I wanted to like this car, and I did. It's one of the prettiest new cars on the road, fast but not furious, a whizz to drive, small and easy to park, yet big enough for four adults. And, the dog liked it, too. So did lots of other road users who dropped windows to ask "what is it?" Women like it as much as men, and no one suggested my metallic blue Fiat was a much needed extension of a certain organ. The Fiat tries hard to look both mean and cossetting, so it's a bit of a compromise: not quite crisp and metallic enough inside for sporty drivers, yet insufficiently svelte for posing boulevardiers. On the downside, the car jiggles about on city roads; its turbocharged engine means that it is embarrassingly slow at times, but kicks like a mule as the power rushes in. Steering is razor- sharp; driving position, seats, weight and feel of pedals, all excellent. Doors shut with a clunk. Lovely details include filler-cap (really) and lamps front and back. Let down by naff "Turbo" badges and banal seat fabrics. If toughened up, this could be a very desirable way of zipping about quickly without looking and feeling like a style prat.
The expert's view
Never before has a major car corporation come up with so many new cars in such a short time: Fiat Barchetta, Alfa GTV and Spider, Alfa 145 and 146, revised Alfa 155, Lancia Kappa and now the Fiat Coupe. Nor is the process yet over; it began with the Punto two years ago, and we still have the Fiat Bravo and Brava to come this year. Every one of them is a cracker, not least because Fiat Auto chief Paolo Cantarella insists that they must look the sort of cars you could lust after. Cantarella favours instinct over market research clinics, and the Coupe is proof: look at those slashed sides, that gaping mouth, that truncated tail, the splash of body colour paint across the dashboard. Fortunately the 2.0- litre, 16-valve, turbocharged Fiat goes like it looks, although the delayed response to the accelerator at low revs can be frustrating; most other modern turbo engines manage to avoid this. I'd like a better feel of the road through the steering, but it's accurate enough, the roadholding is strong and the car's balance makes it fun in the bends. An early example I drove suffered from a medley of rattles, but Fiat fixed this in time for the UK launch.
Honda Prelude 2.2i VTEC, pounds 21.995 Agile, with clever four-wheel steering. High noise levels, and a cramped cabinNissan 200 SX, pounds 19,250 Rear-wheel drive and a two-stage turbo engine. Styling, however, is dull in the extreme
Vauxhall Calibra 4x4 Turbo, pounds 22,315 Engine is very muscular, six-speed gearbox is fun but unnecessary, cabin is roomy
Volkswagen Corrado VR6, pounds 21,199 Poised for the axe yet one of the smoothest coupes in years, and a spacious one, too.
Fiat Coupe 16V Turbo, pounds 19,249
Engine: 1995cc, four cylinders, 195bhp at 5,500rpm. Five-speed gearbox. front-wheel drive. Top speed 145mph. 0-60 in 6.9 seconds. Fuel consumption 23-28mpgReuse content