Fiat Tempra Review from Austria

1993 Fiat Tempra S.W. SX 1.8 i.e.

Year of manufacture1993
First year of ownership1999
Most recent year of ownership2002
Engine and transmission 1.8 i.e. Manual
Performance marks 8 / 10
Reliability marks 9 / 10
Comfort marks 9 / 10
Dealer Service marks 3 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 6 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
7.0 / 10
Distance when acquired60000 kilometres
Most recent distance120000 kilometres
Previous carFiat Regata

Summary:

I love it! Very chic and practical car, if you can live with some imperfections!

Faults:

Nothing serious or unusual for a car of this age and mileage under Austrian driving conditions (icy and salted (!) roads in winter, sometimes "Italian" temperatures in summer)!

- some faults were fixed by the dealer within half a year after purchase (fuel injection air pressure sensor, dashboard lights, flexible pipe between exhaust manifold and catalytic converter, central engine mount,..). This was covered by the used car warranty offered by the dealer, I just had to insist very intensely.

- locking mechanism of luggage hatch broke. Since I have a Station Wagon, I could dismantle the mechanism from inside and permanently fix it myself (soldering it together).

- engine idle problem in summer (sometimes revving up, sometimes stalling) at around 80.000km. Cleaned idle control valve and all involved electrical connectors - works fine ever since.

- cooling system thermostat replaced (originally resulted in low engine temperature and poor passenger heating)

- radiator leaked (corroded) at 100.000km, replaced.

- seals of rear brake cylinders leaked, replaced brake cylinders at 105.000km.

- muffler and tailpipe replaced at 110.000km (corroded due to lots of short distance city traffic)

- leaking oil, most probably through crankshaft seal on flywheel side, not critical. NOT burning significant amounts of oil, though!

- The electronic dashboard lights tend to burn out quite often. I took the dashboard off already three times (once a year), to replace the light-bulbs. In the meantime I can do this in 15 minutes, which is the positive thing about this one piece dashboard unit.

- clutch nowadays starts to become jerkier and develops noise, maybe has to be replaced next.

Apart from these unscheduled events, I did a number of preventive maintenance jobs:

- valves adjusted and ignition checked at 80.000km.

- drive belt and balance shaft belt changed at 90.000km (now this was really expensive, the only repair I had done at a garage, ~900 Euro)

- shock absorbers replaced at 90.000km. The old ones were still OK, but since I plan to use this car up to 160.000km, I wanted to profit from the Monroe SensaTracs, I installed. Very wise investment in terms of comfort, ride stability and braking safety, by the way!

- replaced front brake discs and pads at 100.000km, they just were worn out (usual for this mileage)

- brake fluid change every two years, frequent engine oil changes, frequent car wash (especially in winter),...

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Holding a masters degree in mechanical engineering and considering myself an expert in automotive technology, I have a different, but critical viewpoint. The general technical concept of this car is very good (considering it's age), but the build quality is quite poor. Wherever manual assembly was involved, this was done very careless.

For example, the first winter in this car I suffered cold feet, because the carpet covered the air vent to the foot-well. They simply forgot to cut the appropriate hole into the carpet!

So if you have some spare time (to me it's kind of a hobby) and automotive knowledge, you can get rid of some imperfections of this car. Otherwise it could be annoying to some people. Still it is a very practical and highly underrated car.

A comment on FIAT service:

It is absolutely lousy, they are extremely unfriendly and let you wait for hours (on the phone and in the shop). What's worse, often they are simply incompetent, just not trustworthy and usually very expensive.

Consequently I try to fix everything myself, and purchase spare parts at third party providers (which works quickly and much cheaper here in Austria).

They just have a nice and competent sales guy, who brought me to FIAT in the first place.

General Comments:

Well, I love this car. Perfect family car for city and countryside (that is the Station Wagon model), still compact, but roomy inside. I'm 2 meters tall and have enough room (at least more than in Audi A6, Volvo V70, BMW 5-Series). It has 500 liters of boot capacity below the cover, which is quite a lot and can still be loaded above. Also it still feels very stable and safe on the road, even when fully loaded to the rim with kids, luggage and skiing equipment.

The car is used by my wife to lift the kids around town and by me for trips to the mountains, and it is just a perfect compromise. Excellent handling, yet comfortable suspension. The engine (1.8ie) is very smooth, thanks to the balance shafts. 160 km/h is a perfect smooth cruising speed on the highway - little engine and wind noise, high fuel consumption though (long term average: 11 liters/100 km). The engine lacks a little low end torque, but above 3000rpm it takes off quite well. The suspension is comfortable, yet responsive, providing swift cornering abilities and directional stability at the same time. Its not a sports car, but still much fun to drive and to cruise.

The brakes need some firm pressure, but then provide decent deceleration. I don't have ABS, but I think I never was in a situation where I needed it. The unique load adjusting rear brake pressure regulator ads some stability.

I still like it's wedge-like "Italian" design, being sleek, and somewhat different. Exhibiting individual lines, I think the design is somehow timeless. Even the aerodynamics is supposed to be quite good (I don't have figures for the SW, but the sedan was record holder in it's class, cw=0,28). I even got used to the digital dashboard, which glows like Christmas illumination at night. The galvanized body is still free of corrosion (no rust at all after 10 years, wow) and the metallic paint still looks very nice. Even the interior and upholstery looks quite OK, despite my 2 kids (= little devils).

Conclusion: Apart from the fuel consumption the Tempra SW offers a tremendous value for it's prize. The fuel consumption for the smaller engines (or diesel) is probably much better.

What I miss:

- lower fuel consumption, its rather high for a car of this size (well, the balance shafts and the DOHC design take it's tribute).

- Air bag (who knows)

- Air-Condition, but to expensive to refit (and still higher fuel consumption)

- Engine pre-heater (nice to have, could reduce city fuel consumption in winter)

About FIAT: No wonder, that the company is in trouble, considering the way, they treat their customers. The engineering is great, excellent ideas, nice engines, cool styling. Maybe it will be a General Motors division soon.

Since there are no plans to build a car of the Tempra-size in future (only smaller ones), I'm not sure if I will stick with this company.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 9th December, 2002

29th Jun 2007, 22:45

I have a 91 Tempra 1.8 and for the life of me can't figure out what the symbol is on the electronic check on the digital dashboard. It's the one on the far left. Can someone tell me what it means please?

Brian.

Average review marks: 7.0 / 10, based on 1 review