What a generally good little car the 3-door hatchback Fiat 128 3P is! I was impressed by its eager performance, which reminded me of the old Fiat 124 which on first acquaintance was such a pleasant surprise to drive, its ability to swallow goods and chattels after the easy-to-fold back seat had been stowed, and the reasonably quiet manner in which its o.h.c. 73 (DIN) b.h.p.. 1,290 c.c. transverse engine runs at British Motorway cruising speeds. These flattering observations have to he qualified. As to performance, over 100 m.p.h. and 0-60 m.p.h. acceleration in 10.8 sec. is not to be sneezed at from a 1.3-litre car, of a useful size in its compact overall dimensions. Goods it accepts like a small lorry, if you can hump them over the high back-sill; the tail-gate rises on its own, shuts easily, and is lockable. The engine is naturally not as hushed as those on bigger cars, making long journeys tiring, but is good for a little ‘on, with just that eager rasping note as it is opened up. But I am reminded that there is no substitute for litres—or proper sound dampening! There are some body rattles and the fuel slops about in the 6 1/2-gallon petrol tank. Hand throttle and manual choke are provided. The dip-switch is assessible, the plugs less so, and the spare wheel is under the bonnet.
The seats are small but moderately comfortable, the instrumentation includes a tachometer with the dial marked up for peak engine speed as high as 6,800 r.p.m., but the only mileage recorder omits decimal readings. the facia sill incorporates powerful adjustable circular fresh-air vents, there are open-floor and under-facia stowages, and the ride and handling are excellent for this class of car. An extra bonus is an 11-gallon fuel tank, which obviates frequent refuelling stops. This is just as well, because the flush-fitting bakelite filler-cap proved difficult to unlock and refused to be relocked into its square-sided bung-hole. What a pity Fiat’s screwed cap has beer abandoned for a styling gimmick. The pedals are somewhat biased to the left and are oddly-angled for some drivers, but the accelerator pedal is on the same height level as the brake and clutch pedals. Its rubber pad soon fell off. The small steering wheel has a simulated leather-covered rim and controls undistinguished steering from this front-drive car, geared just under 3 turns, lock-to-lock. The gearchange is satisfactory, baulking over the last inch of movement into 1st gear, with reverse easy to engage, and Fiat’s triple stalks and facia master-lighting-switch constitute somewhat complex minor controls. The 13 in. Ceat tyres stood up to the intense heat of June and driving normally I got 40.3 m.p.g. of 4-star and no oil was required in 950 miles:
This 3P is a useful addition to the Fiat range, the size of economy car many people find just right. It costs £2,237 and, replacing the Sport Coupe, offers a sporting performance for its engine capacity, and excellent economy.—W.B.