Used Car Reviews – Fiat Barchetta


Having driven a friend’s Miata before I took wheel time in the Citroën VTS, I wanted to see what the obvious European counterpart, the Fiat Barchetta would feel like. The Barchetta hasn’t been embraced by any counterculture, unlike the racing-inclined Miatas; on the contrary, it hints of fancy seaside living and tennis rackets.

The Barchetta also differs from the Miata in the sense that it’s not built on a bespoke sports car platform: no, it’s closer to the FWD Mercury Capri in comparison. There’s a Mk1 Fiat Punto hidden underneath the beautiful Zapatinas lines of the Barchetta, just like the Capri takes its running gear from the Mazda 323. But the Barchetta manages to look indescribably cool, in a way the Capri could never reach. It’s worth checking out.


This 2001 example was for sale in the next town. It wore chunky 16-inch wheels, and only had a meagre 127k kms on the clock. Like the name implies, there’s something boatlike about the Maggiora-manufactured Barchetta; the shapely hips and the high side swage add to that. There’s a long, maritimely shaped nose, and the rear overhang is minimal. The little chrome detailing it has is cute, and the trick doorhandles are a treat. This late car has a third brake light added to the trunklid, and that looks like an afterthought.


Behind the wheel, the Fiat felt snug but not cramped. The dashboard with its deep gauge buckets and round vents is simply beautiful, and the leather wheel is a pleasure to behold. No question the Barchetta is a modern classic, and they should never let be descended to beaterdom.

This car had a little bit of rust bubbles peeking, and it also suffered from a blowing exhaust backbox. The seller said he had driven the car for two years, and that it would probably require a new cambelt sooner than later. The asking price was a super-steep 7900 eur, which didn’t come down much. Were I give the seller the BMW, I should include 5500 in the glovebox. Compare this to the fact there are presentable Barchettas available for 4k and change not far from where I live.


But on the open road, the Barchetta felt neat and tidy. The 130hp 1747cc DOHC four, once warmed up, revved happily to 7000rpm and the car tracked straight and true. I had the top closed due to intermittent rain, which also revealed how useless and tiny the wipers were, but at least the top held water. Some wind noise was unavoidable, but I wouldn’t complain. What I’d mark down as a minus was the feel of the shifter; it couldn’t help feeling cheap and insubstantial, despite having short snick-snick movements. But hey, in this cabin even a blowing exhaust would subscribe to a sporty feel.


This example, then? Too expensive, too much maintenance ahead, too much rust. But with a cheaper car, little issues would be easier to stomach. The Barchetta does make my soft-top shortlist.

[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Antti Kautonen]

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10 responses to “Used Car Reviews – Fiat Barchetta”

  1. Number_Six Avatar

    These things look fantastic on the road. They might only be 65% of the sportscar that the MX-5 is but they've got 165% more style.

  2. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    It always struck me that the Barchetta was marketed very badly, at least in the UK. It was a bit of an oportunity wasted; Fiat seemed too lowly a name for such a beautifully concieved and resolved little car.
    Even the underpinnings, though prosaic, made perfect sense. It should have been sold as a boutique model, under a separate brand identity. Sometimes manufacturers release a car which is actually far better than it needs to be, and fail to reap the rewards.

    1. Vavon Avatar

      They could have sold it as the Lancia Fulvia Spider for example!
      <img src=""&gt;

      1. Rover1 Avatar

        Nice! Is that a one off?

        1. Vavon Avatar

          Sadly, I don't know.

  3. dead_elvis Avatar

    Cue Rush fans complaining that this Barchetta isn't red.

  4. Maymar Avatar

    These have slowly started filtering their way across the Atlantic (well, at least to Canada since they've started breaching the 15 year old mark). I'd be very interested if they were available for ~$5000-$7500 (like a Miata), but the few I've seen have been closer to $12, IIRC. If I'm shelling out $12k for a charming, prosaic Fiat, I'm just taking a 500 and the warranty that comes with it.
    No, if I'm looking at an oddball MX-5 alternative, it'll be an MG-F.

  5. Rover1 Avatar

    The MX5/Miata is/was so good that eveyrthing else isn't. The only reason to buy something other than an MX5 is to not buy an MX5. The same reason why some people in Europe still bought Chev Luminas for the same price they could have bought a BMW.

  6. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    Lovely car. Likely priced too optimistically to move enough units.

  7. DrStoat Avatar

    I owned one while living in Dubai, UAE. It only cost me EUR2500. Great little car.