Fiat Cinquecento – 1991

Ital Design’s Fiat Cinquecento was the replacement for the Fiat 126 and the name was a patent con — despite suggesting the engine was a modest 500 ccs, the truth of the matter was that the smallest engine offered in the new Cinquecento scoped out at an impressive 704 ccs. Naughty!

This little city car had one body style — an angular three-door hatchback with a deep wraparound front bumper. Despite its square looks, the Cinquecentro was aerodynamically efficient and had some advanced features for a budget car. These included independent suspension all round, front disc brakes, side impact bars and crumple zones. It even had better rustproofing than Fiats of earlier generations, offering hope that the driver’s foot wouldn’t go through the floorpan after a few years of wet running. There were optional extras available, such as electric windows, central locking and a sunroof (the Soleil version actually came with a retractable canvas roof).

There were alternative engines, too. The basic 704 cc motor was reserved for the Cinquecento’s home market (it was manufactured at the FSM plant in Poland), whilst everyone else got the long-established Fiat 903 cc engine (reduced to 899 cc in 1993 for fiscal reasons). The interesting point here was that the smaller power plant was mounted longitudinally, but the larger one was arranged transversely. Both configurations were produced simultaneously, which was a most unusual arrangement. The Cinquecento, unlike its predecessor, was a front-wheel drive car.

The Cinquecento Sporting was introduced in 1994, boasting the 1.1 litre FIRE engine from the contemporary Fiat Punto. This model boasted a close-ratio gearbox, lower ride height, roll bars and colour-coded bumpers and side mirrors. Inside there were sports seats, leather steering wheel and gear knob and a tachometer to underline Sporting credentials. This is definitely the one to zip around in!


Italy (built in Poland)


1991 (until 1998)


704 cc, 903/899 cc or 1,108 cc Straight Four


Sporting — top speed of 93 mph (150 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 13.5 secs


Giorgetto Giugiaro was the Cinquecento’s original designer, and he subsequently came up with a completely new version of the little car. Waste not, want not — when Fiat decided not to pick up Giorgetto’s concept he promptly sold it to Daewoo of South Korea as the basis for their neat little 1998 Matiz minicar.


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