17th Feb 2010, 17:18
Buy one whilst you can - providing you understand what you are buying.
People who own serious sportscars, and I include the prancing horse variety, love this car. Also, race drivers. But it has its negatives. As has been alluded to, the ride is not good. This is all down to the spring rates, with stiff springs fitted to reduce the roll at low cost. What the car really needs is decent dampers (especially the rears) such as Koni/Bilstein to control the high frequencies that stiff springs produce. That and maybe soften the springs a little. It could also do with a LSD if you want to track it on a high grip circuit such as Anglesey. This car is not good over bumps, and can be thrown about on roads that would be little problem to a softer sprung car.
However, this car is huge fun. It has brilliant brakes for a standard car; also the gearbox is excellent with well chosen ratios and really good springing on the bias planes. Also the car has a good pedal layout. You CAN heel and toe in this car, unlike a previous comment suggests. You just need to practise throttle blipping with the side of your foot and work on keeping brake pressure constant. I teach road and track driving, and can assure you that it works really well and helps to develop technique. The whole car is hyper-sensitive, and because of this I use the car for initial tuition for race drivers on tracks such as Oulton Park to smooth out their drive. Here, a technical circuit, it is easily capable of staying with much more powerful machinery and as the conditions worsen it becomes a real hoot. Most amusing was passing a Ferrari 430, over-driving trying to stay ahead of the little Fiat, only to suffer the ignominy of being overtaken - his passenger, a fellow instructor, advised him to let us pass before he crashed the thing.
Worst consumption on track is about 23, but you can get over 50mpg on runs quite easily. I use it for going all over the country, and will happily put 500 miles into it in a day.
Best praise is that you can spend a day in a Nissan GTR or an Aston Vantage and then get back into the little Fiat and really enjoy driving it. The thing is you can drive it hard and well, and not endanger your licence.
Watch oil consumption, as it uses oil if you rev it. Reliability is excellent, it uses its tyres and brakes well, and in 20000 miles nothing has gone wrong with it. Considering that is driven hard and by lots of different people including racers, that's a pretty good testament to its strength.
Final plaudit is that my wife loves it, and has asked me to buy another one. For her!