1998 Fiat Coupe Turbo LE 2.0 turbo 5 cyl 20v from UK and Ireland
After a couple of years, the nose of starter motor broke off inside the bell housing. It turned out the wrong starter motor had been fitted previously. The gearbox had to come off to fix the problem. The clutch was replaced at the same time. Not the car's fault.
Shortly after that it developed a hot start issue. To be precise it was actually just a lack of voltage from the starter push button. It would fail to energise the solenoid on the starter. This was fixed with a relay.
About a year later at roughly 110,000 miles the turbo suddenly started to smoke badly. It was replaced with a mildly uprated version for more longevity and a slight gain in performance. 110,000 miles is not bad for an original turbo on a performance car.
Apart from these issues the only thing that's been done is routine maintenance (oil, belts, brakes etc). Every cam/aux tensioner and bearings were replaced as a matter of course when the cam belt was done.
The paintwork now needs renewing, there are pink patches and lacquer peel, but after 18 years and lots of miles you can't blame it. The headlights had to have a polish recently.
The gearbox is now a bit noisy. It still seems to work fine. It's never been touched and I have not been overly gently with it over the years.
The indicators do not self cancel. To be honest I prefer this, I don't feel it is beyond my ability to switch them back off after I have switched them on.
There is patches of corrosion underneath. Likely the legacy of many journey on icy salted roads. I very rarely subject the car to those conditions these days.
This is a superb vehicle. All in all it has been very reliable. Before I bought the car it had a new engine fitted at about 70,000 miles. The original was run low on oil and damaged. I have kept the oil fresh and topped up religiously. It never drops below 2.7 bar oil pressure even when very hot.
The Fiat Coupe is a triumph of practicality and performance in an attractive package. The exterior styling and details, like the slashes above the wheel arches, do a fantastic job of hiding what is actually quite a strangely proportioned car. It's these proportions which allow the car to benefit from a fairly large boot and spacious rear seating, something that you do not often see in a car of this type. All this and it still retains a beautifully exotic look which has, in my opinion, managed to age far more gracefully than just about any other design of the 90s.
The Recaro front seats are simply the most comfortable I have ever come across in any car. They are firm but I find they hold your body in such away that even a long cruise is a breeze. I drove the car across Europe and its long distance abilities are excellent. I believe it even returned over 40 MPG on a more sedate part of the journey cruising at 65ish.
There is a few little plastic bits which remind you it's a Fiat. Things like the inner door handles feel a bit cheap.
Visibility is also pretty good, far better than my Alfa GT.
The brakes could be better if you are a serious driver, but they are more than adequate for the car's intended purpose. The Brembo 4 pot calipers do tend to corrode between aluminium and stainless parts, causing the pads to not fit correctly. Rebuilds are simple enough and a much better idea than grinding the pads to fit.
The Fiat coupe is not a track focused handler, however with the correct suspension setup and knowledge of how to drive the car, it is still more than adequate on the twisty bits. In the right hands not a lot is quicker in the real world. The 65/35 weight distribution and FWD sounds bad, but it actually translates into a very safe handling vehicle. Anyone that manages to make a Fiat Coupe plow straight on in a bend needs to learn some restraint with the right foot.
Ah the right foot. This is the best bit of the Coupe 20v turbo. These cars are properly quick. Obviously the 0-60 time struggles at the mercy of the FWD, but once you are moving the Coupe just seems to pull and pull well beyond legal territory. Modern machinery has only really just caught up in terms of performance, and considering the cost involved, none of them compare to the Coupe. The straight 5 makes a wonderful noise when pushed. This car will exceed the quoted 155mph top speed with a relatively small amount of fettling.
I spent under 3k buying this car. When you think an average saloon probably costs over 20k it leaves a fair amount to keep the maintenance up together. Running costs are by no means astronomical; in fact because of the relatively simple design of the Coupe, they are very reasonable when you consider this is quite a high performance motor. Don't listen to the stories about the cam belt being a £1k engine out job. In reality Coupe specialists will charge about 400 quid and do it with the engine in situ.
To some up, I don't drive a Fiat Coupe because it's cheap, or fast or looks good, although it does all of those things very well. I drive a Fiat Coupe because I cannot imagine how to replace this car. I have found the ownership to be such a unique and pleasing experience. When it comes to spending a bit of money back on this old car, to get it back to its former glory, it's a no brainer!
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 31st July, 2016