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With the Fiat 126, you basically get a Fiat 500 - a design heralding back to the 50`s. All very well, only the 500 was cute with its rounded mini-Beetle style shape, something which the 126 isn`t! In fact, the squared off shape changed very little in 20 years from 1973 when it was introduced to 1993 when production ceased.
A bit of history firsly then, the 500 contained a 500cc engine, surprisingly enough but despite an almost identical floorpan and layout on the 126, the earliest versions had a 594cc engine which might get to 60MPH but not in any quick amount of time. The later 652cc engines would find 65MPH but not before 30 odd seconds or so. Eventually production moved over to FSO in Poland in the 80`s and it was rebadged the 126FSM. Given that early ones rusted and later ones were built in a then unadvanced Poland, quality is unlikely to be too high. In 1987, the 126 was rebadges the 126Bis for some reason and became a hatchback with a 702cc engine which might just find 70MPH although the ugly shape stayed until 93 when replaced by the far more usable Cinquecento.
Generally speaking, the UK got just one model although the De Ville sun roof model with a fabric roof might be collectable and slightly cute.
Early 126`s were basic with the heater output control actually under the back seat - later ones didn`t improve much but were slightly more civilised.
Don`t expect much space or comfort of course, nor refinement from the noisy little engine. Economy and reliability isn`t likely to be great either, mainly due to the fact the 126 has to be driven almost flat out. Few engines see 50K anyway. Parts won`t be that easy to find now either.
Handling isn`t a strong point with the rear engine setup and although safety isn`t great, the lack of power means the most dangerous thing to do is go on a motorway.
The 126`s were the cheapest new car to buy in the UK for many years and then depreciated dredfully so buy cheap but if you want a cute little car, get the classic 500 (before) or the civilised Cinquecento (after) for my money.
It is easy to slag off E European produced cars (the 126 was largely produced in Poland) - yet the engineering standards are just as good(its just the people got paid less for doing it) Gearbox probs and no head -elbow-leg room , but definitely not a joke.
Dawnrider 12.04.2003 09:04
Simon Dolan overlooks the fact that the Fiat 126 can be a very cheap fun car to own. Parts are not a problem as there is a Fiat specialist in South London / Surrey. ( Riccambios)
It is an ideal small run around that could well become a future classic.
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