Period Road Test: 1979 Fiat 132 2.0 Part 2

Previously DTW featured what was apparently a transcript of a period road test of the Fiat 132 2.0 by the legendary motoring scribe Archie Vicar; this is a continuation of the road test.

1979 Fiat 132: autoevolution

This part of the article first appeared in the Skegness Standard. The original photographs were by Dennis du Barry. Due to loss of opacity of the originals, stock photos have been used.

If you look even half-heartedly, the revised Fiat 132 strikes one as obviously very much a car for the average driver, despite it all. My decision to visit Nancy as part of a thorough high-mileage road test of the car was justified by the ways the car’s good and not so good points were brought to the fore. These included the very Italian style, both inside and out.

One example of this is that when we were trying to drive out of Nancy (very heavy traffic, and it was only Tuesday), it occurred to me the 132 is really a badger in sheep’s clothing. The car has power-steering, all-disc brakes and standard Pirelli P6 tyres. And yet the performance is precisely somewhere between acceptable and adequate.

The 132’s top speed is 102 mph while Ford’s Cortina 2.0 GL (£3581) can get to 102.6 and the Opel Rekord Berlina cracks 105.2. (£4390). Most thought-provokingly, the Cavalier GL 4-door gets to 107 mph and has a smart set of upholstery options to choose from too.

From Nancy to Epinal and onto Belfort – a jolly good bit of French tarmac if ever there was such a thing. The 132’s performance diminished slightly as the day wore on, with the top speed falling at about the rate of a mile per hour per hour until top was 59 mph as we trundled into Belfort.

At first I suspected the durable and attractive carpet of being jammed between the bulkhead and pedal. Occasionally power would fall away like a Greek statue dropping down a lift-shaft (you should see that some time if you can) followed by a complete recovery.

So, after a late start on Wednesday morning (the local wine’s not so bad as to discourage that tricky second bottle). Stayed that the Le Grand Hotel du Tonneau Dór, by the way. Fine garage, good cellar. Negotiating the somewhat confusing streets of Belfort, we made to Grimbeau Fiat on the outskirts and sorted out the power loss after a bit of shouting about Fiat’s press wallah in London finally sank in. A rod mounted nylon clasp had abraded and detached from the ball linkage. I took two spare boxes of replacement parts just in case but the problem never came up again.

I decided to head onwards to Bern so as to give the 132 a chance for some Alpine driving, one of the surest tests of car’s ability to handle hilly terrain and also a good way to prove the steering. It turned out to be a bit of a tiring day as power still bled away – this time I had to sort it out myself, on the side of the road between the canton of Bern and the canton of Jura.

One of the throttle linkage gubbins had been chafed by the throttle cable itself. I improvised a kind of metal guide post to tug the throttle cable away from the offended part, by dint of hammering a handy-roadside nail into the adjacent panel (see picture) using the jack as a hammer. Don’t ask.

Bern – another chance to enjoy a plate of Bern offal: kidney in wine sauce, noodles and Swiss wine which is astronomically costly and for some reason unavailable in Skegness.

All in all, it’s a mixed mixture this 132. The top speed figures don’t show it in such a good light; even Vauxhall have it licked. For many a Morris driver the Fiat would still seem swift enough though. Build is worse than Alfa and Ford – and better than Citroen and Peugeot. And the rather poor taste of the cabin is balanced by practical touches: the ladies’ vanity mirror, the rear centre armrest, head-restraints too – but you’ll also struggle to find nooks and cubbies to store your small items. I ended up driving with my jacket on and my matches and pipe and wallet in my inside pockets!


If Fiat can solve some of the problems with bits falling off, chafing or squeaking and can adjust the pedal angles and re-do the American-style dashboard, they have the kind of car some people may very well not mind having on their driveway. That was the conclusion I reached in Bern and I still had fifteen hours of driving to enjoy before reaching Skegness.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

6 thoughts on “Period Road Test: 1979 Fiat 132 2.0 Part 2”

  1. This car is not within my range of significant memories albeit being considered a good car. And that is quite a result as, and I think that “least influential mind set” is the opposite of “car journalism”: while trying to look neutral it would not be uncommon to have a pinch of bias. And telling stories of rubber trims falling apart is always easy to mention and yet .. neutral.
    Anyway, I would like to state that I quite like the Fiat Argenta, which is the last version the 132. The Argenta had re-interpreted the 132 using boxing/sharp edge style and using the 5 slash Fiat logo initiated by Fiat Uno. It keeps those wonderful door handles although, I admit that for me, a proper car must have a boot and proper door handles (like the Lancia Lybra, for example, which has the proper shape and is aluminum casted with the proper feel).
    I like also the “econometre” dial (vacuum indicator) and the location of the gear knob. All in all, I would take this car to do a five thousand trip which is quite an indicator of goodness.

    1. I have a lot of time for the Lybra. The saloon is charming and properly put together too. I recall Fiat 132s and Argentas as fiercely dedicated to rusting. It is difficult to understand why people in Ireland bought anything from Fiat in the late 70s and early 80s as they rusted violently, even by the low standards of the day.

  2. The stock picture heading the article shows an Ro80 registered in the parallel-universe Heilbronn, which would still have been Fiat’s German base at the time, long after the manufacturing facility and the Forschabteilung closed.

    When I visited the town last year, there seemed to be an inordinate number of quite new Fiats. Loyalty or good pensioner discounts?

    1. What brought you to Heilbronn? It´s a place I know mostly from hints left by the motorway signage people.

      The same is true for Worms. I drove past it for years before finally seeing the place. I had a look at the main church and, as I recall, I had a disappointing lunch overlooking the river, with huge empty field (for circuses and the like) blocking the view.

      Amazingly, I have been to Heilbronn. It must have been day 3 of my cycle along the Neckar river. I remember nothing of it at all.Oh, I messed up that tour. I did not stay in Tubingen and didn not stay in Heidelberg either. No, I stayed in Mannheim. It could be a good idea for me to redo that tour again and try to get it right.

  3. My Heilbronn visit?

    Most of the interest was about 6km to the north, in a one-horse town that was formerly home to NSU, and is now the proud hometown of Lidl. (It has a really impressive Aldi, and the crummiest Lidl I have ever encountered)

    There are at least two stories from my visit I must get round to writing. Neither involves deep-discounted Lebensmittel nor bicycle riding.

  4. Fiat 132 2000 ie top speed was 196 km/h in 4th gear and 5th gear 190 km/h (economy). Was driving that car since 1987 until 1993 . My brother was driving BMW 320 6cyl. double carburetor and that car could come close to Fiat but not pass it.

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