Fiat Barchetta Review from Germany

1999 Fiat Barchetta Limited Edition 1.8 16V

Year of manufacture1999
First year of ownership1999
Most recent year of ownership2013
Engine and transmission 1.8 16V Manual
Performance marks 9 / 10
Reliability marks 10 / 10
Comfort marks 8 / 10
Dealer Service marks 0 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 4 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
6.2 / 10
Distance when acquired43 kilometres
Most recent distance60000 kilometres
Previous carAlfa Romeo Spider

Summary:

Tremendous fun

Faults:

There only were defects when the car was delivered new.

There were faulty light bulbs that made me replace all of them on my own.

The car alarm did not work properly when new.

The roof cover split at the back corners after six years.

Roof gaskets were leaky after six years.

General Comments:

The engine power of the Barchetta is about the absolute limit this chassis can handle. This makes the Barchetta no fun to drive at its limit, but great fun driven at up to eight tenths. Which really is astonishingly fast, because the car for today’s standards is incredible small, narrow, low and light with a lively, nippy and free-revving engine that makes it an absolute hoot to drive.

The Barchetta brakes are a so so affair. The pedal feel is soft and mushy, the brake power is OK up to 60 mph, but not sufficient when driving really hard. This is can be remedied by fitting some aftermarket sport discs. I use ATE Power Discs and am happy with them.

The gear change is a very short throw, notchy affair with a very small and stubby lever. The price you pay is that because of the short lever it is quite heavy, which in reality does not matter.

On small back roads the Barchetta is enormous fun. It handles well if you do not overcook it, it gives the right snorty noises when revved hard, it is pretty accelerative up to 90 mph when overtaking, and with the door windows down, it is windy enough to make cruising at 60 mph a wind in the hair fun affair.

These cars were largely hand-built in small batches, with all the associated pros and cons that are shared with other Italian small volume products.

The quality of these cars can vary astonishingly. My Barchetta is very well built, properly painted, water tight and absolutely free from rattles and other unwanted noises. But it can be just the other way round if you pick the wrong car.

The body of the car looks really beautiful and is made with amazing effort. The Barchetta has a second scuttle upper half attached to the existing Punto structure, forming a hollow box about a foot long at the base of the windscreen. The body is brazed from small panels and the front and rear halves are more or less made in one piece. This makes accident repair complicated and very costly.

The quality of the interior parts is very variable. The dashboard itself is of good quality, but the centre console is as cheap as they come. My car is a Limited Edition 1999, therefore it has quilted leather seats, red stitching on the steering wheel and gear lever and faux leather quilted door panels. This looks absolutely stunning, and is of much better quality than the equivalent parts of the standard cars.

The interior of this special edition car is a great place to be and enjoy. I probably wouldn’t say the same of a Barchetta equipped with cloth seats and plastic steering wheel.

The factory roof is very easy to use, but quality-wise it is simply crap. The rear screen gets opaque very quickly (mine didn’t, but most others do) and when the car is parked outside a garage, the root material itself deteriorates so quickly so badly that you are lucky if it lasts more than five or six years. I had to replace mine after six years. Because the original part is incredibly expensive (all Barchetta parts are priced as if made from pure gold), I had one made to measure from a mohair and neoprene combined material one quality level above the Mercedes SLs. The has a Wopavin tinted rear screen. That's the patented material first used on the BMW Z8 that is much less scratch and crack prone and doesn’t harden under UV radiation. That roof, including fitting work, cost me about a quarter of the price of the original cheapskate PVC roof cover alone.

I have yet to find a solution for the quickly hardening and leaking rubber gaskets of the roof. These are incredibly expensive, hard to get and mostly out of production and short lived.

It is astonishing how many spare parts are no longer available for a car so short out of production, and the ones you can still get are of eye wateringly high prices if they are specific to the Barchetta.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 22nd July, 2013

Average review marks: 6.2 / 10, based on 1 review