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A Grand Monday: Fiat Cinquecento

Published 07 November 2016

Fiat revived a name from the past when it came to replace the 126 at the start of the 1990s. Launched in 1991, the Guiguiaro-styled  Cinquecento (or 500) was also the first Fiat city car to be front engined, the original 500 and 126 having had the power unit adrift of the rear axle.

It was also the first car to be built exclusively at Fiat’s Tychy factory in Poland, formerly the home of FSO, or Polski-Fiat. But the Cinquecento was a massive step forward for the factory – this wasn’t some shonkily-built Polonez with inch-wide panel gaps and self-detaching interior plastics.

Indeed, despite its budget pricing and rather basic standard equipment, the Cinquecento was quite a nicely finished little car, and fairly advanced, to boot. It had fully galvanised steel panels to address Fiat’s traditional reputation for rampant corrosion, it had side impact bars, front and rear crumple zones and fully independent suspension, while inside the dash layout and steering wheel had a certain sporting, youthful appeal.

It was neatly styled, too – angular, but clean, its rollerskate-like profile allowing for decent levels of headroom and passenger comfort, albeit at the expense of a minuscule boot.

Fiat Cinquecento (3)

Most Cinquecentos, this one included, had a 0.9-litre engine, originally 903cc and the same chain-driven overhead-valve unit that could trace its roots back to small Fiats of the 1960s. The displacement was later adjusted to 899cc to suit tax regulations in some of the Cinquecento’s key markets, though the basic design of the powerplant remained unchanged. This 1996 Fiat Cinquecento S is one such example, being one of the last Cinquecentos built before it was replaced by the Seicento (600) in early 1997.

The car has covered just 33,500 miles in 20 years, an average of only 1675 miles a year, and is being sold with a full 12-month's MoT. It’s also quite an unusual and upmarket colour for a basic supermini, and appears to be completely original.

At £450, we reckon this has the potential to be an absolute bargain – the Cinquecento’s appeal will surely soon catch on, in common with all small Fiats before it, so this is a sure-fire on-the-cusp classic that really deserves to be preserved. Its low running costs also make it an ideal first classic, especially for younger drivers.

Fiat Cinquecento (5)

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