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.
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.