Fiat Barchetta: Spotted

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.


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

See the original advert here.

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (59) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Nerdherder 21 Apr 2019

    Really like these and one of the best steel wheel designs ever on this example.

  • lotuslover69 21 Apr 2019

    Always liked the looks, wonder how one would compare to the Lotus Elan M100

  • heisthegaffer 21 Apr 2019

    I think that's pretty good value for a beautiful little car from an ear which was probably Fiat's best.... The coupe, bravo/a, Punto and of course this. All really good cars.

  • ballans 21 Apr 2019

    If the mileage and condition check out I would say that is an absolute bargain. Probably getting quite tricky to find one in good shape as the body panels are made from very thin metal and very sensitive to rust and distortion. A mate leant on mine and bent it!
    Mechanically they’re pretty robust but have the usual Italian flakey electrics. A well placed blow to the dashboard would usually fix mine though.
    I had one in the same colour, spec and age as this one and I loved it. Despite the FWD the Punto chassis is a great starting point Plus the low weight and a fizzy high revving engine make it a fantastic drive.
    Personal preference but I’d take one over an MX5 every time. Mrs B has an MX5 2.5 so I’ve experienced and driven both extensively.
    The only thing I would watch out for on this one is the Variator. As the mileage is so low there is a good chance it hasn’t failed yet. Easy to tell if it has as it will sound like a diesel at idle. Fiat replaced them under a recall but that was 20 years ago so no idea how easy it would be to find a replacement now.

  • C.A.R. 21 Apr 2019

    I just can't see why someone would part with money for one of these when the MX5 exists. It doesn't have a redeeming feature over it!

    My mate had a Punto of this era and it was woefully unreliable too, HGF, busted radiator, electric problems. Have people conveniently forgotten that? I would be worried about a car based on a Punto even if it was rwd!

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