Motormouth: A Fiat Uno Turbo was my baptism of fire in hot-hatch motoring and I almost got burned by it

Published by on . Updated on 29 Jan 2024

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1705839447001 Motormouth+ +A+Fiat+Uno+Turbo+Was+My+Baptism+Of+Fire+In+Hot Hatch+Motoring+ +Featured

My first hot hatch was a second-hand, six-year-old Fiat Uno Turbo Mk II which was charismatic but problematic. 

Originally registered in 1992 November with a Cat 2 COE of $24,982 and an OMV of $14,544, the black Fiat Uno Turbo IE became my used ride in 1998. Its mileage of over 112,000 kilometres was even more than whatever courage I mustered to sign on the dotted line. 

The preface in the owner’s handbook was positive, of course - “We feel you will be convinced you have made the right choice… We are sure you will drive it with pleasure for many years to come.” 

I only drove it for two years, during which I enjoyed the pleasures of this Italian pocket rocket and also endured its problems. 

The turbocharger went kaput five months after I collected the car and the radiator fan died soon after. The engine tended to overheat on hot days and it had a bad habit of spitting out thick exhaust smoke on start-up. 

Servicing was a strange game of chance, in which I could get lucky (just an oil change and some mechanical adjustments) or unlucky (something serious needed the workshop’s urgent attention and the fix was neither simple nor cheap).

The quality of the Uno’s paint job was also a joke, cracked by indifferent Italians who probably did the painting on different shifts spread over several days, interspersed with a major public holiday (which shut the factory), a crucial AC Milan away match (when the football club’s fans in the paintwork section of the production line weren’t paying attention to their job) and a minor union strike (which shut the factory again).

But the Uno Turbo was truly special when everything worked properly. 

Its old-school turbo 1.4-litre engine was lethargic off-boost and lurid on-boost, and therefore huge fun. Its unassisted steering was heavy and sluggish, but its Momo leather wheel was wonderful. Its five-speed gearbox shifted nicely and its throttle pedal was a very nice piece of drilled aluminium. Its instrument cluster was beautifully jam-packed with an array of meters and needles.  

The Giugiaro-designed body looked good in a boxy way and the cabin was surprisingly roomy, fulfilling the classic hot-hatch requirement of likeable exterior with practical interior. 

I thank the Uno Turbo for introducing me to hot-hatch motoring, European-style. But after almost getting burned, I didn’t take that route again. The fast Fiat was my first and last Italian car. 

Editors%2 Fimages%2 F1705839504167 Motormouth+ +A+Fiat+Uno+Turbo+Was+My+Baptism+Of+Fire+In+Hot Hatch+Motoring

Download the Motorist App

The easiest and smartest way to manage your vehicle in Singapore.

Download Now

Download the Motorist App now. Designed by drivers for drivers, this all-in-one app lets you receive the latest traffic updates, gives you access to live traffic cameras, and helps you manage LTA and vehicle matters.

Did you know we have a Motorist Telegram Channel? Created exclusively for drivers and car owners in Singapore, you can get instant info about our latest promotions, articles, tips & hacks, or simply chat with the Motorist Team and fellow drivers.