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Fiat Uno (1983 - 1993)

reviewed by Best Driver on 15 January 2016

Uno 45 999cc FIRE engine. Year 1990-Mark2 shape

reviewed by lowflyingpilot on 9 May 2015
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How it drives
Fuel economy
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Tight, light, zippy,go kart precise handling, brilliant for the city, or country lanes/B roads.. 58.5 mpg. :-)

Zippy, Fiat gears and free reving extracts the most from this 999cc petrol engine.
Max torque I think is around +/- 2500rpm. That moves into "diesel" low torque territory. Exceptional economy; 58mpg average in real driving over 2014.

Yet the engine freely revs. I have demonstrated it can go up to 63mph in second gear, yet was still pulling. No sign of any "brick wall" valve bounce. This is obviously not the ideal speed to change gear at; but it shows what it can do.

Maximum speed is listed at 90mph; but often can work up to exceed this in traffic streams, or downhills or favourable winds.

Above around 97mph the car does start to feel like you are on a single cylinder motorbike at higher rpm. Single cylinder thumpers is what bikers call this feeling. A vibration and resonance works its way over the car.

Plus points; averaged 58.5 mpg , accurately recorded, in the past year. This does drop to around 39mpg-44mpg if high speed motorway work is being done for long periods.

Best car I have ever found for getting over humpback bridges at speed. It holds itself down, and does not bounce.

The 999cc petrol Uno is faster than the original Mini Cooper. I raced one for about 30 miles on B roads. Whilst overtaking in tandem it is true that the Mini Cooper initially had more low down torque; but then the Uno reeled in the Mini and had longer legs.

Fiat published data shows that four speed Fiat Uno's are more economical than five speed Fiat Uno's; across a variety of speeds and conditions, except one. It demonstrates that it was a myth that 5 speed equates to better economy (for this car and indeed many others; certainly of this era; and I believe it would be the same for modern cars; if four speed versions were made available. Less can be best!).

I presently can not find my booklet; but if I do I will add the relevant data here. The data is out there in the public domain though.

The Fiat book also show that the four speeds have a higher top speed than five speeds; where there is a choice of four or five speed gearbox on the same car/engine.

It shows that car design (historically) was around four speed gearboxes; and four speed is the sensible option to go for. I have noticed this with Citroen cars also; four speeds seem better to drive.

It is my opinion still that four speed cars with wider spaced gears (rather than having some of the ratios clustered around one particular area); produce better cars for general driving. Who wants to keep having to change gear from 5 to 4 to 5 to 4 to 3 to 4 to 5; to keep it rolling on a high speed road? Get a four speed and stay put. This is what 5 speed often meant, on the cars of yesteryear.

Another thing to consider from this period, is that the diesel Unos are substantially heavier than their petrol counterparts. I again will publish the figures if I find my booklet. The diesel cars are at least 10 percent heavier. and are somewhere between 10-20% heavier; equivalent of at least an extra passenger or two in weight. This is a fact that car companies often conveniently 'forget' to tell the diesel car driver. Whilst on contemporary cars in more recent times the weight difference between petrol and diesel may have diminished, it is still a factor to consider.

Any increase in bigger sized diesel engines, or assumed low down torque is offset by this weight penalty. Diesel cars at this time were still finding their way.

It also happens that for a petrol engine the Uno petrols maximum torque is low anyway. So low infact the rpm is not so far off a diesel maximum torque anyway. The diesels of course have much narrower power bands too, so in many ways are a much less user friendly car.

Having had both a petrol Fiat Uno and also a diesel Fiat Uno, I can say for sure that the extra nose heavy diesel engine wipes the light nimble go-karting feel of the petrol engined Uno away. The diesel version comes into its own for motorway use; for which it is much more capable and at home than the petrol version.

Downsides :-
Leaking sunroof leaves wet patches on the seats.

Don't wind the windows down when the door is open, and then slam the door shut. The plastic window bracket can break; leaving the window to "fall down" inside the door. This is because the window guiding channels do not go all of the way down inside the door, so the window is mostly unsupported when it is in the open/down position. This is the case on the two door models. I am not sure if the four door models are different.

The heater is less effective than modern cars, and the two speed fan is noisy on speed two. On rural journeys of up to 20 miles at speeds of up to 50 mph, the water temperature only gets up to 60-70 degrees anyway, and in winter time hardly moves over 50 degrees. So the effectiveness of the cars heater will always be diminished. It is sufficient, but less effective and refined compared to modern cars.

Cylinder head gasket is a weak point. When I bought this car it had just been replaced. It lasted about 8 months.

Gear linkages can be weak, or at least when the car gets to 24 years old. I once was left with a "floppy" gearstick and the car wedged in third gear. I continued the journey in third gear only. If this ever happens lay on the road as you have to reach underneath the car, and pop the joint back on (it is visible) Then drive smoothly/gently on the gearhanges to prevent it popping off again; or/and use an old boot lace to tie and hold it on and prevent it popping off again.

In (heavy)snow conditions make sure you clear the snow first; before putting the wiper on. It often blows the fuse otherwise.

The drum rear brakes need to warm up. Brake application when cold can cause lock up on the rear in both the wet and dry; until warmed up. The first mile or two in the morning, until the rear brake drums have warmed up, be prepared for rear wheel lock up.

I think I worried a few cyclists (I cycle myself so always give cyclists plenty of room), by coming up behind and gently tapping on the brake to get the timing right to overtake. Hearing a car lock up behind you when you are cycling is not a good thing. Sorry cyclists.

In about 1994, we found out that a 1.1 litre Fiat Uno was quicker than a Citroen ZX 1.9 diesel. I was following a friend who was in a Citroen ZX 1.9 diesel and I was driving someone else's 1.1 litre Fiat Uno. We came up to a junction. When we pulled out onto an open A road,we were presented with a clear road, with no oncoming traffic.

We both floored it and the Uno had greater power and legs, and so I overtook and flew by the Citroen 1.9 diesel in the Fiat Uno.

These Uno's are quicker than you think for the engine size.

Thirteen inch wheels (on the 999cc) is standard; & it could do with bigger wheels for rural use at least, I live mostly in a national park. Traction was touch and go on the beach I drive down.

However handling on (non bumpy) roads is very precise and go-kart like. The 13 inch manouevrable wheels are probably designed for Italians to race around ornate medieval towns and around city piazzas; and for this environment the Uno is brilliant! The closest I got to that was Bristol city centre in rush hour :s

Fiat had to carry the original design feel of the orginal Fiat 500, and Fiat 127 through to the Uno; as the Uno was their replacement after all. I think Fiat achieved that very well. The original Fiat 500's replacement is the Fiat Uno; and not the new 500.

The Uno uses 20% less fuel than our 2007 Fiat Panda 1.2 litre engine. So where is the progress from 1990- 2007 with fuel economy? Ok the Fiat Panda does have a 20 % bigger sized engine too; but twenty years of development has produced an economy loss.

Our 2007 Fiat Panda averages around 50 mpg under similar conditions to the Uno's 58mpg. Lighter cars of the past beat new modern heavier cars in real world achieved overall average fuel consumption. If you are really environmental and want an economic car go for a 1990's Fiat Uno (58.5 mpg actual) or Citroen 2CV (52.5 mpg actual recorded average) or equivalent car.

In the mid 1990's I also had an Italian import Turbo Diesel Fiat Uno. They never sold the turbo diesel in the UK from what I understand. This was at a time of 1990's 'dieselmania'. The bigger diesel engine was crammed into the Uno. By the time the turbo diesel additions were squeezed on, there was very little room left anywhere. The intercooler was low under the front bumper; and grounded on rough tracks. This car was sometimes very bad at starting; even despite changing the glow plugs. I considered changing the injectors, but that would have been costly.

Typical of many diesels, the heavier diesel engine greatly diminished the petrol engined Uno's sharp handling. And like many diesels the intially sluggish response and bog down from a lack of low-low down intial torque took away the diesel Uno's city driving experience advantage over its petrol alternative.
The diesel bogged down at junctions. The complete opposite of its petrol counterpart, which was very tractable and quick off the line.

In summary get the petrol Uno for zipping about in the city or twisty b roads, and the diesel Uno principally if motorway use is your main mileage..

Be aware that my 1990 base model had no cigarette/lighter or power leads in position to retro add one. This was how things were in 1990.

Basically the Uno is a great car for short journeys; a great city car, or great for rural cross country journeys on B roads. At first I was considering taking my Uno down to Italy over the Alps for a trip to Italy and Greece; but have decided that if I do it, it will be in a different car.

For its go-kart road holding, the way the engine delivers its power, and its economy of 58.5 mpg , I give the car 5 stars. However because of the cylinder head gasket, and dubious construction quality of the windows etc, leaky sunroof I have given it a 3 star rating overall.Long distance driving comfort is not brilliant.

So 5 star rating for city use, 3 star rating overall factoring in long distance unrefinement.

My top tip, considering getting one if your use is as a city car for quick zip abouts; or country lane driving or enthusiastic B road rural driving; as this is where this car excels out.

I scrapped this car last year, and when I cut it open with an anglegrinder there was no signs of any rust in the sills or anywhere; so there are some very good ones about.

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