Have you ever bought a used car off a used car dealer's forecourt? It seems like a quaint and slightly old-fashioned thing to do, not to mention a potentially expensive thing to do.
Take this week's Shed, a Fiat Seicento Sporting. If you live local to it and fancy a bit of Italian silliness on your drive, you could walk up and then drive away having paid the window sticker price of £1895 for it. Then one of your mickey-taking mates will find it here on PH Classifieds at £1095 and your life will instantly take a turn for the worse. Just goes to show that there's no mercy in the used car biz.
Launched in 1998, the Seicento was meant to be a modern version of the classic old Fiat 600. The new car was bigger than the old one, but not by that much. To emphasise the point, Fiat went to the trouble of having it built in a Polish town called Tychy. True fact dat.
Barely troubling the scales at below 750kg, the Seicento went surprisingly well even with a neolithic pushrod 899cc four under the bonnet. From 2000 it moved up to a supercar-like fuel-injected 1.1 FIRE engine with a non-interference timing belt. The Sporting model came with dropped suspension along with anti-roll bars and 13-inch 'steelie style' alloys. Annoyingly it didn't get the Cinquecento Sporting's red seatbelts, but it did get a centrally mounted dashtop tacho, hurray!
You'll have to take more than a couple of brave pills before biting down on this particular car. The lower 'Abarth' plastics appear to have taken a bit of a pasting, with a couple of big chips and some odd paint staining up front. There's a goodly amount of brownage showing in the hatch latchplate area, which may not bode well for the rust-prone petrol tank, and a suspicion of more nastiness lurking in the arches.
Further investigation of the MOTs dating back to 2006 unearths what you might call a rich and interesting history. It's had loads of bother with misaligned headlights and even more with the brakes. At some point in 2007 or 2008, between 65k and 71k, it had a structure-damaging bump that put it in the workshop for a good few weeks. In 2015 it failed on a ridiculous number of steering and braking issues, suggesting either some 'home servicing' had taken place or that it had received mechanical attention from the automotive equivalent of Dr Harold Shipman.
Generally, you don't want to zoom in too hard on this car. It's most likely been boshed around all its life by uncaring owners, but the good thing about these is they are tough to the bone having been designed to take the sort of abuse that an angry and/or hyped-up Italian might dish out on a daily basis on the mad streets of Milan or Rome. Vacuum pipes do leak, throttles do stick and the cable-operated clutch mechanism is a bit pants. Otherwise, you may thrash it with a clear conscience, advice that has by the looks of it been diligently followed by previous owners.
Although the suspicion is that it's been serviced by A Baboon & Sons, or possibly by nobody at all, it's always been put right to get it through each new test, which maybe makes you think that Sportings generate owner love. It's just gone through another test. For about the millionth time the headlights have needed readjustment. A new shock will be needed at some point for the back end, though given the crudity of the suspension on these you probably won't notice much difference between before and after. It won't cost you much to find out.
More worryingly, there's an advisory for corrosion on the offside front floor. That could be an after-effect of repairs done on that bump 10 years ago, or it may be the normal expectation for a low-priced Italian supermini that's now 19 years old. Factor in the 1.5 star Euro NCAP crash rating (see pic below) and this is beginning to sound like the last car a sane person would want to buy.
But it will be brilliant in town, brilliantly terrifying on the open road and brilliantly scary on the motorway where you will be able to admire the wheel nuts of Bulgarian artics as they thunder past your right ear. Chucking a 1.2 Punto engine in it will allow you to make more forays into other lanes.
It will be dirt cheap to insure, and with some determination on your part, dirt cheap to buy. The dealer will know full well that even £1095 is crazy money for this one. Just march into his premises with a printout of this story in your grubby mitt and get to work on massaging his discounting gland.
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