The Fast & The Forbidden: 1993-2000 Fiat Coupé [w/ Video]
Although Fiat has a pretty long history of building sporty and stylish coupes, it went for quite a long period – specifically, the latter-half of the 1970s and all of the 1980s – without a properly sportivo fixed-roof 2-door. Thankfully, that drought ended in a big (and bold) way in 1993 with the concisely- titled Fiat Coupé.
The striking and often polarizing exterior, with its diagonally cut wheel arches, door handles hidden in the B-pillars and low, Dino-esque grille, was largely the work of Chris Bangle (yes, the Chris Bangle of later BMW fame/infamy), while the handsome interior (which, in many specifications, featured a “belt” of body colored molding wrapping around the dash and door panels) was a Pininfarina creation. It’s not what you would call classically beautiful, but compared to some other front-wheel-drive sport coupes that debuted around that time or a few years after, the Coupé’s appearance is on the tame side.
As for performance, the Fiat Coupé was initially offered with just a 2.0L DOHC 16-valve inline-four in either naturally-aspirated (137 horsepower) and turbocharged (193 horsepower) forms, the latter being based off the unit found in the mighty Lancia Delta HF Integrale. Starting with the 1996 model year, the 2.0L four-bangers were retired in favor of a new base engine, a 1.8L DOHC 16-valve inline-four rated at 129 horsepower, and a 2.0L DOHC 20-valve inline-five in atmo (145 horsepower) and turbo (217 horsepower) guises. Two years after that, the naturally-aspirated five received a variable-length intake manifold that upped output to 152 horsepower, while the turbo got a new 6-speed manual transmission; every other Fiat Coupé was fitted with a 5-speed manual, and no automatic was ever offered. Furthermore, both the 4- and 5-cylinder turbos featured Viscodrive, a viscous limited slip differential to help temper the on-throttle unruliness endemic to powerful front drivers.
By the time production wrapped in September 2000, 72,762 Fiat Coupés had been made, and not one of them was shipped to North America, as Fiat had withdrawn from the U.S. market in 1983. It’ll be another two years before you can import even a first-year four-banger Coupé under Uncle Sam’s 25-year exemption rules, so until then you’ll have to either a) talk your way into a test drive on your next European holiday, or b) look at the pictures and watch the video (hosted by real live Italian Davide Cironi) below and dream about showing full-of-themselves Eclipse and Integra jockeys what an Old World take on the ‘90s sport coupe genre can do.