Long Lost Hot Hatches - Fiat Tipo Sedicivalvole

Ask anyone to name a hot Italian hatchback and they'll probably say Lancia Delta Integrale. The Tipo Sedicivalvole shares much with the legendary Lancia. Not the turbo and 4 wheel drive sadly but much of the platform plus a 2.0 litre version of the Lampredi Twin Cam. But what does Sedicivalvole mean? Only the most important thing in late eighties/early nineties hot hatch badging; sixteen valves.

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The Tipo had been around since late 1988 and was a big step on from its predecessor the Strada/Ritmo, even if it did share the same basic platform (as did the Delta). The boxy styling gave exceptional room inside, it was 70% galvanised to stop the rust bunnies and even won European car of the year in 1989. Sadly what the car was lacking was a proper Golf GTI rival. Fiat produced a lukewarm 110bhp 1.8 litre 8 valve from 1989 and a warmer 1.8 16v with 138bhp from 1991, unfortunately the Tipo was a bit tubby.

Although we don't think of 1180 kilos (2601 lbs) as heavy for a modern car, back in the early 90's it was positively obese for a smallish hatch. Fiat had no choice but to drop in the 2.0 litre 16 valve lump from Lancia, upping power to 148bhp and reducing 0-60 to 8.4 seconds. As with all the best Italian engines, it looked pretty damn good too. Thanks to a slippery drag co-efficient of 0.31 top speed was 128mph, more than the Golf 16v. Handling was improved with 15" alloy wheels and uprated suspension, braking was dealt with by all round discs that were vented up front.

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To distinguish it from the cooking models, the Sedicivalvole got more aggressive bumpers with a red pin stripe, side skirts, a more open grille and body coloured mirrors. Inside you avoided the questionable digital dash of some models, gaining a smattering of analogue dials instead along with a leather Momo steering wheel and the option of Recaro seats. According to the wonderfully 90's dealer information video, there was a strong eco push too, the car receiving a 3 way catalytic converter that allowed it to comply with the 1983 American clean air act. Wow.

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So it was roomy, pretty well equipped, didn't rust and was reasonably fast. So why has it been forgotten? For a start it looked a bit too much like the smaller Uno, for seconds the Italians still had a bit of a reputation when it came to reliability and for thirds it just wasn't exciting enough. Still, if you do fancy one the above car is currently on sale for just £1450 here in the UK. Even though the white makes it look a bit like a refrigerator with windows, I am strangely drawn to it. With 126,000 miles on it, I fear it could only end one way, expensively.

From AJTaylor's blog The Wastegate.

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