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Fiat Barchetta: Spotted

Only the Italians could make a front-driven, left-hand drive drop-top this appealing...

By Sam Sheehan / Sunday, April 21, 2019

The success of the ND has been fantastic for Mazda, but it's not the only MX-5 to be experiencing high demand at the moment. Values of the original pop-up headlight car have long been creeping up, and now prices of the softer-looking Mk2 are reflecting the desire for back-to-basics drop-tops of the MX-5 variety, too. With the Mk3 modern enough to provide practical usability in an affordable package, you've got a whole lineage of models now facing the effects of the same trend. A bit like a cut-price 911.

The same cannot really be said of the Fiat Barchetta. The 124 Spider is, admittedly, not linked to the Barchetta because it's linked to the old 124 Spider, obviously. But you might have expected the arrival of a new soft-top Fiat to trigger some impulse purchases of the marque's last one. Thing is, we all know what made the Barchetta such an unattractive proposition to sun-seeking sports car drivers. Front-wheel drive being one reason. Left-hand drive being the other.

Sales of the Barchetta in Britain were therefore low. In 2001, six years after its launch, there were only 1,400 Barchettas registered in Britain (according to HowManyLeft). Sure, the MX-5 had a big head start, but its near 40k UK examples in the same year tell the story fairly well. Mazda's sports car was a roaring success and, while its Punto underpinnings and lack of a RHD variant made it an unsurprising outcome, Fiat's Barchetta was, in Britain, not.

That's not to say it wasn't a fun machine to own. The original Punto was actually a pretty good car for its day, so the Barchetta's base gave it eager handling that worked well with Fiat's revvy engines. The naturally aspirated 1.7-litre was Fiat's first with variable valve timing and, with a peak of 130hp arriving at 6,300rpm, gave the one-tonne roadster the pace to hit 62mph in 8.9 seconds. Alright, so the driven axle was at the wrong end, but aside from its inability to embrace a clutch kick or two, the car felt as sprightly as you'd like.

It also looked the part, with much more style than the cuddlier Mk2 MX-5 and its rarity - which would have only served to enhance the appeal. You might think those traits alone would serve the Barchetta well in these times of resurging demand for simple, enjoyable cars that boast a certain old-school charm, but the car's left-hooker status has arguably prevented any noticeable increase in secondhand demand. Still, rarity is such that prices have not sunk to as deep a rock bottom as the equivalent Mazdas.

Today's 21-year-old Spotted has just 14,861 miles on the clock - well, technically it reads 23,916km - and looks to be in very good condition indeed, with a new soft-top recently fitted. Furthermore, having lived its life in Japan until 2017, metal bits said to be completely free of the orange stuff. It's on sale for £5,795, so is priced accordingly - that's as expensive as Barchettas get. But as far as we can tell, you're looking at one of the finest examples of Fiat's almost-forgotten drop-tops available in Britain. We dare you not to fall for its Italian charms.


SPECIFICATION - FIAT BARCHETTA

Engine: 1,747cc, four-cyl
Transmission: 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 130@6,300rpm
Torque (lb ft): 121@4,300rpm
MPG: 33.6
CO2: N/A
First registered: 2017 (imported from Japan)
Recorded mileage: 14,861
Price new: N/A
Price now: £5,795

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