By on October 10, 2018

The looks of an old Volkswagen Jetta, the reliability of an old Italian car, and the inconvenience of right-hand drive. All of your dreams can come true in today’s Rare Ride — a Fiat Tempra. It made its way from 1990s Italy to England, then stormed up the banks of Rhode Island.

Designed with the popular family saloon class of vehicle in mind, the Tempra was a few-generations-removed descendant of the legendary Fiat 124. The new Tempra stood in as direct replacement for the angular Fiat Regata, which carried family car responsibility at Fiat between 1983 and 1990.

Sharing the Tipo Tre (Type Three) platform with the similar but more stylish Alfa Romeo 155, and the similar but more derpy Lancia Dedra, the Tempra debuted at the Geneva Salon show in 1990. Production began that year, with four- and five-door sedan, wagon, and panel van variants for European markets. There was also a two-door sedan, but that body style was only available to Brazilians.

As expected, the Tempra was front-drive, but Fiat offered optional four-wheel drive on the wagon version. Engines ranged between 1.4- and 2-liters in displacement. All of them were inline-fours, and naturally aspirated or turbo variants were available in both gasoline and diesel engines.

The standard five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmissions offered on the Tempra were joined by another, very special transmission — a vision of the future. It was the Selecta transmission, otherwise described as a CVT. Paired only with the 1.6-liter gasoline engine, it was the first time Fiat offered such a transmission in a mid-size car. The Selecta was previously available in smaller Fiat models like the Uno and Panda. A quick search revealed the Selecta was available for the 1986 model year in small Fiats, and they’re very scarce today.

The Tempra remained mostly unchanged throughout its life, receiving a mid-cycle refresh partway through production in 1993. Today’s Rare Ride wears the original for ’90 styling; after the facelift the SX trim was only available with the 1.8- or 2-liter engines. Today’s manual 1.6 SX just missed the cut for an upgrade.

As top-trim model, most interior features on this example are electrically powered, and the supreme digital dash is fully functional in its bright color scheme. The listing on Hemmings indicates there were only six of these Tempras left on the roads in the United Kingdom. That number is now down to five, since this Tempra resides in Rhode Island.

Feeling tempted by Tempra? It’s yours for $3,950.

[Images: seller]

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43 Comments on “Rare Rides: A 1993 Fiat Tempra, the Practical Sedan for America...”

  • avatar

    Looks like a mash-up between a Saturn, Mazda 626 sideswiped by a Saab all with FIAT reliability. What more could you want?

  • avatar

    “The listing on Hemmings indicates there were only six of these Tempras left on the roads in the United Kingdom.”

    Fiat CVT…good Lord, what could possibly go wrong there?

    My bet’s that all of these surviving examples are manuals.

  • avatar

    Fix It Again, Tony.

    That dash, yikes..ugliest thing ever. Reminds me of my old Izuzu pickup, a real Plastic Fantastic.

    I’ll give the backseat an B, though. Looks like a good place to sleep when it breaks down in the middle of nowhere.

  • avatar

    Masochist’s delight. Although unlike other exotic Italian fare, does the design or driving experience even justify all of the headache? Just looks like a generic old late 80s economy car.

    • 0 avatar

      I really don’t understand the effort of importation.

      • 0 avatar

        I suppose people would similarly question why someone (like me) would want to bring over a JZX90 ’94 Mark II that basically just looks like a ’97 Camry. But atleast THAT is about as reliable as said Camry, with RWD dynamics thrown in.

      • 0 avatar

        If I could locate a non-rusty 1968-69 124A Coupe, I’d consider making an effort. First car my wife and I bought after we married. It was used, 30K miles on it and I still have good memories of it. Gone to rust at 80k miles or so, but that was 4 years of use for small bucks. The specs were pretty advanced by 60’s standards – 1.4L twin cam, disk brakes all around, 5 speed manual. Here we are back at 1.4L engines, but a lot healthier than the 93 (alleged) HP of that car.
        However, can’t say I’d make any effort for this car.

      • 0 avatar

        It wasn’t THAT much effort…and it’s really kind of fun to drive around in.

  • avatar

    Attention “Best & Brightest”!
    Feast your eyes on this jewel of design and technology available to Europeans back in the year 1990 and try to remember the horse and buggy you were pushing around at that time.

  • avatar

    Speaking as a former X1/9 owner, looking under the hood, it doesn’t seem to have a great deal of sophisticated machinery so maintenance wouldn’t be that big of a headache. The interior electronics are whole different story…

  • avatar

    The good old days, when automakers thought protecting your car’s flanks (however minimally) was a Good Thing.

    Love the dash. The Aston Martin Lagonda is jealous! (Interesting, slightly, to see which one lives longer.)

    The backseat actually looks comfy with some contouring and longish bottom cushions. Legroom might be tight, though.

  • avatar

    I remember this model from when I lived in Europe. Trust me, you don’t want to own this car. Fiats from this period are mostly awful in terms of reliability. Also, look at this thing. It’s hideous. You could find much better German and French cars in the 90s, like the Peugeot 306, Citroen BX, Renault 19, Opel Astra, Ford Escort, VW Golf, etc…

  • avatar

    Drove one of these for a few weeks in the 1990s. Must have been 1.6, it was manual, it was peppy and the dashboard was very cool. I liked it, but I liked the Peugeot 406 a lot more, so there’s that. Of course the 406 was the next generation of sedans, I believe the FIAT counterpart would be the Chroma, which I never drove.

    • 0 avatar

      @ vagvoba & Nick_515, ever so vaguely on topic, a few days ago I came across a barn find video (from Northern Ireland, of all places), in which a Fiat (128) gets a jump from a Peugeot (a 205?).

      This 128 looks like a great toy, assuming it was inexpensive, which it sounds like it was.

      • 0 avatar

        Featherston… while I drove and rode in many a 128 sedan, I had never seen a coupe!

        If you think THAT’s a toy, google the 126, the car I took my first driver’s test in. I was 14. Part of the test was to start uphill sans rolling backwards (handbrake use recommended though not required). Those were the days.

      • 0 avatar

        Yep a 205, a rare car in itself these days.

        The NI used car market is a strange place, it is a small location with relatively short stretches of freeway isolated from GB by a stretch of water, and from RoI by legislation (taxes, KM/H speedometers etc.). For the most part though anyone seeking a particular classic heads to the larger car market of Britain. But as it is a very rural area, there are occasional gems hauled out of barns and brought back to life.

        Special mention to the NI Italian Motor Club, who are fond of driving small Fiats across the USA.

  • avatar
    Babe RuthLess

    Fun useless fact: in Brazil only the (Turkish-built) wagons could be ordered with a digital dash. Fastest depreciation rate of any mid-sized sedan in the 1990s, a feature it shared with its 1997 Fiat Marea successor.

    No CVT in South America, which was probably for the best.

  • avatar

    I like it, it’s styling, it’s uniqueness. I hear (well, read) the complaints above, and they may be valid, but I still like it.

    Not sure I’d drop 4 g’s on it, but I do like it.

  • avatar

    No thank you, I will better drive my more reliable Lada which also has manual transmission. I cannot imagine European car from 90s with AT. Why would anyone buy one?

  • avatar

    Probably still is made in Turkey. I remember driving something like that in Turkey. Nothing spectacular even in 90s. Was not my dream car. Turkish police was like gang of fascists, I mean Gestapo. They would stop you for no reason.

    • 0 avatar

      “Turkish police was like gang of fascists, I mean Gestapo. They would stop you for no reason.”

      Sounds not unlike Russian “gaishniki” to be honest lol. I remember my dad’s friend bribing us out of a bunch of hassle when we got pulled over late in the evening in his Lada 21013 coming back through Gorniy Altai, it cost us 40 rubles (about 2 dollars at the time). That was back in 2000 or so.

      • 0 avatar

        hah, when I was a young kid, I rode through the Balkans with a cool uncle of mine who drove a mid-1990s 524 tds manual. What a car that was. I remember we were in Bulgaria, speeding towards the Turkish border after a very nice lunch in Sofia. Out the bushes jumps Bulgarian police, waving his thingie for stop. My uncle, who traveled a lot in those days, mutters some curses under his breath, keeps going like it’s nothing. Upon realizing my alarm, he goes: “don’t worry… he can never catch us.” The roads were nice, but once we hit Turkey, it was a different story, butter smooth highways. He basically drove 200kph from the border to Istanbul on a cool evening. I had never seen anything like it back then, traveling at such speeds. I suppose that’s how it all started.

        • 0 avatar

          ” Out the bushes jumps Bulgarian police, waving his thingie for stop”

          Out of context, that sounds quite disturbing lol

          But I know what you’re talking about, the black and white baton. I always thought it was interesting how over there they don’t need a reason to pull you over. We passed a number of posts during our driving this summer in Siberia, but thankfully were never pulled over. Our little grey Hyundai Creta didn’t interest anyone. Speeding is seemingly a thing of the past over there as well, there are speed cameras all over the place, which IMO really did make a substantial difference in road safety. You used to have a line of slow moving smoking KAMAZ trucks lumbering along, you’d line up a pass in your Lada, and before you knew it some nutjob in a turbo MarkII/Chaser would pass you at Mach 5. Lots of really bad wrecks there, especially with the RHD cars and that M52 road mostly being a single lane each way, people driving alone would have to pop out into oncoming traffic to see if there was room to pass, or they’d pass on the shoulder on the right.

          • 0 avatar

            Don’t ask me how many corpses I saw on the roads to/from Moscow. Many. And every time it makes you think you may be the next. Drivers were really crazy in Moscow and Moscow region. It was like participating in battle. I remember I’m trying to pass traffic light in Moscow – it was impossible – cars were coming from every direction and I was from small town where is nothing like this craziness. The driver of the car on the lane next to me saw my troubles and told me: don’t be afraid, you go first I will cover you.

      • 0 avatar

        With Russian police I could read what’s on their minds. Once I was pulled over by “Gaichnik” in Dmitrov , was driving back from Moscow. When I asked him what’s the problem – he silently walked around my car looking for something to charge me with. He looked tired and hungry. Then he told me that this time everything looks okay so I can continue driving. But there is always next time you know. When Turks stopped me they looked totally crazy shouting something in Turkish as if ready cut my head off. Scary actually when you do not know language.

  • avatar

    What kind of a BDSM fan brings a right hand drive Fiat that was never available here to the US? And who would buy it? And why would you drive it? And how will you get parts? And what could possibly go wrong?

    All of those questions were popping in my head as I was reading the article.

  • avatar

    Why? They’re a rare car in UK/Ireland these days, but they aren’t exactly a classic. The Alfa version, 155, perhaps. Even the Saab-iat-cia Croma, at least you could get some parts from a 9000.

  • avatar

    Fiat couldn’t have sold fewer cars using more mainstream vehicles like this one – than they have done with everything being a 500 derivative.

  • avatar

    The five-door model you mention was actually a separate but closely-related car called the Fiat Tipo, which appeared a bit before the Tempra. I remember its looks seemed quite futuristic back in 1988 (certainly more so that the frumpy Renault 19 launched at the same time). The Tipo went on to be European Car of the Year 1989 but build quality and reliability of the Tipo and Tempra just weren’t good enough.

  • avatar

    Looks like there are 24 Fiat Tempra’s on the roads in the UK of all variants.

    The numbers seemed to decline drastically about 10 years ago. Probably MOT failures due to rust and not worth fixing.

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