you’ll easily drop to the teens – the lower run models will be similar to a normal Golf. Fiat’s Coupé Turbo is pretty similar although as we are talking about (respectively) a 2.9-litre and a 2.0-litre turbo – it’s never going to be an economy run. The Corrado’s mechanical parts are affordable, and availability is good. They are from MK2/3 Golfs (even the VR6’s parts) so most garages can work on it (but take it to a specialist if you have any sense). Body parts can be more of a struggle however as they were discontinued some time ago.

Of course the youngest Corrado is now 18 years old and will benefi t from replacing dampers and suspension bushes, there is a massive range of aftermarket parts available, from the dubious to the superb and there are several thriving forums/clubs where advice on the best parts (depending on your desire with the vehicle) can be found. You would have thought that the Italians would run their Fiat Club and forum like a well-oiled social machine, with plenty of interaction and a desire to attract as many of the owners as they can. Yet it is not unusual for a new owner of the modern classic Fiat Coupé to see their entreaties ignored, and all emails unanswered though things have been improving over time. The Fiat is a reliable car only if it is properly looked after, though it does have issues common to specific versions, such as cracked exhaust manifolds (early five cylinder units). Cambelt changing is more of an issue with 16-valvers, but relatively easy to sort out, and not as expensive as one thinks, certainly less than the five-cylinder versions. Average cost is around £500. The car is front-heavy with a lot of stress on the front suspension which copes well; and if you wish to sell the car on, remember to keep the ‘red’ key, containing the immobiliser code, very safe – its replacement was charged by Fiat at £1000. You can buy a usable enough Coupé at £500 but be prepared to do work on it. Spotless examples can go for some £2000, a far cry from the original £25k. Cracking Corrados fetch £5000 and over but start at around £800. There’s never been a better time to buy either car, if truth be told.

And The Winner Is...

Test-drive a few Turbo Coupés first if you are on the market for a Corrado VR6. Either car will give a lot of driving pleasure and, in terms of styling, both are streets ahead of the anonymous boxes currently clogging our roads, though the individual looking Coupé will always have the edge in terms of fl air. Things are more clear-cut when it comes to lower, less powerful models, as the Fiat loses out on sheer performance. However, potential buyers on the market for an Italian 2.0 16v or a German 1.8 may care more for the looks than the actual driving abilities. The Corrado is still slightly ahead in terms of residual values, as well as being easier to live with in terms of part availability and expert support. Easy life? The German towel is firmly on the decking chair. If you hanker for a Golf GTi, the Corrodo is the more mature alternative.

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