It was launched in 1993 – in Brussels. Not the most auspicious location but excitement surrounding the new model was so great that few cared. It arrived in the UK in 1995 powered by a choice of 2.0-litre 16-valve engines – naturally aspirated (135bhp) or turbocharged (190bhp). Power went to the front wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox, although on the Turbo also via a Viscodrive limited-slip diff.
Less than two years later, the 16-valve engines gave way to more powerful 20-valve units, again either naturally aspirated (143bhp) or turbocharged (214bhp). The naturally aspirated engine soon received a shot in the arm with the addition of a variable intake system (VIS) that boosted power to 150bhp.
Even so, with its 0-62mph time of 6.3sec, it was the Turbo (called VT) everyone wanted, then as now. From 1998, Fiat launched a series of tweaked versions, starting with the VT LE (Limited Edition) sporting red Brembo front brake calipers, a bodykit, a push-button start, a strut brace and Recaro seats. The following year, the Plus was launched, looking very much like the LE but without its unique badge. Crucially, both versions had a six- speed gearbox. With the arrival of the VT6 in 1999, the six-speed gearbox became standard. That said, you may find the odd 1999-reg five-speed VT, a legacy of when dealers ordered for stock and cars hung about until sold.
Even the youngest Coupés are now 17 years old and may feel a bit baggy but a suspension refresh will return the car to its sharp and agile self. The engines are very strong but check that the timing belt and water pump changes have been done on time. Find a good one for around £3500, cherish it and watch its value rise.
How to get one in your garage:
An expert’s view - JOHN CARTLIDGE, DIRECTOR, MIDLANDS CAR SERVICING: “I fell in love with the Fiat Coupé the moment I saw a new one on a car transporter. It was being delivered to the Fiat dealer where I worked as a mechanic. I now specialise in the model, selling and servicing them. Prices fell to an all-time low five years ago but, in the past 18 months, they’ve started picking up. You can get a decent car from as little £3000 but rarer versions such as the LE and Plus in mint condition command far higher prices. For example, I have a very nice 2001-reg 20v Turbo Plus in pearl white with 38,000 miles for £20,000.”
ENGINE - Camshaft wear is an issue on16v engines so check the oil pressure. The Turbo is sensitive to de-cat exhausts, over-boosting and sloppy cooling- down practice. Watch for smoking from cold and when idling. Check the 20v’s rear coolant hose because it can let go without warning. Inspect the engine for leaks because the head gasket is so strong that it refuses to fail, causing problems elsewhere. Ensure the oil cooler pipe isn’t corroded. Cambelt changes are every 35k miles on the 16v Turbo and 50k miles on 20v and should include the water pump. Check for a cracked exhaust manifold.