That's Entertainment

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The cheaper of Fiat’s two Coupes is as stunning to drive as it is to look at. Simon Arron was smitten

What, exactly, is going on at Fiat? OK, so the Tempra is hardly the vehicle to set one’s soul afire, but the rest of the range is positively fizzing with adventure. The Cinquecento, the Barchetta, the Punto, the Bravo/Brava, the Coupe. . . There’s not a dud amongst them.

It marks quite a transformation for the company whose recent past includes such offences in metal as the 126, the Strada, the Croma and most treasonable of all – the Regata.

We have previously sung the praises of the Coupe in its turbocharged form: arguably, it’s even better in its naturally aspirated guise. Around £2000 cheaper than its 140 mph sister, at £17,589, the 16v Coupe is one of the rare modern cars that encourages you to take as long as possible to get where you are going. Newsagent only 200 yards away? Best drive around the block 20 times to get there …

It may not be ultimately as fast as its stablemate, but who cares? It will cruise at over 120 mph where circumstances permit. It’s lighter than the turbo, too, and if anything it has even crisper handling. Best of all though is the engine. Free-revving in the Fiat tradition, it sounds just fantastic as it approaches 4000 rpm, and the noise gets better and better all the way to its 6000 rpm peak. One can churn out clichés all day long about how wonderful certain engines sound, but in terms of aural stimulation per penny there is nothing to match this.

Sitting in a London traffic jam one evening, a taxi driver pulled alongside, oblivious to the fact that he was doing little to dilute the congestion by straddling the double white lines in the centre of the road. He didn’t care. He’d made the effort specially, so that he could try and ask me a few questions. Hard to know exactly what he was saying above the accompanying horns, but he had a big smile on his face and his thumb aloft . . .I just about heard something about “brilliant design, mate, lovely car, fantastic” above the cacophony.

That’s the effect it can have on the world outside. Believe me, it’s at least 10 times as good from within.

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